Making the case for building up veterans’ trade value


Editor’s Note: The following column is the second in a two-part series in which the VotS staff debates the ideal course of action for the Suns’ upcoming season. Saturday, Ryan Weisert argued that the Suns must make the development of their young players their top priority right from the outset. Sunday, Dave Dulberg makes the case that Phoenix should focus on building up the trade value of its veterans. We hope you enjoy and weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments below.

“Right now, the Suns have three classes of assets: veterans, young players, and draft picks. The best way for Phoenix to increase their value, in the hopes of one day becoming a winning team, is to increase the value of their young players by giving them all the playing time they can handle.”

Ryan Weisert essentially hit the nail on the head with the statement above Saturday.

Like a publicly traded company, the Phoenix Suns’ motivation in 2013-14 will be to gradually increase their value and the best way to go about doing that is to feature their young, unproven talent.

However, a word was left out between to and feature.

Eventually.

Ryan McDonough’s been on the job as the Suns general manager for nearly four months now and already his vision to rebuild seems logical and rather methodical.

Turn veteran assets — which are of no use to a 20 to 25-win — and flip them to contending teams in win-now mode for either draft picks, younger assets or expiring contracts.

That strategy coupled with a Draft Night trade has netted the Suns an additional first-round selection (Indiana Pacers’ pick) to go along with the two they already own in next year’s draft, Archie Goodwin, Eric Bledsoe, Miles Plumlee, Caron Butler and Gerald Green.

But the question is: Why stop there?

Looking at Weisert’s three classes of assets, the Suns are building their stock as far draft picks and young players are concerned, but three or four starting pieces does not a rebuilding process make.

The next step in the process should essentially be to rinse and repeat.

‘Scola Effect’

In July 2012, the Suns claimed veteran Luis Scola off amnesty waivers for the price of a rather reasonable three-year contract for $13.5 million.

Why were the Rockets so willingly to amnesty a veteran starter? Was he getting old? Was he a problem in the locker room?

A year later the Suns turned that pick-up — one filled with many question marks — into a future first-round pick and a former first-round pick.

How did they do it?

Simple, they featured him.

Maybe not as much as Scola would have wanted — seeing as he started in a career-low 67 games — but enough to get a contending team to check all the boxes that previously had question marks.

As Weisert mentioned, even teams in win-now mode have to temper their expectations and their willingness to make moves on the open market given the state of the Miami Heat’s Big 3. He’s also right when stating that several contending teams have already parted ways with their 2014 picks and that the value of Caron Butler and Marcin Gortat might be at the lowest point in their respective careers.

Those things can’t really be disputed.

Gortat spent more time ranting and raving or sitting on the sidelines due to injury in 2012-13 than he did contributing to a team that desperately needed an anchor.

Butler, on the other hand, was a useful starter on a playoff team but deemed expendable once more versatile commodities — Jared Dudley and J.J. Reddick — were available for the taking.

However, just because the market is bear for the two veterans today, tomorrow or even at the start of the regular season, does not mean the same will be true come February?

Will the opportunities be as fruitful as the two previous deals McDonough made this offseason?  Odds are, probably not.

Even if Gortat and Butler, who combine to make over $15.5 million over the final year of their contracts, produce at levels that exceed their 2012-13 totals, Weisert is correct: Why would a contending team or even a team looking to make a splash in the Summer of 2014 want to part with a young player or a pick in a draft that could be the deepest in a quarter century? The short answer is they wouldn’t.

My response, though, would be to focus on the 2015 and 2016 NBA Drafts. While there’s no guarantee the crop of talent will be as plentiful as the upcoming class, the process of making the Suns into a winning team can’t be expected to take place overnight. If the future is the ultimate goal, set your sights on assets that might not become valuable for another two to three years.

The only way to go about doing that is to play up your current assets. Short-term as they may be, they represent a potential key to a bigger picture.

What about Len?

If Caron Butler starts at small forward and averages the same 24.1 minutes per game as he did in 2012-13, will many fans around the Valley really bat an eye? I don’t think so.

Taking Michael Beasley out of the equation for the moment, Butler’s playing time doesn’t really have an effect on the team’s youth movement. Sure it might take away some minutes from a fan favorite in P.J. Tucker and a Lance Blanks’ project in Marcus Morris, but there’s no guarantee the duo is part of the long-terms plans anyways.

The real issue is Gortat.

Is he still in town because he’s an insurance policy for a No. 5 overall pick who already has had a surgery performed on both ankles or is it because there were no takers for him?

The answer probably isn’t black or white, rather more shades of gray.

What is black and white — for now at least — is that he will begin 2013-14 as the team’s starting center.

And frankly injuries aside, Alex Len isn’t ‘ready’ to be a starting center in the NBA, yet.

