NBA Trade Rumors: Should Phoenix Suns get involved in long-time coveted Shumpert, Faried, Williams or even Thompson?

Chris Chambers

Panic time in the NBA is about to arrive, if it hasn't already knocked on that door. The Phoenix Suns, armed with sizable cap space, movable parts, draft picks and a smart GM, could facilitate trades to improve the team's long term outlook.

The Phoenix Suns are definitely in rebuilding mode, albeit with some unexpected success in the earliest stages. At 5-4, the team has shown heart and resiliency to suggest too many wins for a Top-5 pick in the upcoming draft but too few foundational parts to say that all the future pieces are in place for a championship run some day.

So what should the Suns do this season? Add veterans for a playoff push, or purge veterans for a tank job? How about neither. At this point, the Suns should only make trades that improve both the short AND long-term future of the team, with a tie-breaking eye toward the future.

The NBA is all about the best individual talent that wins games. Depth is necessary, for sure, but individual talent must be top notch to be consistently good in this league.

Now that the Suns have acquired lots of assets, including SIX first round picks in the next two drafts and a number of young players better than expected, the only trades the Suns should make would be to acquire an All-Star level talent or to improve the quality of an individual asset even further.

Reviewing the Suns' foundational needs

Point Guard

The only position that appears already solid for years to come is at point guard, with better-than-advertised Eric Bledsoe and fan favorite Goran Dragic leading the way to early success.

In fact, with those two already in the fold and point guard being so important to team success in the NBA, the only way you actively replace either is to dramatically upgrade that or another position with a Top-5 player at their respective position. Sure, you'd include Bledsoe/Dragic in a trade for Kevin Love, but it's not as simple to include either in a trade for Gordon Hayward, for example.

This point is debatable, I know. Some love Bledsoe. Some love Dragic. Some love change for change sake. But for the purposes of this discussion, let's just agree that the most valuable "keepers" at this point in time include Bledsoe and Dragic. If the Suns improve other areas and still have Dragic and Bledsoe running point in three years, those two could lead a deep playoff run. It would take a lot to pry either away from the Suns.

Center

This position is more of a need than point guard, but with the present and future of Miles Plumlee and the future promise of the bigger Alex Len, there is no need to improve this position during the 2013-14 season unless the Suns luck into a Top-5 NBA center.

Yet even then, as we can see with the mixed results Dwight Howard bring to his teams, is it worth giving up a ton of assets to improve upon Miles Plumlee right here and now? Plumlee drops 11 points, grabs 10 rebounds, blocks 2 shots and defends the rim very well (Top 10 in opponent FG% at rim).

The Suns have the future covered as well. 25-year old Plumlee and rookie 20-year old Alex Len have the measurables and quality work ethic for a successful NBA half-decade, at least, at center.

At this point, I'd say the center and point guard position do not need an upgrade during the 2013-14 season.

Shooting Guard

Now it starts getting a little fuzzier. The Suns have bodies at the shooting guard position right now, but are they foundational pieces for the future?

One could argue that Dragic/Bledsoe IS the future at shooting guard in a two-headed point guard lineup, but that seems more like an opportunistic play based on the current roster than a master-plan based on a blueprint.

An bona-fide All-Star shooting guard would be welcomed, moving one of the PGs moving into a sixth-man role like Manu Ginobili.

But with 19-year old Archie Goodwin developing on the sidelines and flashing occasional brilliance, is it worth giving up a ton of assets for a new shooting guard to replace him? Or, should the Suns ride out the Dragic/Bledsoe experiment while Goodwin develops and Gerald Green fills in admirably?

I'd take the latter.

Players like the Knicks' Iman Shumpert, long coveted by the Suns in the past and currently available via trade, don't seem worth the assets to acquire (a strong rebounding/defending big man) or a perfect match with Phoenix. Still, even if the Knicks wanted to hand over Shumpert, do the Suns need him anymore? Isn't it better to develop Goodwin, who by next season might be equal to or better than Shumpert?

