Deals for Turkoglu, Childress put Suns back in the mix


When Amare Stoudemire left for the New York Knicks, I started pondering the options the Phoenix Suns had at their disposal to become an upper-echelon team again.

I felt they should either go after a power forward to replace Amare or (after Phoenix signed Warrick and quality power forwards started coming off the market) wait until next season and replace Jason Richardson with a star wing when they would have a max contract to offer if LB was shed.

But as much as my Twitter followers and I pored over the 2011 free agency class, all we could find was Carmelo (who wasn’t coming) and not much else when it comes to max-worthy wings.

So the Suns made a sensible move. They cashed in their financial flexibility in terms of the salary cap space they could have next summer and the trade exception they own now to acquire a pair of players who can help today while Nash is still playing at a superstar level (and they still have about $6 million worth of trade exception left).

You can say that flexibility is so important, but look at what happened to a team like New York that played for cap space. They ended up with just Amare after two years losing. The Suns were a nice team that wasn’t likely to go beyond the first round before this move and now they have a chance to be really interesting.

By acquiring Hedo Turkoglu for Leandro Barbosa and Dwayne Jones and then getting Josh Childress in a sign-and-trade, the talent level of the Suns’ roster is seriously upgraded.

People forget that Turkoglu was one of the most sought-after free agent on the market this time last season. He was coming off a pair of seasons in which he went 19.5-5.7-5.0 on 45.6 percent shooting from the field and 40 percent from three and then 16.8-5.3-4.9.

He was the crunch time scorer for the 2008-09 Orlando team that went to the Finals, hitting a plethora of clutch shots and emerging as the prime creator of offense in the playoffs with Jameer Nelson injured.

Teams salivated over him during free agency, and before he reneged on Portland people thought he could be the missing piece for them.

Then he signed his five-year, $53 million deal with the Toronto Raptors and last year happened. Turkoglu threw up a clunker of a season, regressing to 11.3-4.7-4.1 on 40.9 percent shooting. The fit wasn’t right, and he wanted out.

Turkoglu still has four years and about $44 million left on his deal (although he apparently is waiving about $5 million of his trade kicker and reducing the amount of guaranteed money in his final year), so this is still a risk, but I think the fact that he’s willing to leave money on the table shows how much he wants to come to Phoenix. Turkoglu almost became a Sun in 2004 and seems to be happy about the move.

The offense can become even more versatile now. He can be a co-facilitator with Nash and Dragic, he can shoot the three, he can post and penetrate and overall just cause matchup problems all over the floor. The Suns are so good at taking advantage of those mismatches that I think Hedo will be a great fit offensively.

When you talk about Childress, you’re talking about a guy who will be a great fit defensively. He’s a long, athletic defender who could be the Suns’ Kobe-stopper (or at least the closest thing to it). Having Childress, Dudley and Hill gives the Suns some night options to guard wings and point guards.

Childress, the sixth overall pick in 2004 out of Stanford, is also no slouch offensively. He averaged 11.1 points on 52.2 percent shooting in his four seasons, scoring in double digits every year and shooting better than 50 percent in all but his rookie campaign. Childress shot 57.1 percent in 2007-08 and ranked fourth in the NBA with a true shooting percentage of 64.7 percent that year.

Only having to yield a second-round pick and signing him to an affordable five-year, $33 million deal (so you mean Childress is on the same level as Drew Gooden and Amir Johnson?) is nice value for a 27-year-old chemistry guy who should be a solid piece for the Suns for years to come.

In a summer filled with disgusting contracts, that’s the second good deal the Suns have made (the other being the Warrick one).

The best part is the offseason still isn’t over. Although Turkoglu could play some four, the Suns have a glut at the wing spots and could be able to make a move for an interior scorer since Robin Lopez is the closest thing they have to low-post scoring (Jason Richardson for Al Jefferson anyone?)

This deal also means the Suns have essentially been able to acquire Hedo, Childress and Warrick for Amare and LB. Sounds a little better than J.J. Hickson, doesn’t it?

Questions still abound about the Phoenix Suns after these two transactions. They have some nice pieces but no second star. They don’t really have a bonafide interior scorer. They have a glut on the wing, and it’s hard to say if everyone will be as happy to share time as they were last year. The Suns now have to be the deepest team in the league (they can go 10 deep without even getting to Earl Clark and Gani Lawal), but will the pieces fit as well as last season?

That final question is really what’s most important. The Suns now have so many different lineups that can attack in so many different ways. They could put out an all-three-pointers lineup, a defense lineup, an unconventional matchup nightmare offensive lineup. They just have so many options and a coach who likes to utilize all of them.

The Suns are taking a chance, particularly on Turkoglu, whom I think would be a perfect fit if he reverts back to Orlando form but otherwise could be an albatross for years to come.

But it’s a chance the Suns needed to take. With this move, the Suns have officially returned to the pack of Western Conference teams fighting to be the best squad besides the Lakers and will remain a threat through the end of Steve Nash’s contract.