It’s easy to watch Stephen Curry drain threes in these NBA playoffs and wonder what he might look like in a Phoenix Suns uniform.
After all, as Bob Young wrote for The Arizona Republic, it nearly happened.
The Suns’ war room exploded after the Timberwolves selected Jonny Flynn No. 6 overall back in the 2009 NBA Draft, leaving Curry available with a No. 7 pick the Suns thought they were obtaining from the Golden State Warriors in a deal involving Amare Stoudemire.
Of course, the trade was never finalized as the Warriors were rightly so overjoyed that Steph fell to 7 that they made him their selection and never looked back. Unequivocally this was the right call for a Golden State team that Curry has carried into the second round of the playoffs.
On the surface, this was one more piece of bad luck suffered by the Seven Seconds or Less Suns along the lines of losing the Atlanta lottery pick that would have likely netted Al Horford or Joakim Noah instead of Robin Lopez a year later.
The Suns would not have hit rock bottom with Curry. Nash would have groomed him to be his successor, and his presence potentially would have allowed the Suns to trade Nash for future assets sooner. The Suns could be the up-and-coming team Golden State is today, and if nothing else we know they would have one blue chip in place. Heck with their training staff perhaps Curry’s ankles would not be quite so problematic as they are now.
The problem is if that trade happens, 2010 doesn’t either.
It surely seems like more than three years ago at this point, but not that long ago the Suns swept the San Antonio Spurs in the West semis and came within a World Peace putback from potentially forcing a deciding Game 6 on their home court against the Lakers with a chance to go to the Finals.
Even while falling short of their ultimate goal, that Suns team legitimately had a chance. With a few more lucky breaks they could have been world champions, and even in falling short they treated us to an exhilarating second half of the season and playoff run. It was just a beautiful team to watch in which the players truly enjoyed each other on and off the court with stars, veteran leaders, role players, an exciting bench and everything else you would want in a 10-man squad.
But for the Suns to have Curry today, that kind of season doesn’t happen.
It’s an interesting trade-off in professional sports. Executives must always balance trying to win now against setting their franchise up for future success. The Tampa Bay Rays seem to have made an art form out of jettisoning players just before they become too old and/or expensive to acquire younger, cheaper players that make them better going forward.
The Nash-era Suns never made moves with an eye toward the future, and that’s why they are in the predicament they are in today. Even as the era wound down to its flickering embers, the Suns still drafted players that fit a Nash-driven system. If the Suns had started rebuilding in 2009, one would think (hope?) they would be on the upswing today.
However, with the benefit of hindsight, the summer of 2010 was the time to start making those moves, not 2009. It’s debatable whether even the great Steph Curry would be worth making the memories of 2009-10 vanish.
I understand this is all a moot point because the Suns would have traded Amare for Curry in a heartbeat and in the grand scheme of things it’s the right move, perhaps even before we truly understood how special of a talent Curry is (remember, there were doubts about him coming from small school Davidson).
In an ideal world a team understands exactly when to shift into rebuilding mode or is able to acquire young talent that aids a championship run before eventually taking over as veterans step aside.
Trading STAT for Curry would have signaled the end of an era prematurely while giving rise to the next exciting period of Suns basketball.
It’s understandable for Suns fans to lament the fact that Golden State pulled out based on the franchise’s current predicament and how incredible of a player Curry is, but few players would be worth missing out on the Suns’ special 2009-10 campaign.