Well, I can't say I saw that coming. But in retrospect, there were some subtle signs over the last few weeks, including some grumbling from the team about Turkoglu's fit and a general malaise from Nash, not to mention Jason Richardson's out-of-character shooting slump. Trade chatter can have that effect on people.
Personally, my reaction yesterday was not positive, but has softened throughout the day from "HATE IT" to "Skeptical." Mid-season trades rarely work out for the teams involved and I have a hard time believing this deal will make the Suns better this season.
Long-term, the addition of Gortat should be a plus, but it is highly unlikely Vince is part of the team's future plans and Pietrus has a player option for next season, which might well be lost to the lockout anyway. So in short, it feels like the Suns gave up on Hedo and this season too soon, but didn't go all the way towards rebuilding by moving Nash. Limbo.
Here's some more thoughts on different aspects of the trade ...
1) Impact on Nash / Vince Carter
These two things are tied together. I am no Vince Carter fan and can't ever remember being one. He's a volume shooting, me-first stats guy who's yet to show that he can be a key guy on a winning team.
Yes, the teams he was on in New Jersey and Orlando won, but both teams showed what they thought about Vince by letting him go. The Nets packaged him with Ryan Anderson and got back very little. The Magic just bribed the Suns with Gortat, cash and a first round draft pick to swap him for JRich and Hedo. That's telling.
Right now, Nash and everyone is saying all the right things about bringing Vince into the fold, just like they did about Hedo Turkoglu. We'll see. Vince has a lot to prove to overcome his reputation built over a 12-year NBA career. Hedo had one bad year in Toronto where there were other internal issues going on.
If the Vince thing isn't panning out and the Suns offense struggles (see below) and especially if Nash isn't feeling the good locker room vibes, then he could decide he's had enough. All the latest reports are that the Suns don't intend on trading Nash ... unless he requests out.
2) Three-point shooting decline
Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu accounted for 42% of the three-point shots taken and 48% of the threes made. They shot 41.9% and 42.3%, respectively.
On the flip side, Vince Carter and Mickael Pietrus accounted for 23.4% of Magic three attempts and 24.3% of makes. They shot 34.6% and 39.1%, respectively.
Our friends over at Valley of the Suns argued that Nash has historically created more open threes for teammates and that's led to increases in shooting performance in Phoenix. True enough.
But we are taking about the Orlando Magic, who have taken 132 more three-point shots this season than the Suns and as a team are shooting just 2% less than Phoenix. The Suns offense is drive and kick or pick-and-roll and kick, while the Magic play inside-out ball with Dwight Howard demanding double-teams and creating open threes for his teammates.
3) What happens to Hakim?
Hakim Warrick has shown as a Sun that he's the same player he's been his entire career. He's a guy who can finish with ferocity and is a great pick-and-roll player, but he's a liability on defense and rebounding and his mid-range game is streaky at best and non-existent with the Suns.
When you look at Hak's floor time stats, you see he's played almost exclusively with Hedo or Frye or both. He's only played 17 minutes this season with true center Robin Lopez and the offensive stats for that group were really bad (.91 points per possession).
Warrick needs the floor to be spaced so the lane is open for his pick and rolls. When he's on the floor with Lopez or Gortat, he's going to have to play farther away from the paint than his skill set allows.
The Steve Nash Suns have never operated well with two bigs on the floor who need to be near the rim. Amare, at least, could play with Lopez because of his ability to consistently hit open shots out to 18 feet. Warrick doesn't have that.
Mix together the decline in three-point shooting threat and the addition of more lane-clogging bigs and you see a skirt towards more traditional basketball. I am not opposed to that at all. I've never been a big fan of the offensive-oriented, small lineups. The problem is the Suns roster is now not optimized to play either way.
There is still no dominant low-post threat and the spacing and shooting takes away from the pick-and-roll game. The hope is the improvement in rebounding and defense will make up for the offensive decline.
4) Gave up on Hedo and the season too soon
A lot of positive reaction to this trade is based on two things. 1) You hate Hedo Turkoglu and his big contract so moving him is a win. 2) The Suns weren't going anywhere this season and were doomed to be a .500 team.
I don't agree with either of those ideas. Hedo didn't fit in at power forward, which wasn't a surprise. And with Nash healthy, the idea that Hedo was going to allow him to play off the ball more was always a bit of a stretch. You are going to have to pry the ball out of Steve Nash's cold, dead hands.
But with Grant Hill at 38 years old and in the final year of his contract and Nash's potential for injury, Hedo provided a long term option at SF and gave the team another facilitator. Just because Nash and Hill were healthy through the first quarter of the season doesn't mean that Hedo wouldn't have proven his worth to this team down the road.
Hedo was shooting a career-high from three and worked hard in practice. His flame tended to burn a bit low defensively, especially early in games, but he was also still adjusting to his new team. I can clearly remember back to a time when people were begging the Suns to trade Jason Richardson. It takes time and the Suns were impatient.
As for this season, the Suns mostly played without a healthy Robin Lopez and had a very tough schedule. If the team was still around .500 in mid-February then sure, throw in the towel. But to make a move this soon stinks of desperation.
What we are likely in for is several weeks of comments about how it's going to take time to integrate three new players. Expect to hear that a lot if the Suns continue to lose. They basically bought themselves another month of excuses.
I hope I am wrong and Vince fits in and the Lopez, Gortat, Frye big man rotation works out well. I really hope Nash doesn't get frustrated and ask to be moved but if he does, I wouldn't blame him for it.
5) Gortat is goooooood and Pietrus, too
There's really no question that Gortat is the prize in this deal. He's shown in limited minutes playing behind Howard -- he's averaging a career-high 15 mpg this season -- that he's ready for a bigger role. In two starts this season, he averaged 8 points, 10.5 rebounds in 33.5 minutes played. He didn't start a single game last season.
Pairing Gortat with Lopez gives the Suns serious size and more depth up front than they've had. If Gortat pans out as expected in a bigger role, the Suns could be set for some time at the crucial center position. We'll have to wait and see how Marcin does when given the opportunity. Some players numbers in limited minutes don't translate when the role increases. We really don't know what will happen with Gortat splitting time with Lopez.
Pietrus is a player I've liked a lot since his days in Golden State. He's an upgrade over what we've seen from Josh Childress so far, but unlike Childress, isn't signed to a long-term deal. How the minutes get split between those two over the rest of the season is going to be very interesting ... and telling.