With the benefit of time (about 21 hours which is like 13 weeks in internet time) let's look back at what we've learned about this latest edition of Steve Kerr's Itchy Trigger Finger of Change.
Putting a winning NBA team on the floor is MUCH different then assembling a fantasy league roster where having the best player at each position is the key to victory and bragging rights around the shuffle board court.
JRich is an upgrade over Bell and is a better player then Diaw. But I remain skeptical that losing Boris in order to move Bell's bad attitude and declining play is worth it. I know many Suns fans are glad to see Diaw and his contract go but I still maintain that he does things that teams need to win even if they don't show up in the box score.
Boris's big mouth
Losing Diaw's depth, versatility and bet winning had me down but this quote at least makes me question that. Unlike Raja, Diaw had managed to keep his mouth shut (unless none of the media bothered to ask his opinion) and play well this season. But then he dropped this little French bomb on the way out the door:
"I'm not surprised because of the way we've been playing," Diaw said. "I can understand they would try to change and go a different direction.
"It was the perfect place for me a couple years ago and it changed. It didn't fit my game any more.
"I could do what I was asked to do but I wasn't used on the court to use all of my skills and my versatility. I was used to be a basic 4. From a coaching standpoint, we weren't fitting into the system.
"It definitely was not as fun. I wasn't as exciting for the fans. It's not as fun for everybody. I'll always remember Phoenix with Mike (D'Antoni). We went from a winning team that was the most exciting team in the league to a half-winning team that wasn't exciting at all."
Clearly he was disgruntled and not buying in. If Kerr in this move cleared out two big locker room chemistry spoilers in return for two guys that will energize the team and and return some joy than maybe I need to rethink this trade but big questions still remain.
The Suns don't have enough balls to share
Boris and Bell averaged 14 FGA while JRich averages 16+ per game. That's not bad until you consider that according to 82games.com Bell and Diaw were only on the court together 17% of the time.
The Suns are adding Jason's high volume shooting to a starting line up that is already struggling to share the ball between Amare (14 FGA) and Shaq (10 FGA) playing their desired inside out. The rest of the perimeter guys (Nash, Hill, Barnes and Barbosa) combine for 40 FGA. That's a total of 80 attempts (with none left for Lopez, Dragic , Tucker, Amundson and the point guard to be named later) for a team that is averaging 75 per game. What we have here is a failure to calculate.
The easy answer is that everyone will share and put winning first. It might work here but it sure didn't in Denver (AI and Melo) and New York (Zebo, Curry and Starbury).
Small Ball Returns
Going into this season there were two main structural problems with the Suns roster. Lack of depth behind Nash and a thin front line behind Shaq. With Diaw and Lopez backing up the big men we had either the option of playing a rookie big minutes or playing Diaw and Amare together. We've seen that so far this season Coach Porter has chosen (wisely) to go with the later.
Robin will be a very solid NBA player for a long time and he's already shown improvement but as a rookie he tends to make rookie mistakes that teams like the Nets can afford but a team like the Suns cannot. So that left the smallish Diaw playing Center next to Amare which left the Suns vulnerable on the glass but did provide an offensive advantage against most teams. The plan B when Shaq was out was small ball and with Shaq averaging 28 mpg and missing a few each month that's a lot of small ball.
Now with Diaw gone the Suns will either have to play AmundSun and Amare together basically replacing Diaw with Lou (a serious drop off in talent) or go with more time for Rookie Lopez. We will likely also see two wing rotations with Amare at the five and some combination of Hill, Barnes and Dudley at the 3 and 4.
That's even smaller ball and will leave the Suns terribly undersized for the type of rebounding and interior defense that Kerr and Porter talk(ed) about.
Dudley might be all that and a bag of peanuts but at 6'7" and 225 don't let anyone tell you he's a power forward which is exactly what both Kerr and Porter have implied in recent interviews about the trade.
The good news is that when asked about his preferred style of play by Suns.com JRich reported that he's ready for the Suns:
Suns.com: What style of play is your game best suited for?
Richardson: Running, but I can play the half court a little bit, too. Running fits my game perfectly, but I can also play the slow tempo, if needed.
That's nice and as others have commented would have been super if this trade happened in December 2007. The problem is that this Suns team isn't a running team. At least that's what Shaq and Amare think. Amare certainly can't bring himself to run back and cover his man on defense so he's clearly bought into the half court game.
So what kind of team is Jason coming to? It doesn't appear that anyone knows at this point.
Who's running the show?
It goes without saying that finding a backup for Nash has been a priority ever since D'Antoni's signing of Marcus Banks. Both Kerr and Porter agree that Barbosa is at best a combo guard and have also admitted that Dragic is no where near close to being ready to back up Steve. Few people at this point think he ever will be.
The Suns will use their open roster spot to sign a mythical veteran point guard for this role but how many of those do you think are sitting around waiting to dust off their shoes and come play for the minimum? Gary Payton? No. More likely we will see Mighty Mouse Damon Stoudamire. Or worse.
Other lesser factors
Barbosa has rebounded well from the loss of his mother and is rounding back into form as a solid 6th man scoring threat. and his defensive effort is noticably improved.
Playing behind Bell he was a great change of pace and it was easy to split minutes between the two. LB is at 22mpg is already down from 30mpg last year. That drop is a combination of his personal situation this season and mostly from his rightly being taken out of the point guard rotation.
If JRich is getting his 35mpg that drops LB down to 13mpg and leaves no time for Tucker unless Barbosa goes back to backing up Steve. No one wants to see that.
Is that enough minutes for a guy like Barbosa? No. It seems almost impossible to see him staying on this team past the trade deadline.
I heard Paul Coro on the radio this morning reporting that Nash found out about the deal while in LA via cell phone from a friend. He was angry and upset and apparently made a comment about not buying into this. Probably he will cool down and get on board but you would think that Kerr or Porter would have called him directly.
So let's recap
Kerr traded two guys that weren't happy and probably needed to go. Certainly Bell did and I can live with moving Diaw's contract. In return though he doesn't address either of the team's roster needs and in fact makes both of them worse (unless the vet point guard we sign is an upgrade over Rookie Singletary).
We did get an exciting and athletic shooting guard but it's not clear that he helps defensively and there are HUGE questions about how the shots will get spread around keeping all these ego's happy. Having five all-stars in your starting line up sounds good but there's a reason championship teams have role players.
There's only one other GM I can think of that has been this quick to make major moves in order to appease restless and impatient fans and try and provide a quick fix for a non-contending team. He's no longer reeking havoc in New York.
Is it odd to be thankful that Sarver doesn't have Dolen's deep pockets to prevent an even bigger mess?
Maybe it will all work and I am excited to see what JRich can bring. I am sure most of us have lost track of this talented player since he disappeared into the black hole known as the Charlotte Bobcats.
I will welcome him to Phoenix and adjust my thinking and give Suns v3.0 a try but it is getting difficult to buy into a team that doesn't have the attention span of my teen age son.
[Note by Phoenix Stan, 12/11/08 12:15 PM PST ]
I couldn't find much blogging from the Bobcat perspective but Hardwood Paroxysm takes a look and thinks that MJ got hosed. That's good I guess. He certainly owe us one or 17. Matt also has a great take on Diaw + Larry Brown. Check it out.