That’s not to say it can’t happen by season’s end or even at the start of the 2014-15 campaign, but his selection at No. 5 shouldn’t overshadow the obvious: He’s raw — very raw in fact.

Few lottery picks need training camp/preseason games more than Len. And although it’s no fault of his own, October is going to feel more like catch up for the rookie than a chance to get acclimated to both new teammates and the speed of the game. Add in the lack of Summer League experience and it seems unrealistic to expect him to be ‘ready’ to start or at the very least play notable minutes at any point during the first few months of the season.

Gortat isn’t without his flaws, but when you have an unproven rookie with notable areas of to improve on — strength in the post, footwork on the block and touch with the left hand just to name a few — coupled with not one but two ankle surgeries, slow and steady would seemingly be the best approach.

The Other Young Guys

Phoenix didn’t acquire Eric Bledsoe for him to sit behind the likes of Shannon Brown. While the seven-year veteran still holds some value as a former NBA champion and a guy who can provide instant offense off the bench (averaged double-digit scoring in each of the last two seasons), that value is limited. At best, he could yield a return similar to that of the Sebastian Telfair trade before last season’s deadline.

But that by no means is worth compromising Bledsoe’s minutes.

Arguably the most intriguing plotline surrounding the Suns right now is the potential back court of Bledsoe and Goran Dragic. Can they play together? Does one of them need to be shipped out next offseason? Are they versatile enough to be interchangeable parts?

These are questions that can only be answered if they are heavily featured side-by-side over the course of the regular season.

As for Archie Goodwin, there should be less of a concern about his development right away. The talent is undeniably there (see: Las Vegas Summer League), but so is the ‘raw’ factor.  The 19-year-old was a first-round project pick, so to expect a trial by fire to be the best course of action seems like an err in judgment.

Kentucky learned that the hard way last season. Goodwin basically was handed the keys to the reigning National Champions and told to drive. Although he led the team in scoring, it was clear he hit a wall right around the middle of conference play and his team suffered because of it.

While thoughts of a Goodwin-Bledsoe or Goodwin-Dragic back court are fascinating in their own right, they shouldn’t necessary come at the expense of Brown, at least not right away. A new toy is always more exciting, sure, but what’s the downside of having Goodwin play 10 minutes a game to begin his first professional season as opposed to 20 to 25 minutes?

Really, the Bledsoe-Goodwin-Brown and Gortat-Len dynamics speak to the core of this discussion.

For a rebuilding team like the Suns, the best avenue to increasing value is to feature young talent. No one is really debating that. However, the question is at what cost?

Is it better to feature that talent right away and risk devaluing veteran assets or is it better to enhance the value of those veteran assets with the hopes of obtaining even more young talent to feature down the road?

There’s probably not a right or wrong answer, it’s probably somewhere in between.

Although not played out over 162 games, the NBA season in a lot of ways is a marathon not a sprint. Given that mindset, it seems feasible that Jeff Hornacek and Co. can find a balance when it comes to playing time. Maybe it’s a balance that’s struck game-to-game, maybe it’s a balance struck between the first half of the season and the second.

Point is, the Suns have three classes of assets (veterans, young guys and draft picks), the former of which still has the short-term potential to enhance the latter two groups.

It’d be a shame to let that go to waste.

  • Scrap Irony

    The downsides of not playing Goodwin 20 minutes or so a game are three-fold:

    1) Those 20 minutes teach him not only things to do, but also things not to do much better than any practice or coach instruction could.

    If you want Goodwin to be a viable, rotation player/ starter at SG in 2014-15, you have to be deal with the difficulties and struggles of the young player this year.

    Ideally, he should be following the Paul George/ Gordon Hayward career path, not the Xavier Henry/ Luke Babbitt path.

    Give him relatively heavy (16-22 mpg) minutes this year and perhaps he’ll blossom next year.

    2) The more minutes you play him his rookie season, the more likely you’ll know what you have in him. As you head into three possible first round picks next year, you want as much information as you can as to what you have as a base.

    Perhaps Goodwin is a foundation player, akin to late-round/ pick steals like Larry Nance, Jeff Hornacek, or Michael Finley. Perhaps he’s more a semi-productive rotation guy a la Kyle Macy or Casey Jacobsen. Perhaps he’s a relatively lost cause like Greg Grant.

    It doesn’t matter this year; what matters is identifying what he is as soon as possible so that the powers that be can then either surround, draft over, or deal the young talent. Since next year’s draft looks to be exceptionally deep and strong, it’s far better to see what you have now.

    3) Unless he really is a foundational, extraordinary talent (and the jury is certainly out on that front), Goodwin is like to be less effective this year than the veteran Brown. He has too high a learning curve, too much to learn.