That's three positions in the books - point guard, shooting guard, center - and no real pressing needs to improve at the moment. Sure, Len and Goodwin could fizzle out and force the Suns' hand in the future, but at the moment the Suns should be content to "wait and see".

Small Forward

Now, we get to the meat of the Suns' needs.

Both forward positions are currently a patchwork of low-ceiling rotational potential (Morris brothers) and middle-class current production (Tucker and Frye).

Nothing against Tucker and Frye, but if you're envisioning a 2015 or 2016 championship run, these guys are best served as a team's 5th-8th best player. At the peak of their potential, you can't have both Frye and Tucker in your starting lineup and expect to reach the NBA Finals.

Let's start with small forward. Marcus Morris - the youngest of the bunch at 24 - has been playing well off the bench (44% 3-point shooting, 6.3 rebounds per 22 minutes) and 28-year old P.J. Tucker has been dynamite in the starting lineup (54% 3-point shooting, 4.3 rebounds in 32 minutes).

But are P.J. Tucker and Marcus Morris your future? Probably not. The Suns would be better served to draft or acquire a higher-ceiling talent for the future at small forward.

But here, the ceiling of that player should be really high. Like, All-Star high. Because getting a "small forward of the future" is as easy as waiting until the 2014 draft. With so many picks, small forward should be an easy fill.

Around the NBA, one intriguing name who is a restricted free agent next summer is Gordon Hayward.

Is someone like Gordon Hayward that much better than Morris or Tucker? Maybe. Maybe Hayward is a star in the making. He's putting up 19 points, 6 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.4 steals per game for the terrible Utah Jazz in 37 minutes per game. At 6'8", he could easily play at the same time as Dragic and Bledsoe as well as alternating into the shooting guard position when one of them rests.

But Hayward is not available via trade at this time, and may never be. So, the Suns should look elsewhere.

Let's say, for a minute, that Denver is willing to trade Wilson Chandler, who once posted 20 ppg before getting lost in the Denver shuffle of too many small forwards. Is Wilson Chandler worth a handful of assets? Would he produce more than Tucker and Morris in the same minutes?

I'd say no. Sit tight, and wait for that great opportunity to drop in your lap. Tucker and Morris are a good combo for now, until an All-Star becomes available.

Power Forward

Finally, we reach a position that doesn't need an All-Star to improve upon it and doesn't have a crazy-young position player to groom for the future.

Markieff Morris' Western Conference Player of the Week award might beg to differ, but I just don't see a future All-Star game in Morris' future. Neither do I see one in Channing Frye's future.

If there was one position on the team in most need of an upgrade for the future, it's the power forward position. Sure, Julius Randle would be ideal in next year's draft. Wouldn't require any extra assets to get him. Except a ton of 2013-14 losses, that is. Certainly, the 2014 Draft will have a power forward available in the teens to take with Washington or Minnesota's pick no matter what the Suns do this season, but that's not a comfortable bet to be better than the Morrii.

If the Suns could acquire (a) a young player with tremendous upside or (b) a veteran with All-Star resume, THIS is the position in most need to fill.

Who is available at power forward? Nothing is certain, but you can look at the struggling teams with high expectations for a few clues. And, you can look at playoff hopefuls who have buried their young talent (a la Miles Plumlee, Tobias Harris) and might part with that talent for a proven rotation player.

Click the link for a quick list of young (19-23 last year) PFs in order of Win Shares, courtesy of basketball-reference.com

