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Reevaluating the Phoenix Suns off season options

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Happy birthday America!
Happy birthday America!

Round about mid-May we took a look at five options for the Suns this summer and gave odds for each. Ranking Trade Shaq as the fourth option and giving it 10% odds might (might) not have been my finest moment as a keyboard GM.

Since May the Suns have let Shaq move along to the more royal confines of Cleveland and have come close to trading Amare to Golden State. A deal which is by no means completely dead although I would say it seems to be on life support at the moment with a Do Not Resuscitate order pinned to its gown. Given my track record that means it will be done by July 9th.

With the 14th pick, Steve Kerr and his sidekick David Griffin drafted Earl Clark (passing on the surprisingly still available Jrue Holiday) and in the second round took Other Brother Griffin and some Bosnian kid who was sold to the Cavs too fast for me to remember his name. More likely then not in three or four years we will all know his name just like Marcin Gortat who was drafted with the 57th pick and sold by the Suns in 2005.

And to drive the draft nail in a little deeper, the 2nd round pick the Suns traded to the Spurs to jump up and get Dragic turned into DeJuan Blair. I hate to wish for anyone's knees to implode, but for the sanity of all Suns fans it would be best if Blair doesn't have a good NBA career.

The free agency period started with a bang whimper as the the Pistons used all that cap space to land Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva; the Lakers swapped a young stud defender for an old crazy one that likes to dominate the ball; and the Clippers pulled off the trade of the summer by dumping Zach Randolph's $33m on the Grizzlies young locker room and got back the very serviceable Quentin Richardson and his expiring $8.7m contract.

The dust hasn't settled yet as Hedo was Trailblazer for a few hours until his wife found out and now he looks to be headed to the European Raptors. Gortat and Kidd seemed destined for the Mavericks and Carlos Boozer shocked the Wasatch Mountain faithful by staying with the Jazz.

That leaves a ton of big names still out there as of today including: Bass, Sheed, Milsap, Lee, Robinson, Childress, Felton, Miller, Bibby, Sessions, Zaza, Birdman, Marion, Iverson, Odom, Von Wafer (just calling him Wafer seems wrong), Gooden and the handful of bigs that the Suns are supposedly interested in: McDyess, Frye, Wilcox (who I love if we can get him cheap enough), Joe Smith and of course Mr. Grant Hill. oh, and don't forget Stephon Marbury.

With all that having gone down so far, here's a reevaluation and updating of the Suns options as of today, July 4th, 2009.

Oh, and Happy Birthday America! You don't look a day over 217!

Option 1 - Standing Pat

There's a great thing about the Standing Pat option, it is always available. No matter where you are, you can always decide that you've reached your (temporary) destination and stop moving forward. Sometimes it makes sense to take a break on your journey and fight with the Army you have and sometimes you must continue onwards. Knowing the difference between the two is why those guys in the glass offices on Jefferson St. in downtown Phoenix get paid the big dollars. Second guessing them is why this guy in his mother's basement gets paid squat.

In the original Standing Pat assessment I felt that the Suns were 70% likely to do nothing much this off season beyond trying to resign Grant Hill and the draft. Turns out that saving ~$11m by trading salary dumping Shaq was of a higher importance then I considered.

In retrospect this makes sense. Why not let Shaq go play in Cleveland and avoid paying him $21m to get in the way of whatever comes next. Sure, it would have been nice to get a little bit more out of him (like a 1st round pick) but that train has passed and in the list of things to get bent out of shape over, that ranks pretty low. Besides, between Wallace's potential buy out and Pavlovic's valuable contract the fruits of this deal are not yet known. But more on that later.

Right now anyway, Standing Pat mostly means resigning Hill, not trading Amare or Nash, hanging on to Wallace and waiving Sasha to save that $5.5m. With Amundson's team option picked up the only roster uncertainty is if Taylor Griffin makes the team. He can be signed for the rookie minimum but he could also be let go or traded for some other late round rookie if someone catches the Suns' eye in Vegas.

I am out of the odds making game, but my gut says that there's more moves to come before October.

Option 2 - Trading Amare

I feel like we've beat this horse to death and then ground up the meat and gave it to the dogs which were then feed to North Korean children as part of a UN famine prevention program. But here's some more gristle...