    That improves the odds that Phoenix wins the rights to another foundational talent.

    Imagine this scenario:

    Goodwin plays 20 mpg, largely at the expense of Shannon Brown. He struggles a bit with his jumper and turnovers, but, by the end of the season, has proven himself as a solid rotation guy capable of being a secondary slasher. A PER of around 12 per game this year with a higher ceiling and improvement for next.

    However, that experience cost the Suns games. Three or four of them. That, in turn, allows Phoenix to move ahead of everyone but Philadelphia in the tank for Wiggins sweepstakes. They end up drafting second and get Kentucky’s Julius Randle as a PF. They also grab Aaron Harrison (the T-Wolves’ pick), Aaron Gordon (the Pacers’ pick), and Isiah Austin with their own 2nd.

    That leads to a rotation of:

    Bledsoe/ Dragic/ Marshall
    Goodwin/ Aa. Harrison
    Gordon/ M. Morris/ Green
    Randle/ Mk. Morris/ Beasley/ Frye
    Len/ Austin/ Plumlee

    Full roster, with solid to exceptional talent across the board. Beasley, Dragic, Green, and Frye come off the books the next season, allowing for more high draft picks (as is likely, with a roster so young) and a shot at some serious A-list free agent talent where needed.

  • foreveris2long

    Scrap, I too would love for the Suns to get Wiggins or Randle next summer. I think it will be a delicate issue as to what the Suns do with Gortat. They have already held onto to him waaaay too long so much so that he is worth less than Robin Lopez was in trade value. I would play him 25-30 minutes a night the first two months while Len gets healthy and learns his way.

    As for Goodwin, I would let him play and take his lumps. I do not know what those minutes would be but my guess is at least 20 minutes a night. If he is defending and getting to the freethrow line, I would have no problem with him getting 30 minutes a night.

  • Scott

    Don’t we all see a lot of the same things? The Suns will play the veterans as much as required to sell them off. However, once the trade deadline passes, there’s no longer much incentive to highlight any veterans who have expiring contracts. So Gortat and Brown, if they’re still with the team, might be expected to play fewer minutes. Green might still play, as he has a year to go, and Butler might play even though he’s expiring because he may wind up the team’s primary leader this year.

    If Frye is able to play, he could help the veteran assets shine by spreading the floor. If he winds up looking at medical retirement (and we could know the answer Monday), then he might help the Suns by being an asset in trade.

  • azbballfan

    The time to trade gortat was years ago

    This kind of conflict is what happens when poor managers run the show

    Now mcmiracle has to figure out how to showcase gortat and develop Len

    Just play gortat and Len together and call it a day

    If we can’t do that then I don’t know what to tell you

    Gortats value is likely to remain low no matter what just because the market is very limited

    All the other teams who could have used him already made their moves

  • KidBuxton

    I think you underestimate how much other teams like Gortat. When I watch League Pass the other commentators always rave about him. Sure that’s just the media but I think Sun fans don’t realise how much he is rated by others. Come January time teams will give a lot more for him especially if they have a big go down. He is a more than capable starter at PF/C for a play off team.

  • Scott

    ^^ I agree. I think it’s mainly Suns fans who are down on Gortat.

    Give Gortat a right-handed PG who can play pick and roll, and while he may not give you crunch time points or go to the line a lot, he’ll carry more than his own weight.

  • Luka

    I’d rather Gortat just walk this off-season versus having to take back any extra salaries in a deal. The Suns have a solid amount of draft picks now.

    Would it be ideal for the Suns to get a first rounder and expiring deals for Gortat? Yes. Is it completely realistic at this point? Probably not. McDonough is doing the right thing by playing this thing out.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    Belated Happy Birthday to Archie Goodwin who turned 19 last week.

    Yeah, 19…..Love the kid’s potential but 20-30 minutes a night in an 82 game NBA schedule is unrealistic.

    I expect many fits & starts in his rookie year….sometimes looking like a budding superstar & sometimes looking like an over-matched teenager….sometimes observing from the bench while the brain is re-wiring itself to the new expectations is preferable to getting said brain bashed in on a nightly basis.

    Dragic & Bledsoe…..In the final analysis, both are point guards & probably only one can stay long term.
    Sadly, it is most likely Goran who we bid adios to.

  • Scott

    @Luka -

    Maybe the Suns have enough picks for the short term, but they don’t have enough quality players at the moment, and they won’t have enough for years if they depend solely on the draft.

    This year’s roster features 3 above average players: Bledsoe, Dragic, and Gortat.

    Last year’s team had 4 (Dragic, O’Neal, Scola, Gortat).

    The Suns can still stand to trade for whatever assets they can get, whether it is more picks or more promising young players.

