What could have been and what would have been lost with Steph Curry


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.

Tags: Jason Collins Stephen Curry

  • Scott

    I realize this comment is a bit out of left field, but …

    A while ago someone commented that Noel was too skinny to be a center. I’d say that’s true, especially at age 18. He actually weighs less than Hakim Warrick at this point, despite being a couple inches taller. If Noel can add a reasonable amount of weight, he might become a center in a few years.

    So any team taking Noel in this draft is probably thinking of using him at PF, knowing that he’ll get pushed around as a rookie, but hoping that his length and motor will compensate.

    Noel most likely understands this, as even in the college game he’s too light and gets pushed around. In an interview with DX a year ago, he mentions that he expects to play power forward … or at least that he sees himself as a PF, not a center, on offense. (His idol is Kevin Garnett.)

    Gorgui Dieng, BTW, weighs 245 lbs, compared to Noel’s 216, despite the two being of the same size and length. Dieng is older – 23 – and it’s probably reasonable to expect Noel’s weight to similarly increase over time.

    With his athleticism, it seems possible that Dieng might be able to play PF as well. He can’t currently put the ball on the floor on offense, but he does have a jump shot.

    (I’m still waiting for updated scouting on Dieng on DX.)

  • Scott

    Oladipo workout tape, looking great:

    Trey Burke workout tape, looking like Steph Curry:

  • Scott

    BTW, are coaches bad evaluators of talent?

    I’ve been reading that it was Collins who wanted the trade to go down to bring Bynum to Philly. (Is that true?)

    And that part of what enticed Rick Adelman to Minnesota was that they agreed to pick Wes Johnson, who Adelman had a crush on.

    And we all know Gentry seemed hot to get Beasley.

    So are coaches generally clueless when it comes to evaluating players?

    That would explain why teams have GMs. ;)

  • JD

    People are ignoring the fact that Golden State is not a good defensive team. And isn’t the battle cry from the Suns Nation right now that they need to get players who play defense? Curry is a great player, but the Warriors are much like the SSOL Suns. They beat teams by outscoring them. And lack of defense is what frustrated fans about D’Antoni, Gentry, Amare, and even Nash.

    Acquiring Curry would have enabled the Suns to continue to be a high-octane offensive, average to below average defensive team. After reading fan comments and blog posts throughout this season, I don’t think this is what fans want anymore.

  • Ty-Sun

    Are you really saying that Andrew Bynum doesn’t have talent? Bringing him to Philly was a mistake only because he was physically unable to play this season.

    Johnson was drafted by Minnesota in 2010. Adelman was the head coach of the Rockets for the entire 2010-11 season while Kurt Rambis was the head coach for the T-wolves that entire season.

    As for Gentry being hot to get Beasley, I don’t remember hearing anything about him pushing the Suns FO to pick him up as a FA.

  • Ty-Sun

    Fans are greedy, JD. We want a team that plays both high-octane offensive AND lock-down defense. :)

    The high-octane offensive IS more exciting to watch but lock-down D wins more games.

  • foreveris2long

    Scott, brilliant stuff, thanks. I was telling DBreezy a couple of weeks ago I think Burke has a better chance of reaching allstar status than anyone in the draft. For that reason whether the Suns trade Dragic or not if Burke is available I would consider drafting him. I love his upside.

    I like Oladipo as well so if the Suns take him I won’t be mad. he appears to be a nice talent. However I would not be mad if they traded down so they could secure Dieng and Franklin.

    As for Noel I definitely envision him as a power forward who one day might be able to play center on occasion. One reason I do not anticipate him adding a lot of weight is that too much additional weight could be baggage to his already suspect knees. 15-25 pounds would probably be good for him.

  • foreveris2long

    JD I respectfully disagree about Golden State as they are a fairly decent defensive team.

  • Scott

    @forever -

    To be fair to Noel, his ligaments tore due to a collision, not just on their own.

  • foreveris2long

    Scott, true about his ligaments but he had a high school injury to the same knee and it was reported I believe by his high school coach that the doctor instructed him not to play summer ball and he played anyway. Therefore if these reports are true he may have some issues with the strength or integrity of that knee.

    JD Warriors gave up about 100 points a game but were better than playoff teams, Denver, Lakers and Houston. While they are not Memphis or San Antonio, they are not in the bottom 5 of the league. I think Curry is a much better defender than Nash and would have been appreciated on Planet Orange for his all around game.

  • DBreezy

    @Scott,

    I don’t think Noel has a definite position in the league just yet. They call him a 5 because his offensive skills haven’t developed yet which is what they do to most bigs in that situation. Guys like Drummond and DeAndre Jordan were often listed as 4′s before they started college, but when they didn’t develop quickly and left early they were considered 5′s.

    I saw that Oladipo workout tape the other day. The number one thing I thought was I can’t wait to see how he measures out because he looks shorter than the guys in some of the other videos I’ve seen. Also it’s just one video of limited stuff designed to make the prospect look good, but he didn’t seem to do too many advanced ball handling or offensive move drills from what I recall. Not saying he can’t, just that it’s something I’d want to see.

  • DBreezy

    @Foreveris,

    You know it takes me awhile to warm up to small pg’s, but you know I’ll keep an open mind. The latter is the same reason that I haven’t completely given up on the idea of Shabazz being good, even if he’s not the pick for the Suns. I’m not alone there as Givony of DX has said that Bazz is the prospect most likely to surprise/exceed next season and Randy Hill over at FSNAZ has reported hearing the same from several scouts.

