Acquiring Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler in exchange for Jared Dudley and a pick was a savvy move by Suns general manager Ryan McDonough. I went back and forth with Dave Dulberg to talk about the deal itself, the possibilities of and in the backcourt, and the next move for Phoenix this offseason.
Kevin Zimmerman: My initial impressions of the trade are all-around very good. Dudley gets to play for Alvin Gentry and a Western Conference contender while the Suns get cap flexibility sooner and a young, exciting point guard in Eric Bledsoe. Obviously, the one question mark in this deal has to do with the many point guards on the roster. Do you see that — or anything else — being too problematic for this next season?
Dave Dulberg: I have two big takeaways from the trade regarding the point guard logjam it might have created. One, that it could work out potentially very well putting Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe in the same backcourt together. Granted they’d be a little bit small defensively and Dragic hasn’t had a ton of experience playing without the basketball, but it could work.
My other takeaway is that this is the first of many moves. It’ll be hard to top the WOW factor Ryan McDonough created with his first trade Tuesday, but it’s very possible that there are others to come over the next few months. Be it Dragic oror any other player on the roster, McDonough isn’t tied to anybody. He didn’t sign Dragic to a four-year contract last summer or draft Marshall with the No. 13 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. I can’t say it’s a foregone conclusion that both of them will even be on the roster heading into the 2013-14 season.
The question I have for you revolves around Caron Butler. Obviously, the deal doesn’t get done if the Suns don’t take on his $8 million price tag. However, when you add a guy who averaged 10.4 points in just over 24 minutes per game last season and a young point guard who has all the tools to become a budding star, did McDonough make the team a little too good going into next season? I know that’s a weird question, and I’m not insinuating they have any chance to compete for a playoff spot, because they don’t. But as the roster currently stands do you see them as a team competing for a top-5 pick or a pick in the mid to late part of the lottery? If the latter is true, given the talent in next year’s draft, that scares me.
Zimmerman: That’s a really interesting point. It’s hard to say right now because I’m still in the initial semi-shock phase of the Suns pulling off a sneaky trade. I do think that adding guys like Butler and Bledsoe gives Phoenix a much more dynamic roster, and in that sense they could look less out of order. Take the ball out of’s hands to reduce a few turnovers per game, and that’s at a couple more wins. A couple more wins is also a couple spots down in the lottery order.
I think the best hope would be in what you said earlier. This is just the first of many moves. I think guys like, and can still be dealt. I saw the comments about Gortat not being moved more as a temporary status. Who knows? The impressive return McDonough got on makes you believe not rushing into trading, say, Gortat for a 10th pick in last week’s draft was a pretty good call. As teams get more desperate, the more willing they could be to give up more.
So if the Suns can make a few more deals with their vets and acquire better returns — whether it be picks or younger players — I think Phoenix won’t have to worry a whole lot about their lottery status. Young teams don’t do well in this league, just look at the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Getting back to the backcourt situation: Do you think Dragic and Bledsoe can play together? I think they’re both dynamic enough where it’s not an issue outside of when they’re guarding elite shooting guards. But who’s the point guard? Does it even matter?
Dulberg: I think what we learned Tuesday is that Ryan McDonough gets what it takes to really start the rebuilding process. It’s taking good veteran guys — who have more value to a winning team than a losing team like Jared Dudley — and flipping them for young, sometimes unproven talent. It’s the kind of move that I don’t think Lance Blanks could have even wrapped his head around.
And to your question, I think McDonough is more concerned with stockpiling talent than he is with filling specific positions. At this point, almost every position for the Suns is a position of need. He said during the pre-draft workouts that he wanted to be able to put a lineup out there where multiple guys could handle the ball. Most of us assumed that might be in reference to a Trey Burke or Michael Carter-Williams. Turns out it was Eric Bledsoe. Point is, both he and Dragic can play the point, but they can also play at shooting guard. I wouldn’t call either extraordinary scorers without the basketball, but they are both athletic enough and quick enough to make things happen without the basketball should they be slotted off the ball.
The NBA is a guard-dominated league these days, so if you have multiple guys with skill sets that make them adaptable at the 1 or 2, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Some will say that mixing and matching Dragic and Bledsoe stunts their individual growth at the point guard position, but to that I say, “Why narrow their capabilities when it’s apparent that both have the potential to fill multiple roles?”
What are your thoughts on that? And also, you mention potentially moving Shannon Brown, Luis Scola and/or Marcin Gortat. Do you think the Suns make another notable move this offseason or will it be quiet until next season’s NBA Trade Deadline?
Zimmerman: I agree it’s just about having more options at this point rather than creating an identity — granted, the identity of that athletic backcourt is now sort of exciting. Eventually, I think the Suns will need to trade one of Dragic or Bledsoe, but it doesn’t need to be immediate. I think the only drawback is Phoenix might not have much playing time for Kendall Marshall, so even getting something for him in a trade seems highly unlikely. Such is the result of prior mismanagement.
Anyway, I can’t imagine McDonough is done scouring the NBA for trade partners. Scola and Gortat, heck, even Shannon Brown could be used as trade bait right away. While I mention the Suns don’t appear to be in a rush, I still think McDonough is not wanting to waste time dilly-dallying and hoping for a lottery pick next season to fix the team’s woes. If you look at what Cleveland has done and what Orlando did very quickly, there’s still a lot more tossing of wrecking balls through this team to really start from ground up.
Final thought: Jared Dudley gave the Suns some good years. Anything in particular stick out to you (either a moment or in general)?
Dulberg: When you think about Jared Dudley’s time in Phoenix, the first thought that comes to mind has to be the 2009-10 team that overachieved on its way to the Western Conference Finals. The thing that endeared Dudley so quickly to Valley fans was how well he adapted to his role as really the leader of the second unit. Being a team-first guy, he really embraced that role and understood what it meant to the overall recipe for success. On a team that featured Amar’e Stoudemire,, and , he might have been the glue guy. Maybe a bold statement for somebody who only played 24 minutes per game that season, but his effort and enthusiasm were just as important as his ability to knock down a three-point shot during that run.
He deserves a chance to win a title, so while I’m thrilled about the value the Suns got in return for him, I view this as a win-win for everybody…Well, maybe except for the Milwaukee Bucks. Have fun with those two second-round picks!