    Keep in mind that at the moment, barring breakout performances, the following players all look like they will wash out or have contracts expire at the end of the year: Lee, Beasley, Markieff and Marcus Morris, Marshall, Brown, Butler, Gortat, and possibly Frye (medical), Tucker, and Bledsoe.

    That leaves the Suns with only Dragic, Len, Goodwin, Plumlee, and Green for certain next year. Maybe Frye (if he’s okay), Bledsoe (if he’s extended or re-signed), and Tucker (if he’s re-signed). Sure, the Suns get 3 2014 first round picks, but who knows what they’ll get and if they’ll be ready to play.

    IMO, the Suns can still stand to trade for more assets, whether picks or more young talent. I think McD will do what he can.

    The Suns have already snagged 2 young players in trade: Bledsoe and Plumlee. I think they could get a few more, possibly in a trade of Gortat or Frye (if he’s retiring for medical reasons).

  • Scott

    @hawki -

    I don’t know if Dragic will be the one leaving. If Bledsoe doesn’t sign an extension, or if playing him alongside Dragic doesn’t work out, I could see him on the trading block.

    Bledsoe is young and entering his prime. The Suns could get good assets back in trade for him.

    And keep in mind that next year’s top draft pick for the Suns could easily wind up being a PG, like Smart or Exum.

  • Noitall

    Gortat is on the last year of his contract and will expect a pay raise. we all knew this was coming. He is an average starting center that will command more money than we will want to pay. He should have been traded 2 years ago. Too late now. His has no value in a trade, because EVERYONE knows he will not re-sign here. Why trade for him now when you can outright sign him at the end of the season.

  • Foreveris2long

    Well said Noitall. On Coro’s message board I had been yelling for the Suns to trade Gortat for two years and 98% of the fans told me I was crazy. Now we are stuck with him and likely get nothing for him before he leaves for a bigger payday. Now if Perkins at OKC gets hurt maybe they show some interest, otherwise I suspect he will remain a Sun all year.

  • Foreveris2long

    Hawki, my eye in the sky, we have to respectfully disagree on how much time Goodwin should see this season. If Russell Westbrook who had never played a full season of point guard anywhere, was drafted at age 19 and began his NBA career at age 19, played over 30 minutes a night as a rookie point guard, I have no idea why Goodwin cannot play 20-30 minutes a night. Westbrook played an average of 32 minutes a game his rookie campaign trying to learn what I think is the toughest position in the league to play, point guard. Obviously we will find out soon enough but I see no downside to him playing at least 20 minutes a game.

  • Ty-Sun

    Just on the amount of playing time Goodwin sees this year, I’d say that the # of minutes he gets per game really depends on him. From what I’ve read about him, I think he would love the chance to play as much as possible… even on a team that will probably be bad (like the Suns are expected to be this year). No one is expecting him to be an instant all-star and/or instantly turn this team around so the only real pressure put on him would be whatever pressure he put on himself. Kentucky’s disaster of a season last year (for them) was probably good for him in the sense that he won’t have the hard transition of moving from a really good college team to a really bad NBA team like a lot of college/HS stars have had to deal with.

    As for Gortat, he’s going to have to up his game this season. If he doesn’t, not only does he hurt his trade value and the possibility of getting traded but he also hurts his own chances of getting that big payday increase even if he walks at the end of the season.

    Everyone around the Association already knows Brown and how he plays so whether he gets minutes or not probably won’t affect his trade value.

    With the team the Suns have this year – and the lack of expectations – I think Horny should be able to find plenty of minutes for both the vets and the younger players.

  • Drom John

    The Rockets got value for Scola. Year one, the Rockets got cap space for Harden. Year two, the Rockets got cap space for Howard. That’s better than the Suns got for Scola.

  • Scott

    As for Goodwin, I think his opportunity for minutes go way up if the Suns trade Bledsoe for more assets.

    To me, everybody is available for trade this year, except Len, Goodwin, and Dragic.

    Dragic’s more of a keeper than some of the others because we know Dragic thinks the right way and plays with the right energy, and he’s an above-average player. Also, if you believe what they’ve said in interviews, Dragic and Goodwin both wanted to come to Phoenix. (And Dragic wanted to come to Phoenix twice.) That’s important.

    Right now, I don’t know a thing about Bledsoe’s mentality, except that he was shocked to find himself in Phoenix. And possibly dismayed too, despite all the PR talk about being thrilled. Perhaps in his heart or mind he belongs somewhere else?

    If Bledsoe doesn’t want to stay – like Joe Johnson or whoever – the Suns need to trade him for value either during the season or as a sign-and-trade.

    Off the top of my head, teams that could use him are Philly and Orlando. Not sure about other teams, as so many of them just signed new PGs to big contracts.