PFs Ranked in order ease to acquire - the simpler the better

  • Multiple options, 2014 Draft, #10-20 range
      • The Suns will likely have at least one pick at the back end of the lottery from either Minnesota (top-13 protected), Washington (top 10 protected) or both, if not their own as well. At least one mid-quality PF will be available. The likelihood that the one the Suns draft is better than the Morrii? Possible but not likely. Younger? Certainly. This is the easiest path to get younger at PF.
      • Good option? Of course.
  • Derrick Williams, 6'8", 21 years old
      • Williams is #15 on the linked list. He is still young, but really is a tweener who probably fits best as a PF in a small-ball lineup. Right now, he's behind Kevin Love but couldn't establish himself last year when Love was unavailable and the Wolves were begging anyone to step up. He did not.
      • Rumors: Apparently, Williams is available for a quality SF who can minutes from Corey Brewer, who can't shoot. Frankly though, I don't see Williams grabbing a lot of minutes over the Morrii, and I don't see the Suns bothering with splitting up the Morrii (sending shooter Marcus to Minny) just for the sake of change.
      • Good option? No.
  • Donatas Motejiunas, 6'11", 23 years old
      • This is an intriguing one to me. This kid has a lot of talent, though he profiles like a stereotypical Euro - great offensive skills with no interest, and feet too slow, to play NBA-quality defense. Yet he's been a great producer when given minutes, which are hard to come by in Houston. He can score inside and out, all the way to the 3-point line. He doesn't rebound well though, or play D.
      • Rumor: None at the moment, except that Houston REALLY needs a stretch-four who can shoot the 3 so Dwight can have the middle to himself. Channing Frye would be a really nice fit in Houston's lineup.
      • Good option? Only if its a cheap price.
  • Kenneth Faried, 6'8", 23 years old
      • Of the available PFs on the linked list, Faried puts up the best numbers - he's a double-double machine with a high motor. The downside is that he's small for PF (6'8", 220), has no offensive game outside 3 feet, and doesn't play positional or rotational D. His opponent scores a lot on him.
      • Rumor: Faried is really, really available right now, but the Nuggets want a lot in return. They apparently want Shumpert AND draft considerations, for example. The thing is that the Suns already have a bigger Faried in Miles Plumlee now, and playing them together along with P.J. Tucker isn't a very good balance. In fact, they may end up cancelling each other out while clogging the lane too much for the guards. I think the Suns pass on this one.
      • Good option? No.
  • Tristan Thompson, 6'9", 22 years old
      • As the talent gets better, it becomes a lot harder for the Suns to make a deal.
      • Tristan Thompson is really young and slightly bigger Kenneth Faried with a higher ceiling because he can play quality defense in the post and on the pick-and-roll. Otherwise, he profiles a lot like Faried - rebounding demon with little offensive skill. And while bigger than Faried, Thompson isn't that much bigger. He still is listed at 6'8". Thompson's ceiling is probably 15 and 10 with good defense.
      • Rumor: Cleveland really, really wants to make the playoffs. And they already have Earl Clark, Anderson Varejao, Andrew Bynum, Tyler Zeller and #1 overall pick Anthony Bennett on the front line. Someone has to go, and I think it's Thompson. The Cavs need a high-quality shooter on the wing. Here's another place that Channing Frye could really help, despite being a big, as well as Marcus Morris. Either could slot in there as the wing shooter they need. I don't see this one happening though. Cleveland usually values their guys a lot higher than anyone else, hence the lack of trades executed by Cleveland in recent years.
      • Good option? Sure. Likely? No.
  • Greg Monroe, 6'10", 23 years old
      • Monroe is young and through the end of last season he already played a near-max salary level at only 22 years old. His ability to score in the paint, rebound and pass rival any other big man in the game. Yet, he's a "below the rim" player who scores on a variety of moves, but doesn't jump all that high, defend all that well or block many shots. He would help the Suns half-court offense but would potentially slow down the team speed and high-flying acrobatics.
      • Rumor: Once Detroit drafted Andre Drummond and signed Josh Smith, Monroe became expendable. Monroe is not a four who can consistently play 10-15 feet from the basket, yet Drummond is the center of the future and Josh Smith profiles as a PF. Why Detroit decided to squeeze Monroe out, I don't know. But they did, and it's almost certain that Monroe will be in a different uniform by next summer. The Phoenix Suns, with a treasure-trove of assets, can likely acquire Monroe if they want him. But do they? The Suns already have Alex Len, whose skill set profiles similar to Monroe yet he has the ability to play above the rim and the quick feet to defend it. He just needs to get healthy. The Suns also like athleticism, and Monroe is not a great athlete. Miles Plumlee is a great athlete who profiles best at C. With the Suns, either Monroe replaces half of Plumlee AND all of Len, or he's out of position yet again. Why pay max money for that? I recommend the Suns pass on Monroe.
      • Good option? Debatable. Doesn't fit the new mold, but a very good player who would be both a win-now and win-later move. Likely? Toss-up.
  • Aaron Gordon, 2014 Draft, #5-10 range
      • Gordon is the second-rated PF in college basketball. His college game profiles favorably to Blake Griffin's "above the rim" game but he's about two inches shorter at 6'8". Still, an almost-Blake would fit perfectly with Bledsoe, Dragic, Plumlee/Len, Goodwin and the athletic Suns.
      • I put this one as harder to get than Monroe because the Suns are playing themselves into a lower pick than #10 overall, and there's no way the second-best PF in college lasts to the late lottery no matter who rises this year. Gordon won't be there for the Suns unless they lose about 55 games.
      • Good option? Of course. Likely? Getting dimmer by the day, but still probable.
  • Julius Randle, 2014 Draft, #1-4 range
      • Randle is by far the best PF on the board for next summer and his first few college games have only solidified that status. Randle has it all, and any team would love to have them as their PF of the long-term future.
      • The Suns would have to either (a) finish the season 15-58 (for a 20-62 finish overall) to have the best chance at their favorite player or (b) miss the playoffs and get really lucky with ping pong balls. With the Suns winning more than anyone thought, that's a hard nut to crack.
      • Good option? You betcha. Likely? The light at the end of that tunnel is now a pinprick.
  • Any of Kevin Love, LeBron James, Chris Bosh or other current/recent All-Star PF
      • Of course, the Suns could always decide to use their cap space to sign an All-Star level talent in free agency. Kevin Love (2015) and Bosh and James are all All-Star type talents who would fit on any team, including the Suns. Any of these would raise the Suns to contender status pretty quickly.
      • Rumor: None. Yet. It's happened before. Miami got Bosh and James to join Dwyane Wade for a mini-dynasty, and now Bosh and James can both opt out for new contracts next summer. In 2015, Kevin Love is available if he doesn't pick up his player option. In 2014, James and Bosh both have ETO options to become free agents and sign new contracts with anyone.
      • Good option? Definitely. Likely? No, but crazier things have happened. The Suns are starting to build a national love for their playing style and organization once again, and Phoenix has always been a great destination.