  • Amare to the Warriors for Biedrins and some other young folk - seems dead since Amare in a bit of fantastic irony feels like the Warriors are giving up too much to get him and therefor isn't interested in signing an extension or sign and trade to make the deal a go
  • Amare to the Bulls - this one has not been rumored anywhere except in my mind. I still like some combination of Tyrus Thomas, Jerome James insurance covered contract, and John Salmons. This is a deal that I can get behind if Amare can't be kept in Phoenix and Amare should be interested in Chicago and playing with Rose. So far though, I haven't heard even a whisper of this deal so you might as well not even consider it. Forget I even mentioned it. Wipe it from your mind. But I am not deleting the actual words preceding these.
  • Amare to who knows where but maybe the Celtics or Detroit or even Atlanta (despite there being no real good options for any of those)

Of course, not doing anything with Amare is also an option. The Suns reportedly will be meeting with Stoudemire in the coming weeks to discuss his future in Phoenix and perhaps resigning him to a decent contract is a the best option at this point. If Amare would agree to a ~$15m per year deal, that's probably fine. If he's still insisting on the max (~$20m) then we are right back where we were last February.  I've said it many times and nothing has yet to change my mind that signing Amare to a bad contract is a bigger long term risk then trading him now for what might appear on the surface as less then fair value.

We'll just have to wait and see how bad teams want Amare and how highly Amare values Amare's worth.

Option 3 - Trading Nash

We hit this one pretty hard yesterday talking about Nash's desire to play in New York and the Suns (hopefully) desire to not over pay him for a three year extension.

I think it goes without saying that the Suns with Amare and Nash along with Richardson, Barbosa and some solid rotation players are a competitive team next season. The loss of Shaq (assuming no other center is acquired) will make the Suns once again highly vulnerable on the glass and in the paint but there's little question that if healthy, that group can put up some points and win a lot of games.

But without either Nash or Amare the team will be worse in the short term and this fact seems to tie the fates of Amare and Nash together.

Option 4 - Trade JRich

I am just going to paste in most of what I wrote back in May. Nothing's changed except that the Timberwolves need Richardson even more now then they did then when they had Foye and Miller. With Rubio staying in Spain for two years and rookie Flynn running the point a back court vet like Richardson makes more sense for Minnesota then any other deal I've seen in a long time.

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 and now gone Adding Richardson makes the Wolves better and with 3 first round picks and a couple of contracts like Mike Miller Etan Thomas and Ryan Gomes a deal is possible.

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.

Unless I am missing something, the T-wolves still have about $8m in cap space which means they could trade Etan Thomas ($7m expiring) and maybe one young player like Pecherov or Wayne Ellington for JRich.

I still think this is a very doable trade that makes sense for both teams. I've said that a few times haven't I?

Option 5 - Free Agents/Other Trades

Assuming no other changes to the roster, the biggest needs for the Suns are small forward and center. This is why Grant Hill is a the team's number one priority and all indications are that he's going to return. But, I would not be surprised if Grant is looking at all this mess and wondering what the Suns are up to. Would he really want to come back to Phoenix if Amare or Nash are gone? He certainly could sign (probably for more money) in Boston, Denver or Cleveland.

To play behind (or ahead of) Lopez, the Suns are reportedly looking at McDyess, Channing Frye, Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox. In my mind there's no question that Chris Wilcox is the best player of that bunch. He's Amare like in his athleticsm with more of Amare's tendencies to not play hard. I question that Wilcox would sign here for what the Suns would likely be able to pay. Maybe $2m? From there, I like Channing Frye. He is long and mobile and has some range with his mid-range shot. Mostly though he's young and I have no real interest in seeing McDyess or Smith come in an reprise the role Jalen Rose played at the end of his career.

The Suns do have (if they were so inclined to use it) the very tradable contract of Sasha Pavlovic that still could be used in a deal with a team more desperate then Phoenix to save money. Is there a guy out there for about $4m to $6m that the Suns really covet and is playing a for team not going anywhere? Sasha's contract could be used to grab him. Mostly likely this chip will be saved as long as possible to see how the various other dominoes fall. That's what I would do anyway and as you know you are getting all the best GM advise you are paying for on this blog.

Then finally there's still the option of trading Wallace to the Hornets for Chandler. Again, I think this is an option that can wait to see how everything else plays out. Some people argue that making this deal makes a lot of sense if Amare and Nash stay and I would agree with that. But what if Amare and/or Nash is gone? At that point do the Suns really want to bring in Chandler and his largeish contract for two more years? I doubt it. And of course no one outside of Wallace and hopefully Kerr know what Big Ben's plans for this season actually are.

 

Writing this has brought into focus just how interconnected all of the Suns options are. You can't say "trade Wallace for Chandler" without first knowing what you are doing with Amare. You can't consider a deal for Richardson until you know what's happening with Nash. Grant Hill is a key piece but like Nash seems to be waiting to see what everyone else does. It's a pretty complex picture and is no where near being resolved.

I think Nash is the first key piece and not Amare. If he gets extended for 3 years then you have that to build around for the short term and you have a guy that free agents are going to want to come play with. He needs to be the first domino to fall one way or another before everything else can fall into place.

To help make all of these interconnected options make more sense I've created an easy to follow visual aid...


Suns_off_season_options_medium

It's no wonder Kerr looks like he's aged 10 years in the last six months.