  • azbballfan

    I am not saying gortat isn’t valueable I’m saying his value is low because of the situation. He is in

    I don’t see the suns moving him unless a title team needs an upgrade or someone goes down with an injury

  • Azbballfan

    As for the other youn guys like Marshall and the Morris twins, and Goodiwn

    Just make goodwin your sixth man

    Morris twins and marshall have not shown us they can defend or shoot consistently and they came in with a different GM at the helm

    We need to make a commitment to developing the Morris twins along side Len and Goodwin, or start working on a plan to trade the twins

    the fact that they are inconsistent isnt exactly their fault, but going into year 3 as lotto picks you would have expected more flashes of potential from both of them

    Thanks to the mess that lance blanks left McMiracle, if he wants to develop our young guys, its going to be mostly at the expense of veterans instead of other, unproven young players

    we still dont know what the Suns are gonna do with Beasley or if Frye can play

    If i was McMiracle, i would say look, we are likely drafting a power forward or small forward in this next draft

    we need to trade away or cut players that are not in the teams future

    going young isnt going to hurt us long term,

    if we played the Vets our lineup would be

    Dragic, Bledsoe, Butler, Frye, Gortat

    and that would leave all the young players to fight for minutes off the bench

    with the log jam that would create, i cant see anymore than one guy getting more than 20 minutes a game

    we gotta move some more veterans and ideally, soon

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    Forever…..Westbrook played two years at UCLA & turned 20 at the start of his rookie campaign compared to Goodwin who only played one year of college ball & just turned 19…..so I see Westbrook as being one year ahead of Archie on the maturity curve.

    Scott….I suppose anything is possible with the wheeling-dealing McDonough but I think he will do everything in his power to see Bledsoe is the Suns long term answer at PG.

  • Foreveris2long

    Hawki, I am not sure the distinction between playing one year v two years of college ball is going to matter when Goodwin appears to have a really good work ethic and seems mature for his age. If teams would have summarily limited guys with no college experience, Amare, Garnett, Kobe and others to 10 minutes a night because they were only 18, I think it would have been an injustice. Time will tell but I think he will get at least an average of 20 minutes a night.

  • Foreveris2long

    Hawki,
    As much as I like Dragic, I definitely agree with you that the Suns will make every effort to make Bledsoe the future starting point guard. Dragic much like Gortat is significantly older than the young guns, meaning by the time they will hopefully be ready to compete for a playoff spot, Dragic will be near 30 while most of the young guns will be around 25 or younger.

  • Ty-Sun

    I think some of you may be misinterpreting Dulberg when he said that it might be best for Goodwin to “… play 10 minutes a game to begin his first professional season…”. I think the key to that phrase is “begin”. And I’m sure that a plan to start the season with giving Goodwin around 10-12 minutes a game would alter as soon as he shows he can be productive against NBA level competition.

    I don’t think that anyone’s level of experience will figure in too much on how much playing time they get this year. The vets will be given the nod early on unless some of the younger guys make an unexpected leap forward during training camp/preseason. As the season move on it would be foolish to not give the younger players more court time though.

  • Scott

    I think fans here may be expecting too much of Bledsoe. Or maybe I’m expecting too little …?

    Bledsoe seems to me to be less of a mini-LeBron and more like a Telfair 2.0. An undersized but athletic PG, he plays tenacious defense, he gets some assists, and he gets some points. He’s better than Ronnie Price, and he’s a bit better than Telfair 1.0. But he’s not an especially skilled creator for himself or others, and his assist to turnover ratio is not excellent. Though he’s been in the league a few years, he’s still learning how to shoot the ball, and he doesn’t get to the line much, either.

    If that perception is correct, he’s not really “PG of the future” quality for a Suns team that normally has a top PG. He would, however, be an upgrade for Philly or Orlando (assuming Nelson is on his way out).

    IMO, unless Bledsoe was held back by his situation with the Clippers and is ready to explode with previously unseen talent, or unless the Bledsoe + Dragic combo rocks the heavens with its supreme awesomeness, the Suns should try to trade Bledsoe early for an asset.

    In other words, Bledsoe IS an asset for the Suns, but like Scola he may not directly contribute to the new foundation and may instead be a stepping stone to a more permanent piece.

    In fact, I believe the plan is for Bledsoe to start mainly to show him off.

  • Foreveris2long

    We’ll see Scott but I caution not to place too much credence in Bledsoe’s numbers which are primarily based on reserve activity. Ask Dragic how his numbers improved when he realized he was going to be an everyday starter. Interesting perspective Scott so it will be fun to watch the dynamics play out.

