Even after the Knicks and Cavs games, we all agree the Suns have had an impressive start to the season. Even if the team begins to slow down in a tough December, the early success has provided a nice safety net, providing the Suns an ability to stay in the Western Conference playoff picture until the spring, where an early home schedule should give them a chance to explode. I am, at heart, an optimist. But despite all this, is still feels a bit like the Suns are playing with fire. To me, the Suns impressive records boils down to three factors:
1. Steve Nash's brilliance. Sustainable? I don't see why not.
2. Hard work and effort on the glass and defensive side of the ball preventing total meltdown. Sustainable? I doubt it. It's great to see hustle again, but this is the NBA, not JV Basketball. Hustle will only get you so far, and as recently shown, our defense isn't even that close to passable.
3. The wings holding down the fort. Sustainable? I doubt this as well. The wing position, for the past 5 or so years, has been a strong point for the Suns. I think J-Rich can keep up his semi-impressive work, but I have to believe that Dudley (having never done this before) and Hill (37) will slow down, and I don't think Alando is the answer.
If the Suns want to be anything more than the 5th - 8th seed in the west, the need to make a trade. As soon as possible
I hate mid-season trades as much as the next guy - it's amazingly hard to get new players acclimated in the middle of the year. But I firmly believe the Suns will be making a trade by the deadline. If the team isn't going anywhere - somewhere in the lower middle pack of the west - Amare will be traded. I'm not arguing for or against it, but if this team cannot make a push as is, by that time of the season, Amare will not have been producing at a Superstar level. He will make superstar money this offseason (because NBA execs are . . . . slow), so we will trade him.
However, I have been more than impressed with Amare this year, and I firmly believe he can be the #2 player on a championship team (behind Nash). He just needs an amazing #3, like Marion was. And we all know J-Rich is not that player. With that in mind, here are a couple completely feasible trade scenarios that I think can make the Suns contenders in one fell swoop (honest to God), preventing an ugly rebuilding phase. These trades all work through the NBA Trade Machine on ESPN
The Suns shift Butler (or Hill) over to the 2 guard position, giving them 2 semi-elite defenders on the wings. Butler can pick of J-Rich's scoring, but not his ability to create his own shot, putting more pressure on Amare. This could maybe even work if the Suns swap a future #1 with a #2 and cash
The Wizards are in complete disarray. They don't seem bad on paper, but I've been watching most of their games, and it's a train wreck. Because J-Rich can create his own shot, he gives them team a better sense of order. This is also the closest The Wizards will come to getting equal value and building blocks for Butler, and are by all accounts willing to deal.
The Bobcats trade Gerald Wallace
The Suns finally get a player to replace Marion, Wallace is a beast on the defensive ends and the boards. The Suns also sport a defensively nasty bench in Dragic, Hill, Dudley Amundson and (hopefully) Lopez. It absolutely kills me to trade Leandro, which is why I rate the Wizards trade highert.
The Bobcats get more young players, and most importantly, some scoring. Also, Larry Brown is insatiable when it comes to turnover on his rosters, and I think we already know the Bobcats are willing to make favorable deals with us.
The Suns trade Jason Richardson, Earl Clark, Robin Lopez and a future #1
Honestly, Gay doesn't bring a lot to the table that J-Rich doesn't already have. But he's younger. And Gasol seems to be the real deal. His numbers are definitely inflated - he's the only player on that team even remotely giving effort, which nets him a lot of hustle points, etc. But the Suns can try winning now, and rebuilding around Dragic, Barbosa, Gay, Amare and Gasol.
The Grizzlies won't be able to hold on to Gay - it's pretty obvious he's upset. And they've already explored trading him to us - our only downfall is that we asked for 3 of their 4 best players. This time, we're only taking 2 out of the top 4. The Grizz took on Z-Bo, which tells me they are willing to take on players who produce - J-Rich's more polished game might appeal to them. Clark and Lopez are young players to stash an eventually replace Gay and Gasol, and the Grizz love stockpiling low first round picks for whatever reason. And getting rid of Jaric would be huge. I'm again betting on the Grizz making a bad move, but I feel like it's a bad bet. And this prevents the blow up of the team.
I honestly believe these trades make the Suns, in a fast-paced steve nash offense, a threat in the west. Except for maybe 2007, the run n gun teams were never a clear cut favorite - they just had a puncher's chance. But a puncher's chance souns great to me, and these trades give that to the Suns