What do Marcin Gortat and "the next Phoenix Suns superstar" have in common?
No, I'm not saying that Gortat will be a superstar. If the Suns are lucky, he will become a quality C who will get you 14, 10 and 2 in 30-35 minutes for the next 4 years. That's not superstar level. However, that IS a quality player in a Conference weak on centers.
Last summer, Robert Sarver said the Suns' best chance to get their next superstar would be via trade. He said he was interested in acquiring movable assets and a lot of depth so that the Suns could pounce when that player became available. I called it our "Gasol" moment.
Of course, every team in the league has dreams of a Gasol-type trade. But how many of those teams can offer a young. starting-quality C as part of the package in return, without losing all of their size in the process?
Note the timing of the trade (December 18) in relation to the NBA trading deadline (Feb 24). None of the players acquired from Orlando can be packaged with any other Suns players for 2 months, but that does give the Suns plenty of time to repackage those players before the deadline. Don't expect this roster to be the same on February 25 as it is today.
Despite a better-balanced roster, the Suns are still short at the power forward (PF) position and "superstar" position if they want to make a long playoff run.
The biggest indication of Lon Babby and Lance Blanks' leanings from the weekend deal is this: they arguably upped the talent level on the roster while avoiding bad contracts. Carter is like an expiring deal (only 4 million guaranteed next season) and Pietrus' relatively cheap deal only lasts another year (player option).
The only long-term contract is Marcin Gortat's - exactly the one you WANT on a long-term deal. He is under contract at the mid-level price for 3 more seasons beyond this one - a great value for a skilled, young 7-foot Center. Now the Suns have insurance in case Lopez' injury bug returns.
The Suns center position is now more interesting than ever. They boast two players who are young, talented, starter-quality and relatively cheap.
Robin Lopez is a 22-year old shot-blocking 7-footer with defensive potential and a surprising offensive touch - around the rim and on set shots and free throws, despite oven-mitt hands that make rebounding an adventure. The Suns have his exclusive (cheap) rights for 2 more seasons beyond this one - not needing to make an extension decision until after the new CBA is in place.
Gortat is a 26-year old 6'11"-er who blocks shots, rebounds (offensive and defensive), plays quality defense and can finish at the rim. We will find out a lot more when we see him play for the Suns, but Dudley has already stated he thinks Gortat is perfect for this system.
How do a pair of quality, young centers and the trade deadline relate to each other?
I'll tell you.
If the Suns want a high-quality, young, proven Power Forward on a good contract in trade, you'd better expect the trade partner will demand one of these two in return. Lopez is injury-prone, but is cheap and has proven himself as a starter on a playoff-caliber team. Gortat is not proven yet, but he has been great in spot duty for Dwight Howard and his skillset has had NBA GMs drooling for years now.
Believe me, folks. This is a good thing. Quality young Cs are not easy to come by, yet the Suns now have 2 of them.
Sarver's claim that the next Suns' superstar is most likely to be acquired via trade might just turn out to be true. The Suns finally have the key, expendable assets to make that happen. 2 young cheap centers, 2 first-round draft picks in 2011, a huge expiring contract (Carter) and a host of quality NBA players on manageable contracts
Still not sure "who" that next star player is yet, but at least the Suns will be ready when that guy pops loose.