  • Scott

    ^^ Keep in mind that I’ve also said in other posts that if Bledsoe does fulfill the potential many believe he has, he should be nearly as good as Dragic this season. However, only if he shows that he can do everything Dragic does do you start to compare their ages and think about dropping Dragic because he’s too old. Because while Dragic is older, he’s still far from being too old to be a leading influence on a young, rebuilding team. He does a lot of things the right way.

    One skill Dragic has that you don’t see much in the league is he’s picked up the ability from Nash to keep his dribble as he penetrates into the paint and back out again. That’s something the other PGs on the team would do well to learn and emulate before Dragic leaves.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    Forever, my Man, if Goodwin can handle 20 minutes a night than I’m all for it….personally, I think he will hit the wall & will need the reins pulled back & given some time to absorb things but if he proves me wrong, I’ll be the 1st to admit it.
    Also, if things go sour, he could see time in the D-League for confidence building….hopefully it won’t come to that.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    Scott, if Bledsoe is just barely better than Telfair, then we are in trouble.

    “Supreme Awesomeness”…of Dragic & Bledsoe…I like that….well for 5 minutes a half anyway.

  • Scott

    I read this quote from Goodwin and it made me think he could be an excellent teammate for Marshall and the Morri.

    “It’s an elite league. There’s guys coming in every year. Thinking about that, it makes you want to stay in the gym as much as possible and stay out of trouble. You’ve got to realize that you can be replaced.”

    Or flipping it around, I suppose Goodwin could be getting the low down from Tucker and the young Suns, all of whom are already staring at a blinking ejection button.

    As I recall, during the last draft, one feature while the names were being called had rookies from the previous season delivering one-liners of advice, and Marshall’s advice was along the lines of, “Work hard, because you can drop out of the league fast.”

    With any luck, Beasley is providing the young Suns with an object lesson on how NOT to be.

    @hawki -

    Well … I’m not super familiar with Bledsoe’s play. I only watched him when the Suns played the Clippers, and I don’t remember him being all that great. My comparison of him against Telfair is based on how people tend to see the games of both players, plus stats.

    For a guy described as “strong” and as a “mini-LeBron,” Bledsoe does not absorb contact, finish, and get to the line. He shoots about 1.5 FTs per 20 min. That’s like 1 foul a game. Those are Gortat-like numbers, and you know how much Marcin likes contact at the hoop. (He doesn’t.)

    Bledsoe also does not score tons of points, like you would expect from the LeBron comparison. Nor does he have a lot of flexibility on what position he can play.

    I suppose it’s even possible that in that subset of games where Marshall is scoring instead of merely bringing the ball up the court for the team, that Marshall might be playing better offensively than Bledsoe does on average. And that’s with Marshall’s broken shot, lack of athleticism, inability to drive, and mental block against scoring.

    What sets Bledsoe apart on offense is that he’s very efficient at scoring … but then so is PJ Tucker.

    I anticipate either that Bledsoe breaks out offensively with Dragic by his side, or his contributions will come mainly as a diminutive PG known for pesky defense and steals, i.e. more Telfair than LeBron.

  • DBreezy

    @Azbballfan,

    Personally I can’t give Kieff a pass on inconsistency as he’s had plenty of minutes during his first two seasons. He’s started plenty of times and has been firmly in the rotation from day 1.

  • DBreezy

    Dragic vs. Bledsoe in the future will be interesting. Goran is older, but he doesn’t have a ton of mileage and its not hard to envision him playing at his highest level for a long period to come. He’s also proven a lot more at this stage of his career than Bledsoe both in terms of play as a starter and in the limited playoff experience of the two.

    Bledsoe has to not only prove that he’s at least on the same arc as Goran in a starting role, but that his ultimate ceiling is higher. We know he’s younger and more athletic but we also know that for every Westbrook there are a lot of Tony Wroten’s. The kicker on all of this is the contract situation. Dragic is very affordable which could be huge when it comes to potential free agents and the possible need to keep some of the team’s young players in the future under this tighter cba. Bledsoe is likely to ask for more than Goran makes in an extension which would give me pause at the moment. I would not entertain a 10-12M per extension ahead of this season. RFA isn’t what it used to be. In fact the Suns’ offer to Gordon and the Wolves for Batum appear to be the last truly outrageous offer sheets given. I’ll trust McD to get the right deal done when the time comes.

  • Ty-Sun

    For the season Goran averaged 14.7 ppg, 3.1 rebounds, 7.4 assists and 1.6 steals last year. But in the last 13 games of the season Dragic averaged 17.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 9.9 assists and 1.7 steals in 37.2 minutes of play and shooting percentages of .473/.385/.800. Last season was his first as a full time starter and – even on a bad team – he just got better as the season went on. I was happy to see the Suns bring in Bledsoe but I’m not ready to turn over the keys to him yet and start looking for a place to ship Goran out to.