    Debate aside, to me he’s the perfect example as to why the Suns need to nail this GM pick. Let’s say that Bazz really is the first or second best prospect in this draft, but mock buzz still has him around 10th or so. I want a GM confident enough to pick him no matter what ignoring media pressure and possibly even the fallout from not being able to trade down and get him later. Anybody can decide between a Wiggins and a Parker.

    I agree on the Warriors, but I also think it’s part of a bigger picture. The Suns fans and management have often gone manically between offense and defense, obviously preferring the former. However you need both to win. The Grizz were succesful in imposing their will on LAC, but it’s tough to play that way vs OKC even without Westbrook because the best one on one player and closer in the series is on OKC. Playing close low scoring games with them is playing with fire relative to the Clips. Also it’s unlikely that they could impose that style on the Heat and possibly even the Spurs for 7 games in today’s NBA. I don’t think they could impose that style on the true SSOL Suns teams.

    You’ve got to have a balance in today’s NBA something that Blanks didn’t realize which isn’t surprising since the front office in CLE made the same mistake bowing out to more balanced squads in ORL and BOS.

  • Scott

    @Ty-Sun -

    As for the idea of Adelman being for Johnson, which maybe I misinterpreted (?), here’s the quote I saw online:

    “One of the selling points to Rick [Adelman] on this job when he was watching film of the team, he really liked Wes Johnson,” former Wolves President David Kahn recalled, about the hiring of Adelman in 2011. “And there was a lot to like about Wes. He was athletic. Even though he didn’t have a ball that had a lot of rotation on it, seemed to go in from a distance. You could really see him developing into an elite defender.”

    http://www.brightsideofthesun.com/2013/5/4/4299694/phoenix-suns-2012-13-player-review-wesley-johnson

  • john

    The SSoL teams that made the WCF were never bottom 5 in defense either. Those teams were all 15-20 in defensive efficiency. If I remember correctly, the Warriors landed right around 15 this year. I think it’s a fairly good comparison. The biggest problem I have is comparing the W’s offense to SSoL. Those Suns teams were far better offensively.

  • foreveris2long

    Oh Shabazz, DBreezy I keep forgetting about him.I admit I would definitely be surprised if he ends up being one of the top 2 or 3 players taken in this draft but it certainly does not mean it cannot happen. The things that concern me about him are attitude, suspect defense and questionable handles. He is one of the guys I think should workout in all of the pre-draft camps until he gets a virtual guarantee. I guess he could work his way into the top 5 but my guess is he 6-15. Then again probably anyone taken in the top 20 could win Rookie of The Year next season. I cannot wait to get reports out of the camps.

    On Oladipo, it would not surprise me if he is 6’3 in shoes, which is one reason I like but do not love him. I think Franklin is a legitimate 6’5″ in shoes. If he measures out to be 6’3′ I hope the Suns do not close their eyes to the rest of the field and give him a guarantee.

  • Scott

    @Ty-Sun -

    Generally I reject the Bynum trade as a sensible one because the Sixers gave up Iguodala, Vucevic, and Harkless for the final (injured) year of the oft-injured Bynum. They might as well have traded for one year of Greg Oden.

    IMO, they played a game of gimpy-big-man roulette with a lot of assets on the table, and lost.

    @DBreezy -

    Re: Oladipo’s height … I’m guessing he’s in the ballpark of 6′ 3.5″ w/o shoes, so 6′ 4.5″ in shoes, which counts as 6′ 5″. His wingspan isn’t listed yet. We’ll see the results of the measuring tape at the combine.

    I’ve felt right along Oladipo only makes sense as a SG. He’s too small for a typical NBA SF. Better to have someone at SF who is 6′ 7″, with a 7′ 1″ wingspan, like Wes Johnson.

    The problem with Oladipo at SG is he has zero guard skills. He cannot even create his own offense.

    In my mind, though he is younger, Goodwin comes ahead of Oladipo as a SG, because Goodwin has some guard skills, and was actually able to play some point for Kentucky. Goodwin has the same general size as Oladipo, 6′ 5″ in shoes, 195 lbs with a 6′ 10″ wingspan, and did not just appear out of nowhere: he was ranked the 12th best recruit coming into college last year.

    Carter-Williams would also be a consideration for SG, to me, for his size and ability to create. He did not score well in college, though, so that – and his normal wingspan – counts against him. Additionally troubling is his apparent inability to add weight. Some players just can’t do it, and he may be limited to around 175 lbs.

    Comparing the 3 players, I’d put Goodwin at the top of my SG chart, and probably Oladipo next, leaving MCW last. I really like having someone with guard abilities at the 2 spot, as it confounds the “cut off the head of the snake” or “beat up Dragic” strategy, and strength and aggression are important too.

    PG/SG CJ McCollum, while I think he may have success in the league, does not really register with me as a possibility to start at SG as I see him as a 6th man instant offense type.

  • Mel.

    Safe to say that even had we drafted Curry, the situation would have been similar to the whole Dragon debacle: keep the kid around as a project, groom him carefully under Nash’s tutelage, then inexplicably trade him for another backup PG and watch him suddenly blow up once he’s gotten out of his mentor’s shadow.

    The problem there was that while letting Nash work on an apprentice-style project for the team’s future, nobody ever seemed to actually realistically envision a Suns franchise that didn’t kowtow to what Steve does. I’m still amazed that Dragic came back here, after that FO flopjob,