In honor of NBA Draft Lottery Day where percentages, statistics and probabilities are filling our heads, let's look at some of the Suns big off season options and discuss the odds of each.
Option 1: The Suns stand pat
In this option the Suns entertain various calls and low ball offers but in the end decide to stand pat. The Suns front office has taken the lesson of being too quick on the trade trigger to heart and are signaling an intense desire for stability.
My guess is that Steve Nash and Grant Hill have had a lot of influence over this direction along with the results of 3 massive moves in the past 18 months. The Shaq trade, the coaching carousel and the deal with Charlotte can only be judged one way. Lottery team.
The pendulum has likely gone back the other direction and the Suns are now putting their hopes on consistency and steady progress.
The underwhelming playoff performance and roster situation of the rest of the West's top teams also has to play a role. There's little doubt that a happy and healthy Suns team is at least as good as the bottom four Western Conference playoff teams this season.
The Hornets and Jazz aren't getting better and the Rockets while strong are still going to be saddled with two injury prone stars. The Lakers don't look nearly as dominant as their regular season record would indicate and they will likely lose Odom and Ariza to free agency. The Spurs are a wild card that will always be good as long as Parker and Duncan can play. Only Denver and Portland look like they are assending and Cuban is likely to do something this summer to improve his team as well. That leaves the Suns plenty of room to be in the mix next season.
When the Suns were trying to go from playoff team to champion they felt the need to role the dice. Now the bar is lower and the goal is to be entertaining and competitive (and happy) which the Suns can reasonably accomplish by doing nothing.
The flip side of this option is that the team will pay about $10m in luxury tax and perhaps miss out on an opportunity to get some younger pieces to ease the inevitable transition as Nash, Hill and Shaq continue to fade over the next few years.
The Suns have strongly signaled their intent to do nothing but that could be just a way to avoid being seen as a desperate seller by the rest of the GMs in the league.
The odds of the Suns standing pat this summer are greater then 70%.
Option 2: Trade Jason Richardson
The Suns have four major contracts on the books and moving any one of them could result in both salary relief and bring back young players and picks.
Jason Richardson to me is the most movable. Not because there are teams banging down Steve Kerr's door to pay $28m over two years for a guy that has been exposed as being a poor defensive player who needs the ball (a lot) to be productive but because the Suns could most easily replace him next season.
In fact, I would argue that the Suns could be a better team with a defensive guard like Dahntay Jones, Anthony Parker or Thabo Sefolosha playing next to Nash then with Richardson.
There aren't too many teams I can think of that would really benefit from Richardson. The Timberwolves keep coming to mind as the best destination. They have inside presence with Jefferson and Love but are lacking any kind of reliable outside threat that can shoot and create. Foye is decent but young and inconsistent. Adding Richardson makes the Wolves better and with 3 first round picks and a couple of contracts like Mike Miller and Ryan Gomes a deal is possible.
There aren't too many other teams that would want Jason. Toronto could use some wing scoring to go with Bosh and they have cap space. The Knicks need a little bit of everything but their roster is a mess so they would have to buy out someone like Hughes to make a deal work. I really don't see much else out there.
The good news with Richardson is that he didn't cause problems with his lessor role on the Suns. He was by all accounts a decent enough team mate and if anything was too passive in the offense. If he can come back with improved on the ball defense and a better sense of when to be aggressive with his shot and when to defer he can still give the Suns plenty of production.
The odds of Richardson being traded this summer are less then 30%.
Option 3: Trade Amare Stoudemire
Trading Amare has been topic number one around here since last December. So much so that this site could be renamed "Moving Amare" and no one would question why.
Amare's situation is complicated making a deal unlikely.
Soudemire is reported to be weeks if not months away from being able to practice due to fluid in his eye. He has a history of knee problems and a well known desire to be "the man" that hasn't yet matched his effort on both ends of the court. Amare is a guy that needs a lot of hand holding and isn't what you consider "coachable".
He's also coming up on the end of his contract and playing for a coach that will "hug and hold and high five" him and might yet break out and be the player that deserves the max extension he wants.