    And we don’t really know whether Bledsoe will want to stick with the Suns yet. Even if the Suns offer him a max contract extension he might turn it down. Years ago anyone would have been thrilled to be traded by the Clippers to the Suns but not now. I’m sure Bledsoe will give everything he has out on the court this year but he may just do it to audition for other teams in hope that they will offer to trade for him. At this point I just see no reason to assume that Bledsoe will want to stay with the Suns long term.

  • Scott

    From “Hi! How was your summer? Phoenix Suns”

    “The Suns are finally making progress. While the rate of this team’s momentum might be slower than that of any “rebuilding” franchise in the league, that there’s forward movement in Phoenix at all is reason for measured celebration. The Suns were lost last season; at the very least they’ve a roadmap now, even if the destination is still seasons away.”

    “Of course, Bledsoe doesn’t come without question marks and creates some new ones, too. He’s an uber-athlete and complete monster on defense, but his offensive ceiling remains unknown, and the pressures he’ll face as a top option – he’ll play the majority of his minutes against starters now, remember – will be a far cry from those he enjoyed with the Clippers. Bledsoe can’t shoot a lick from mid-range and still needs to hone his floor-game, but “mini-LeBron” made major strides at the free throw line [that's referring to accuracy, not attempts] and from beyond the arc last season [on low volume] while quietly posting a 17.6 PER. Combine that with his innate feel in the pick-and-roll, and it’s clear Bledsoe has the makings of a top-10 point guard and borderline star; the thing now is whether nor not he will fully realize that potential.”

    http://www.hardwoodparoxysm.com/2013/08/28/hi-how-was-your-summer-phoenix-suns/

  • Scott

    From “Pacific Division Preview” …

    “[The Suns] want to play an up-tempo style. They’re going to play at a very fast pace. A lot of fastbreak basketball. I think they’re going to play a style that [Hornacek] enjoyed playing as a player. When he played with Utah, he had a great point guard in John Stockton and power forward in Karl Malone, but when he played at Utah they were always one of the top scoring teams and top assist teams. They ran the floor. Karl Malone ran the floor, Stockton would push the ball up, but their wings would cross under the basket. They really ran the floor. We all want to run, well, Utah ran. If you didn’t run and cross under the basket as a player, you weren’t going to play for Jerry Sloan.”

    “I think it will be a really interesting year for Eric Bledsoe. He was a very, very good backup, a tremendous defensive player. Learned a lot playing alongside and with Chris Paul. Kind of a set shot 3-point shooter, really good athlete. I’m really interested to see just how effective a starting point guard he can be. It’s not the easiest transition to make from backup to starting point guard in this league. I’m not saying he can’t do it, but I’ll be interested to see if he can make that progression to be a top-tier point guard. I look at him as more than a role player, but at the same time, I don’t see him being one of the top-caliber point guards in this league. He’s still young, too. To me, he’s not going to beat [Goran] Dragic out at the point guard spot. He may end up starting alongside him.”

    “I think [Len] is a good pickup for them. A very high-quality center. Everybody talks about him having a real professional attitude, a great work ethic, and he’s real coachable. He’s got size, coordination — a guy that can run the floor.”

    “Short term this is probably going to be a really challenging year for them. I really like what Ryan [McDonough] has done in shuffling the deck with that young backcourt. I like Archie Goodwin, I think he was a good pick for them in the late first [round]. I think Bledsoe obviously is a guy on the bubble of breaking out and being a really, really big-time player in our league. Whether he can be a full-time point guard will be the question mark that they have to figure out.”

    “Alex Len, finding a starting center is a challenging thing to do, and I think Alex has that potential.”

    http://espn.go.com/blog/los-angeles/lakers/post/_/id/37129/division-preview-clips-set-to-stay-on-top

  • Scott

    Suns.com article on the guy who designed the new Suns logo / unis:

    http://www.nba.com/suns/suns-new-uniforms-real-fish-story

    My only real complaints about the new unis are the butt stripes and the super thin side stripes, though both do go together with the new sun symbol as a style.

    I’d prefer no butt stripe and wider side stripes.

  • Jeff

    Butler gortat and brown to okc for lamb Perkins and 1st rounder

  • Animan

    Milwaukee and Phoenix in serious trade discussions about Caron Butler!!

  • foreveris2long

    D’Breezy, I cannot resist. When I was begging the Suns to trade Gortat 2 years ago because he was at least 4 years older than Lopez and when the Suns became relevant he would be thirty, didn’t you say you did not mind keeping him because he did not have a ton of mileage since he was a backup in Orlando. Now he has very little if any trade value. Now you are saying the same thing for Dragic. I love Dragic but when the Suns become relevant he will be near 30 and while I think he will still be good, the downside of his career will be near. I just do not think McD wants that generation gap if the Suns can help it.