Summary

Should the Suns go after Iman Shumpert for the SG position? No, unless they already want to replace Archie Goodwin's future with Iman's.

Should the Suns go after Wilson Chandler for the SF position? No. He wouldn't put up demonstrably better numbers than the current SF rotation.

What about Derrick Williams or Donatas Motejiunas? Only if the price is small, but probably not even then.

How about Kenneth Faried? No. This is a polarizing topic, but I don't see Faried bringing enough improvement to the current PF rotation to justify the cost (a high value asset), and he might negate Plumlee's value a bit.

Is Tristan Thompson an option? A deal may be tough here based on asking price and the Suns ability to fill Cleveland's needs, but if the Cavs are entertaining the notion of moving him it's at least a conversation worth having. Ultimately, the draft would be more appealing than potentially overpaying.

Should the Suns go after Gordon Hayward? Sure. But don't put all your eggs in one basket. There's LOTS of moves that should be considered before next July 1, which is the moment Hayward becomes eligible for offers.

Should the Suns wait till free agency to sign a veteran All-Star? Of course they should try this route. But you don't base an entire game plan around signing an All-Star in free agency. That's only if everything else falls through (bad draft, no great trade opportunities beforehand).

Should the Suns just sit tight and take what the draft brings? On the latter, of course that's a given. The Suns have a lot of options in next year's draft to fill holes and add more kids with potential at SF and PF, among other positions. But there's no way the Suns want FOUR rookies on next year's team, so trading a couple of assets is necessary at some point.

Something will shake loose on the trade front in the next several months. Hang on tight, Suns fans. Ryan McDonough and Lon Babby are just getting started.

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