Trade rumors abound once again for the Phoenix Suns. The latest rumors have the Suns looking to trade Amare, and possibly Shaq, even though GM Kerr has said no one is untouchable.
Does it make sense to trade or stand pat?
As I recounted in my last post, it is my opinion that the Suns have the best starting 5 in the NBA on paper, a solid 6th man in LB, and at least 2 other reserves that can play some significant minutes off the bench.
Still, it is obvious that the Suns continue to struggle this year. At times, they have looked downright pathetic, turning over the ball in record numbers, and getting out hustled on both sides of the ball.
Does it make sense to trade one or more of the Suns in hopes of salvaging this season, or to start rebuilding?
Lets look at the roster:
Shaq - As I mentioned last time, Shaq is playing great ball. He is a bona fide All-Star center not just someone that won a popularity contest. His talent lies in his post up skills, ability to pass the ball (allowing a whole offense to be built around him), and to rebound the ball. If you were going to trade Shaq, you would want to get another quality center in return. Almost assuredly, you would be losing value at the center position. Even more, you would need to bring someone else in that an offense could be built around when Nash is not on the floor. It would also be ironic to trade the "big man" that for so long everyone said was necessary to win a title.
Stat - Amare is the one in the center of the trade discussions. His attitude, dissatisfaction with his role in the offense, his number touches, and his lapses in rebounding and defense seem to be the things that people point to. What Stat brings to the table is tremendous scoring ability from anywhere inside the 3pt line. He is a "go-to" player. He is the kind of player you give the ball to, over and over as a center piece of an offense. He is easily a 30-10 player if given enough chances. He also has the drive to be that guy. If you trade Stat, you would again have to find someone to play at the PF position. Almost anyone you bring would also be a downgrade at that position. The ironic thing about trading Amare is that he is one of the young and promising players that the Suns can build around for the next 5+ years. It seems that as long as Shaq stays with the Suns and continues to play at the current level, the Suns would probably be able to get by without Amare. But they would be thin inside if Shaq is out.
Hill - Hill said he would retire if he is traded, so unless someone can change his mind, I don't see this happening. Hill also is a great gap filler that is playing great ball right now, and is probably the teams best defender. I don't even think a trade here is possible.
J. Rich. - He just got here! J. Rich is a tremendous SG in this league, certainly in the upper echelon at that position. He has not been with the team long enough to know if he will or will not be a good fit. He is a good 3 pt shooter, very athletic, and a great leaper. If you do trade J. Rich. you could move LB into the starting role, which might actually be a good thing given how well LB plays when he starts. Still you would need to get some solid backup at the 1 or 2 guard position or risk being even thinner at those positions than you are already. This might actually make the most sense, but it seems highly unlikely considering the fact he just joined the team and no one is pointing to him as being a problem.
Nash - Nash is still one of the top point guards in the league. He led the league in assists for the month of January and is currently 3rd in the league in that category. He is also one of the most popular players in the NBA. Even with all of the struggles trying to feed all of the scorers on the team, and adjusting to feeding Shaq, Nash still makes the Suns go. As it is, the Suns don't have a great substitute for Nash at the PG position. If they were to trade him, they would definitely need to get another PG in return. Any likely trade would be a downgrade at that position, unless you are looking very long term.
LB - Leandro Barbosa is a great talent and solid 6th man for the Suns. As mentioned above, he might even be the best SG on the team. He has picked up his game over the last couple of weeks and reminds us what a tremendous player he is. He bring instant offense, energy, and pace to the team. He also is a great team player with a wonderful attitude that makes for great team chemistry. If the Suns were to trade him, they would also be sacrificing a player that they could continue to build around for years to come. Again, if they trade him they would be needing a PG or SG in return.
As for the rest of the Suns, any of the remaining players are expendable and could be used to package with another player or players in a trade deal. They all have some potential to help the team this year or in the future, but they have had their ups and downs.
It is odd to look down the whole starting roster and come to the conclusion that they are all excellent players at their position, and that any likely trade would require a replacement at that position that would probably be a downgrade. It is not like in years past, when we were looking for a true center and were willing trade extra depth at other positions to get a true center. Right now "on paper" we have a solid team. Any tinkering would likely be a short term downgrade in talent in hopes of a short term increase in chemistry and cohesion, or long term benefit (financial or talent), or both.
In some ways, I think the possibility of trading JRich is the most intriguing to me. LB has better stats than JRich anyway. He has show the potential to score on his own and even get others involved to some degree. JRich still hasn't shown that to me apart from fast breaks. I have yet to see him take anyone off the dribble. He has tried posting up smaller guards, and I have yet to see him actually make the shot. I would like to see LB get more playing time and a trade would open that up.
I wish that if we were going to trade Amare, that we would have done that before we traded Boris Diaw. I think the problem Diaw had is that when Amare returned from his knee surgery, he was no longer the go-to guy and like Amare is finding out, it is hard to operate in the same space that another big name player is operating in. Diaw gave you scoring, and he also gave you the ability to get the whole offense going like Nash. If he was asked to be the man, he would step up and do the same job he did for the team that he did during the '05-'06 season. Diaw would have fit in better with this team if he had Stat's place. We could have kept Bell and used the Stat trade to bring in 2 or 3 solid backups. Imagine a line up of: Shaq, Diaw, Hill, LB, Nash, Bell, plus 1-3 of the players that a likely Stat trade would bring in. Oh well ... what might have been.
Still, I think that the Suns have the right players. They just need to get on the same page, and find a way to make it work. They have shown glimpses of that this year. I think Terry Porter would do well to realize what players play well together, and what players don't. Shaq and Stat do not play well together as they take up a lot of the same space ... and Shaq takes up more of it. Similarly, Shaq and Nash don't play well together. Again Shaq takes up space that Nash likes to use to operate in. To me, that means, the Suns should make sure that when Nash is taking a break, that Shaq is on the floor. They can run the offense through Shaq, get him the touches he wants, and we get high percentage post ups, open 3's, or easy shots on cuts to the basket. When Shaq is taking a rest, it is the tried and true Nash and Stat type of offense. Since you probably don't want them only playing 24 minutes a game, they would need to overlap some, but if they had a good 16 minutes a game running things the way they want I suspect they would be happier than they are now.
In my mind, it is the coaches job to do the best with what he has. Terry Porter does not have players with the defensive skills of the Detroit Pistons, but he does have a rich set of offensive players who can score at a high percentage. If he can get them to reduce their turnovers and rebound like they are capable, they will win a lot of games and do well in the play-offs.
It is the GM's job to get the coach players that will help fit in and improve the whole. The question then is what Steve Kerr thinks that looks like for the Suns, and whether or not he is right.