    The Suns may be wrong about Bledsoe but I think they got him because they think he has a higher ceiling than Dragic, he is under 25, athletic and he can defend.

    Scott, good resource material.

  • Scott

    Regarding the trade mentioned by Animan … the Racine Sports Zone reports:

    “Butler will be paid nearly $8 million next season, so the Bucks would likely have to give the Suns some sort of combination involving players and draft picks. It is believed the Bucks wouldn’t surrender any of their frontline players.”

    This trade is a little odd, in that Butler normally plays SF, and the Bucks already have 4 players at SF. They also have 1 at SG (Mayo), 5 at PG, and 4 at C. The Bucks have 2 players at PF.

    While maybe the Bucks could move Sanders to PF and thus have greater depth at both PF and C, probably they are thinking of moving 6′ 10″ Ilyasova from SF to PF in order to spread the floor, thereby opening up a starting spot for Butler.

    I’m guessing the trade might resemble the Indiana trade, with Butler being sent over in exchange for Ekpe Udoh and a first round pick (not sure which year). If McD used his magic, maybe other players are included, such as Brown to the Bucks and Antetokounmpo to the Suns.

    Udoh has $4.5m on the final year of his contract and has a PER of 12, so he would seem a likely candidate for subtraction by the Bucks. Antetokounmpo could be traded as a sweetener, as he’s the most raw of the Bucks players at SF, but he has potential and an attractive rookie contract.

    http://journaltimes.com/sports/basketball/gery-woelfel-butler-back-in-town-sources-indicate-bucks-suns/article_94904e36-1048-11e3-ad45-001a4bcf887a.html?comment_form=true

  • Scott

    Apparently this Butler trade, whatever it is, may be close to completion. Butler has already tweeted a “thanks” to the Suns.

    Also, it is reported that the Suns and Bucks have been working on this trade for about a month.

    All the Suns need to take back is a small contract in order to make the trade work. This could be Middleton, Ish Smith, Nate Wolters, Kravtsov, Raduljica, or the aforementioned Antetokounmpo.

  • Scott

    Interesting! The new rumor is Ish Smith, Slava Kravtsov, and a pick for Butler.

    I was hoping the Suns might get Kravtsov.

    In this scenario, Ish Smith would be waived and Kravtsov would be this trade’s Miles Plumlee.

    Kravtsov played reasonably well in SL. He’s 6′ 11, 254 lbs, 26 years old, and he has a PER of 14.47 (though that PER could be skewed upward due to low minutes). He can’t shoot worth beans, as he’s an epically woeful 30% from the FT line, but he’s 72% around the basket. As basketball goes, he’s a late bloomer.

    DX says, “He runs the floor extremely well, moves laterally quickly and fluidly, and is absolutely explosive around the basket, looking capable of tearing down the rim every time he goes up to finish. He’s also quick off his feet to contest or block shots, giving him virtually everything you could ask for physically from a player his size.”

    Which pretty well describes what I saw of him in SL.

    If the Suns get this guy, it could be a good move. As you know, I’m a big fan of lateral quickness, as this (along with length, motor, and IQ), tends to define a player’s defensive potential.

    Kravtsov is a big guy who can move on defense and score at the rim.

  • Scott

    Okay, here’s the trade per Coro, as announced a couple of minutes ago on Twitter:

    “A #Suns trade of Caron Butler to the Bucks for Ish Smith & Slava Kravtsov (no pick) should be finalized Thursday. Suns add $5.65M cap space.”

  • foreveris2long

    Thks Scott

  • Scott

    HoopsRumors characterizes the trade as a favor by the Suns to Butler, who is from Wisconsin and who always wanted to return and play for his home audience.

    Coro characterizes it as a cap move. It could be these two factors are the whole of it.

    I could be wrong about McD asking for Kravstov though. Maybe Kravtsov and Smith were simply two players the Bucks wanted to ditch.

    A Google search on Kravtsov turns up mostly negativity. The nicest comment I saw was, “Slava Kravtsov looked good (in SL), but he should look good against D-League players and rookies.”

    There was also a rumor that the Bucks were going to cut Kravtsov due to an excess of centers.

    I’d think Kravtsov would be a possibility for the Suns at PF/C, if there’s still room there when the dust clears, because he has the lateral quickness to play PF and the size to play C. (Miles Plumlee, theoretically, lacks the lateral quickness to play PF.)

    Anyway, move over Malcolm Lee! The Suns have one or two more players to toss on the waivers pile.

  • Scott

    Have to wonder if the Suns are clearing cap space for another trade … :)