I was not the least bit surprised by all the Amare Stoudemire trade rumors that swirled through the Phoenix Suns organization for the past two years (and then some).
STAT was getting set to be an unrestricted free agent, and the Suns had to weigh the virtues of keeping him to win in the short term and retain the best chance of re-signing him with dealing him to acquire some assets before he bolts for nothing but a trade exception.
But for a national analyst like Ric Bucher to stick his neck out and say Steve Nash is the top name to be mentioned in trade discussions other than Carmelo Anthony kind of caught me off guard. Not that I didn’t spend much of Friday’s game against the Grizzlies debating the very idea with KTAR’s Adam Green, I just didn’t think it was reality at this point in the season.
Alvin Gentry did all he could to put a stop to the chatter by proclaiming at Wednesday’s practice that Nash “is not going to be traded” (no word on if he also proclaimed that the sky is still going to be blue). Frankly, I take Gentry at face value and feel that a number of circumstances would have to occur for this to become even a reasonable discussion.
Entering the offseason, the Suns had a number of different courses they could potentially chart. Plan A (in theory) was re-sign Amare, maintain the status quo and then have this become “Amare’s team” once Nash retires.
Once STAT bolted to New York, the Suns could either reload by acquiring a David Lee or Al Jefferson to replace Stoudemire or roll over their cap space to the following offseason when Jason Richardson was coming off the books and they could be a major player in free agency.
The Suns sort of chose the latter option by reloading, yet they replaced Amare with a combination of Hedo Turkoglu, Josh Childress and Hakim Warrick rather than a traditional four man. In doing so the Suns made a statement that they were going for it one more time with Nash (albeit without a traditional pick-and-roll partner).
By also re-signing Channing Frye and now during the season extending Jared Dudley, the Suns have made it impossible to rebuild through free agency during the foreseeable future.
During the Lon Babby press conference, Robert Sarver stood up and said he surveyed the future free agent market, realized the Suns weren’t going to sign a Carmelo type of star and decided to take this route.
Take a look at the Phoenix Suns salaries for the next few seasons. When the offseason began, only Nash and Leandro Barbosa’s player option were committed for next season aside from guys on their rookie deals like Robin and Goran. Now they have close to $50 million in commitments for next season if you factor in minimum rookie deals, and that’s even with J-Rich’s $14.4 million coming off the cap.
The two seasons after that they already possess about $33 million in commitments, and with likely raises due to Robin and Goran it’s unlikely that the Suns will have a ton of cap space for some time.
That brings us back to Nash. The Suns did not make the moves they did this summer just to blow it all up a couple weeks into the season. If the Suns wanted to rebuild, they would have either acquired an Al Jefferson type of player to build around or waited until this summer to make their splash.
Instead they attempted to fashion a roster that could win this year. There’s no way the Suns will blow that up without finding out how good it can be, as well they should.
Especially considering Phoenix’s treacherous November schedule, this team needs at least until January or February to see if the pieces fit. With the Suns integrating three new important pieces into an unconventional style and with one of those players gutting it out through a broken finger and another basically switching positions after a 10-year career, even if they are a few games below .500 at the end of this month give them time.
After last year’s blazing hot start, the Suns were worse than mediocre for two months before becoming the best team in the West (well, with the Lakers cruising to the finish at least) throughout the rest of the regular season and up until the conference finals.
This team needs time to see if Nash can make one final run in the Valley.
The counterpoint exclaims that this Suns team won’t win a title even if they do gel, so get something for Nash while there’s still time.
This goes back to the whole “Is it good enough to just be a really good team for a really long time or are you ultimately judged by championships” question. No comment, Lakers fans.
If the Suns fall out of the playoff race (which I doubt will happen), Nash goes to management and nicely asks for a better situation (there’s no other way it could be done) and the Suns find a team willing to deal a young potential centerpiece, that’s the only way I do it. I’m not talking cap relief and a pick (remember, the Suns won’t be in a position to take advantage of cap relief so it’s not an asset they should value), I want a bonafide young big man.
I’m talking about a Josh Smith-type of player or better. And for the dealing team, why would they give up such a vital piece to acquire a soon-to-be 37-year-old point guard?
Even without Nash the Suns have enough quality players to avoid becoming the kind of lottery team bad enough to draft a future stud. So unless the wheels fall off completely and a stud you can rebuild around is available, I would hold on to Nash until the summer when trades aren’t made so much on the fly. Also, I’ve always believed Nash can’t just come into a system and be at his optimal level of effectiveness since he needs so much of an offense to be built around him, although I suppose that would not be an issue in New York for obvious reasons.
Looking at the Suns’ future, I do worry that they will be stuck in the middle of being good enough to be a borderline playoff team but never bad enough to bottom out and draft a Tim Duncan.
With Dudley now re-signed, they have an immediate future post-Nash core of Dragic-Childress-Hedo-Warrick-Lopez with Dudley-Frye-Lawal (if he pans out) coming off the bench.
Add a stud power forward, move Warrick to the bench and acquire another guard and that could be a solid team, although not one that will be challenging the Heat and the Thunder any time soon. Sure, there are too many players that can be considered role players, but aside from Hedo’s horrendous contract and the fact that Channing is a bit overpaid those really aren’t bad deals.
In an ideal world for Phoenix fans, the Suns will be the buyers at the deadline searching for a four that can rebound and defend, run the pick-and-roll with Nash now and slot into the four spot of that future starting lineup.
We don’t know how ideal that world will be come January and February.
If this season is in the dumps and you can acquire an impact future piece and do Nash right by sending him to a contender, consider it at that time but not before this team that they built to remain competitive with Nash and gave up future cap space to do so has time to gel.
Unless a superstar falls in their laps, the Suns appear to have a nice future core to win games but not one that will set the league on fire with so many of them being role players.
Why end the Nash era early when there’s only that to look forward to?