For the Suns to win against a decent team Richardson had to give an all-star performance. Due in part to our lack of size which he have now addressed, we could not get stops or rebound (and how much we will improve in these areas has yet to be determined). Since Rich was the only guy on the team capable of putting big numbers on the scoreboard, winning those track-meets hinged on his individual success. His individual success hinged on his jumpers falling. Being a defensively inept team of futile rebounders only intensifies “the live by the jumper, die by the jumper” dilemma.
Call me insensitive but I’m not weeping any purple and orange tears into my now worthless #23 jersey. You should all put down your tissue boxes, and your Lon Babby voodoo dolls. He worked some magic in this deal. Actually, he worked the Magic in this deal, managing to get cash and a draft pick tossed in. Jason Richardson is gone, and he will be missed, but in two seasons we may miss him the same way we miss Raja today. When we lost Richardson, we lost a proven scorer, a hard worker, a good teammate, and an entertainer. At the same time, J-Rich’s role on this team as its primary scorer was problematic.
Relying on a jump-shooter who brings consistent effort but yields inconsistent results is not a recipe for success, especially when your team is dead last in defensive rankings. Effort needs to translate to consistency. That translation happens most directly on the boards and on defense. Making shots is about having rhythm, and all the energy in the world doesn’t give a shooter their rhythm back. Energy on the boards and D however, usually translate to success even if a team is out of rhythm offensively, and that energy flows into the offense.
So what do we immediately receive in return for J-Rich? We get Vince Carter’s corpse, Gortat, Pietrus, and the addition by subtraction of Hedo.
The eyebrow raising, head scratching, WTF question mark of the deal is VC. Though to say he is a cancer is an overstatement, his reputation as a heartless sloth is disconcerting, as this teams needs a spark, not an extinguisher. How much he plays, how much he needs the ball, and if he will be happy in Phoenix are all up in the air. The good news is that he is a rental, and is playing for a contract. We expect nothing from him, but forget that he is putting up 15pts in 30 minutes, which isn’t bad. He is also a three point threat and can stretch the floor. Anything we get from him is a bonus in this deal.
Pietrus is a nice player with a nice contract, and to this point we may be underestimating his value. He too can stretch the floor, having hit 116 threes last year at a good percentage while only playing a 22 minutes a game. To say he is like Raja bell is not a bad comparison, given that he can both hit threes and play D. As a 2-3, he will have to fight for minutes, unless another move is made. Still, this is a fit in the Suns system.
The fruit of this trade, the reason this deal was made, is Gortat. In my opinion he could be a starting quality center, once removed from Dwight Howard’s enormous shadow. He addresses if not solves the Suns’ rebounding and defensive concerns. He gives options to the Suns front court, now that Frye can spread his minutes between playing with Nash and Dragic more evenly. He is used to playing as a big in a more open system, and I think he can run the floor (I may be wrong). He is far less talented than Richardson, but the Suns need his size and rebounding more than they needed J-Rich’s offense. It would have been hard to get big man with more upside this season.
We improve almost immediately in this deal, because while our offensive options are not as potent as Jason is, they are still there, and we have front court depth, the lack of which was absolutely killing the Suns. Finding rhythm will be difficult and will take some time, but not as much as we imagine. The transition from the Magic’s system to ours will be smoother than from any other team. And we have Steve Nash to figure it out, despite what some are predicting.
Many people (including Seth) have panicked and said that this move is one to rebuild, and that it indicates a willingness to trade Nash while he still has value. But Steve and everyone else on the team knew that there was going to be a move to bring some size into the roster, and that it would require that someone be traded. Nash knew we couldn’t improve without adding size. I’m sure he knew heading into the season that he would likely be adjusting mid-season to a roster move. He probably is pissed that Richardson is the one to go, but I think he knows that we now have more potential.
As long as management believes that we can win in our new form and does not get rid of Nash, who is the key to making this work, then we have a chance to do some damage this year. Not to mention, our future is brighter after this deal, having gained a draft pick, an expiring contract, and two good players with reasonable contracts in Pietrus and Gortat. Jason is in a contract year, and may not have even returned, given that signing a pricey player to a long-term deal before the CBA would just foolish. We got some value for him while we still could.
This is not a rebuilding move. We are repairing the weakest links in our roster. We may have lost some of our identity with Richardson gone, but that is not a bad thing, given that we have been identified as the worst defensive and rebounding team in the league. We needed Richardson’s firepower as much as we did because we could not defend or rebound. His entire point total will not be made up for, but it wont need to be. The bigger picture is a brighter hue of purple and orange than what we many are focusing on.