For the first time in eight seasons, Steve Nash is no longer the face of the Phoenix Suns franchise, nor is he the sun, moon and stars of it either.
For my money, that new face is Marcin Gortat, which is to say the Suns lack a franchise player.
That’s no knock on Marcin. The guy will get you 15-10 with a block or two every night. He’s an agile top-10 center who thrives as a roll man and can hit both a jumper and the boards.
He’s just no franchise center.
It sure seems like a cruel fate for this organization to finally develop a superb five man that could have pushed the team over the hump once the rest of the roster was lacking enough for it to really matter.
Gortat is an excellent player, but he’s no better than the third-best guy on a championship team if not the fourth in this era of Big Threes and Fours. He will be 30 years old entering the summer of 2014 when he will be coming off a deal signed at the full mid-level exception that seemed like an overpay at the time but turned into a supreme bargain.
For the next two seasons the Suns will be getting a steal by paying Gortat only $7.26 million this year and $7.73 mil the following season, but after that Marcin will want to get paid.
Speculating two years into the future is always dicey, but if Gortat maintains his current level of play I could see him getting something around four years and $48 million, at least. If the Suns were contending it would be a no-brainer to pay him what he’s worth, but that’s an awful lot of coin for a 30-year-old center who relies on his athleticism.
Personally I’m not too worried that Gortat was assisted on four out of five baskets because I feel like Goran Dragic will get him open looks as well, but based on his age and where the Suns are in their rebuilding process it’s worth wondering whether they would be better off trading him in the coming years.
The biggest reason to do so is because he would be their most valuable player on the open market. An athletic center on a two-year deal for about $15 mil total who is as skilled as Gortat should possess incredible trade value.
If the Suns were to go into Charlotte mode, moving Gortat would be an obvious move to make, yet because of their resistance to tanking it could be a tough sell. Many people expect the Suns to finish at the bottom of the West anyway, and without Gortat that would be a near certainty.
We can debate the merits of that another day since this team so badly needs the kind of true franchise star that’s often only found at the top of a draft, but with the franchise trying to stay competitive while rebuilding trading Gortat seems to be counter of that goal.
This past summer or around this draft could have been an ideal time to make such a move, especially to a team like Houston that was so desperate for a quality center and possessed so many young assets, but at this point I think this is a move the Suns should consider making next offseason.
Go ahead and play this season out, and if the team is as bad as many people think then they won’t have to “try” to tank to end up at the top of the draft.
If that happens, Gortat on an expiring contract and the veteran Luis Scola should become major trade bait when the Suns embark on their second summer of rebuilding.
Another option would be for the team to make a big splash next offseason by pulling the trigger on another restricted free agent, but this time follow it through by executing a sign-and-trade. The Suns were not interested in doing a Gordon sign-and-trade because they saw it as taking one step forward only by taking one step back, but perhaps at that point they will possess the assets to consummate a deal for a stud that makes sense.
At that point they could go over the cap to re-sign Gortat the following summer with his Bird Rights, so perhaps a future starting lineup of Dragic-Star Free Agent X-Beasley-Morris-Gortat is the way to go.
If you believe in that core, then a slight overpay for an aging Gortat would be palatable, it’s just not as attractive if the Suns wait until 2014 to make their big free agent splash.
The Phoenix Suns know as well as anybody that a quality center is tough to find, and Gortat is certainly a very good one.
With the Polish Hammer still under contract for two more seasons, the Suns have plenty of time to think about this, but now is the time to start determining whether they see him wearing purple and orange at a hefty raise past this contract or whether the franchise would be better off turning him into choice assets or making him the centerpiece of a deal for a stud.
As difficult as it is to trade a legitimate center, the Suns must weigh whether Gortat’s projected production after 30 at a sizable price makes sense in their rebuilding plan when his trade value is presumably so high.
Current, former Suns dot middle range of #NBARank
A pair of key Suns reserves were revealed today on #NBARank, with Shannon Brown checking in at No. 235 and Markieff Morris No. 238.
In recent days we saw a trio of formers Suns reserves in Michael Redd (No. 243), Josh Childress (No. 249) and Hakim Warrick (No. 272).
Rookie Kendall Marshall barely cracked the top 300 with a No. 296 ranking. Don’t worry, he’s not worse than Chilly and Hak, rookies are just always undervalued so he figures to shoot up the ranks next season if he impresses. It is amazing that Childress wound up in the middle of the 500 players yet nobody wanted to take even a minimum amnesty nibble.
Tags: Marcin Gortat