As the Suns learned during the trade deadline, there aren't going to be any great young players coming back for Amare. Any deal for Amare now given his ability to opt out at the end of next season is only going to bring back a package of questionable players like the Salmons, Tyrus and Tim Thomas deal discussed here.
If the Suns do move Amare they MUST get back a player capable of starting at power forward and providing solid interior defense to cover for Shaq's lack of mobility and the guards lack of guarding. A mid-range jump shot is a must as well or teams can sag off and help with Shaq in the post and so Nash can run the pick and pop. David Lee and Nick Collison would be great but those deals aren't plausible.
There are moves out there but they are risky for the Suns. Not so much because they might get back players that aren't good enough but because Amare still might figure it out and turn into the monster that he can be.
At this point, the best option is to keep Amare and see what he can early in the season. If he's still not delivering on the defensive end and giving max effort then you can still look at a sign and trade at the deadline. I don't see much advantage in trading him this summer.
The odds of Amare being traded this summer are less then 20%
Option 4: Trade Shaquille O'Neal
Shaq has one year left on his massive deal which makes him one of the premier Expiring Contracts in the league. The reason Expiring Contracts are valuable is that they provide the promise of salary cap relief and the flexibility that it brings.
Look at Detroit now that Iverson and Sheed are off the books. They are $20m under the cap and $32m under the luxury tax. They can rebuild their team however they want.
Why would the Suns want to trade away that 2010 flexibility especially when Shaq was the 3rd best Center in the NBA and is reported to be working on his weight, fitness and mobility. Does he have faults? Of course. But he still gives the Suns one of the better low post options and has shown that he can provide interior defense and rebounding and can ignite the break with his outlet passing.
I don't like his choice of exploitative business endeavors but that won't effect what he brings on the court and in the locker room.
A full season with a happy Nash under Gentry and the continued progress of Lopez as his backup should make Shaq a productive part of a Suns team that is trying to get back to the playoffs.
Besides, what could the Suns possibly get back for Shaq that would be worth more then the 2010 cap relief and provide anything close to the production that Shaq brings? Dampier? Tyson Chandler and a bad contract? I don't think so.
The odds of Shaq being traded this summer are less then 10%.
Option 5: Trade Steve Nash
Steve Kerr recently called Nash the "face of the franchise" and considers him a top 5 point guard in the league. He's a fan favorite and had one of his more productive seasons last year despite being very unhappy with the the coaching situation and the Bell/Diaw trade.
Nash is in the final year of his big contract and will soon (or already has) be in negotiations with the Suns for an extension. I would guess that he will get around $6m/yr for 2 or 3 years.
Despite Nash's continued value he has some pretty well established weaknesses.
On the ball defense is below average. Despite his durable season, his health is still a question mark as he goes through periods where his back and shoulder have a noticeable impact on his game.
He has also proven to be of questionable value in a half court oriented offense. Nash wants the ball in his hands and he wants to run and create. He's not going to be happy in a tightly controlled offense like Portland and if he's not happy he's not going to play up to his potential.
Of all the teams out there that would be appealing to Nash, only D'Antoni's Knicks would be a perfect fit. Perhaps all this talk from Kerr is designed to drive up the value for Nash and send a clear signal that Donnie Walsh will have to come strong with an offer or stay home.
Would the Suns take Nate Robinson, David Lee, Daniel Gallinari and the Knicks draft pick for Nash?
Maybe, but that's a complicated deal since Lee and Robinson are both restricted free agents so those contracts would have to be negotiated first and Gallinari's back surgury makes him a questionable prospect. The Knicks might also have to be willing to buy out the contract of Hughes or Curry to have the cap space needed for a deal like that (depending on where the Lee and Robinson contracts come in).
That's a lot to give up for Nash and a very complicated deal to put together but I think that's what it would take.
Forget about Toronto. They are not going to trade Calderon for Nash and don't have any other pieces to make a deal. There are plenty of other teams that would take Nash if the Suns wanted to "dump" him but that's not going to happen and he's too close to the end of his career to get back a young stud like Russell Westbrook or OJ Mayo. That window is closed.
Odds of Steve Nash being traded this summer are less then 5%.