At first glance, I thought the Phoenix Suns were the clear loser of the blockbuster trade they swung with the Orlando Magic Saturday afternoon.
(In cased you’re late to the party, the Suns swapped Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark for Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat, Mickael Pietrus, a 2011 first-round draft pick and cash considerations).
Carter is an aging chemistry killer and prototypical chucker, Marcin Gortat is an overpaid backup center, while Jason Richardson is Phoenix’s top scorer (19.3 points per game) and a perfect fit in the Suns’ system.
This Suns team is also searching to find itself, and shuffling the roster doesn’t seem like the best way to build chemistry and solidify rotations.
But after some more deliberation, it dawned on me that this indeed is an above-average deal that Lon Babby and Lance Blanks won’t regret pulling the trigger on.
The Suns can rid themselves of the nightmare that was The Turkoglu Experiment, while finding a home for Clark, who never found his way out of head coach Alvin Gentry’s doghouse.
They lose Turkoglu’s painful contract, (J-Rich expires after this season), and only owe Carter about $4 million guaranteed next season.
Gortat is owed around $25 million over the next four seasons, including this season, which is a bit steep. But overall it frees up cap space for a future that looks quite grim for the Suns.
The 2011 draft pick, along with that freed up cap space, will help them find and develop talent to enhance their bleak future. I don’t think this deal makes the Suns all that much better, but it doesn’t make them worse, which isn’t bad for a sub-.500 team thirsting for change.
Overall grade: B
So what are the Suns getting with each new player and how will they fit with the Suns? Here’s a closer look:
Suns fans know this isn’t the same Vinsanity that stuck his elbow in the rim during dunk contests or jumped over seven-footers in international competition. Carter can still get up there, but he’s slowed down considerably. He’s 33 years old, playing just over 30 minutes a game and doing most of his damage on the perimeter, as he’s averaging a career-low 3.4 free-throw attempts.
Although he’s known as a chucker who settles for bad shots, Carter is having his most efficient year as a pro. He’s shooting a career-best 47 percent from the field and a respectable 34.6 percent from three.
But how does he fit as a Sun? Carter should be a good fit in the wide-open Suns offense, although he’s equally as worthless defensively as Richardson. He can use his athleticism to get up and down, but still spots up for open threes he likes to settle for.
Health issues are always there, but that’s not a concern in Phoenix judging by what the Suns’ training staff did for Grant Hill and Steve Nash.
Carter brings a transition threat, and a playmaker the Suns thought they had in Turkoglu. History says he needs a lot of touches to be effective, but Nash can change that and Carter figures to be a perfect fit who can mimic J-Rich’s stats in purple and orange.
Carter as a Sun: B
Although he isn’t flashy, the 6-foot-11, 240-pound Polishman helps the Suns more than anyone in this deal. The NBA’s worst rebounding team that can’t defend the interior to save its life just found the answer to its problems.
Gortat isn’t a savior by any means, but he’s an active big man that’s been waiting for his shot for quite some time. He’s known as one of the league’s best backup big men, and banging against Dwight Howard every day in practice has to make you a better pro.
His numbers aren’t staggerring (4 points per game, 4.3 rebounds, 0.8 blocks) but he’s still only 26 years old and gives the Suns four near seven-footers in Gortat, Channing Frye, Robin Lopez and Earl Barron. Gortat is the only true banger and should help the Suns fill their weaknesses.
My only question is: Where does he fit in the rotation? He’s not going to start over Lopez and he certainly can’t start next to him because the Suns need more spacing for Nash to operate. He’ll most likely back Lopez up and serve as injury insurance, which isn’t the worst thing because Lopez doesn’t seem poised to make that giant step the Suns had hoped for this season.
But what about down the road? When Lopez does develop, are you going to pay $7 million a year to a backup center? Gortat fills a need now and will do some great things for the Suns, but down the road I’m not sure how he fits in. The Suns could have used a a prototypical power forward, not a prototypical center.
Gortat as a Sun: B-
Pietrus is the forgotten player in this deal, but he shouldn’t be. He’s fairly cheap at $5.3 million this season and the same amount next season with a player option. He’s the perimeter defender the Suns thought they had in Earl Clark and Josh Childress.
He won’t create off the dribble, which is fine as Nash, Hill and Carter will dominate the ball. He figures to fill the role Childress hasn’t been able to yet, except he can actually shoot the ball. Eighty-seven of his 115 shots are threes this season, which is a perfect fit for the Suns’ offense.
Pietrus can defend, knock down the triple (39.1 percent) and has a swagger and toughness Suns fans will fall in love with quickly. It remains to be seen how many minutes he’ll play (my guess is 18-20), but although Carter and Gortat are the big names, Pietrus is the dark horse in the deal.
Pietrus as a Sun: B+