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Is This Phoenix Suns GM Steve Kerr's Last Stand?

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While we await the Amare Stoudemire verdict, I wanted to bring up another potentially vital decision the Suns organization must make this Summer: whether to extend Steve Kerr's contract.

First a little history on Steven Douglas Kerr as it relates to his position in front office management for the Phoenix Suns.

In 2004, Kerr was included as a cog in a potential group of buyers that would purchase the Phoenix Suns from Jerry Colangelo for approximately $400 something million. Kerr's front office career with the Suns began as part of management, with an official title of consultant. He still worked as a TNT commentator and writer for Yahoo at the time.

(Insert Cliff Klaven voice): It is a little known fact that Steve Kerr provided his voice to EA Sports NBA LIve 06-10 video games along with Marvelous Marv Albert.

In June of 2007, Kerr quit his TNT and Yahoo gigs, signing a 3 year deal taking over as Suns President and General Manager. On Kerr's clock, from 2007 to present, the team has compiled a 132-85 record. Below, you can peruse Kerr's detailed track record:


2007 Draft

  • Rudy Fernandez (Traded to Portland for cash)
  • DJ Strawberry
  • Alando Tucker

2007 FA Signings

  • Grant Hill
  • Sean Marks
  • Brian Skinner

2007 Transactions

  • Traded Kurt Thomas and 2008, 2010 1st round draft picksto Seattle (OKC) for future second round pick and cash

2008 Transactions

  • Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks for Shaquille O'Neal
  • Signed Gordon Giricek
  • Hired Terry Porter as head coach

2008 Draft

  • Robin Lopez

2008 FA Signings

  • Matt Barnes
  • Louis Amundson

2008 Transactions

  • Traded San Antonio for draft rights to Goran Dragic in exchange for Malik Hairston
  • Traded DJ Strawberry to Rockets for Sean Singletary
  • Signed Goran Dragic
  • Raja Bell, Sean Singletary, Boris Diaw traded to Charlotte for Jason Richardson, Jared Dudley and a 2010 second round pick

2009

During Season

  • Fired Terry Porter, named Alvin Gentry head coach
  • Signed Strowmile Swift

Offseason

  • Signed Channing Frye
  • Re-Signed Grant Hill
  • Extended Steve Nash
  • Signed Jarron Collins

2009 Draft

  • Earl Clark
  • Taylor Griffin
  • Emir Preldzic (traded draft rights to Cleveland)

2009-2010 Season

  • Traded Alando Tucker, a second round pick and cash to Minnesota for Jason Hart (waived)
  • Signed Jarron Collins for the rest of the season

It's not an extensive body of work. Of course Kerr's tenure has only amassed two years and change. To delve further beneath the surface of these deals, here is a summary broken down into four different categories: Draft, Trades, FA Signings, and Coaching Hires and Fires.

Draft

Steve Kerr assumed GM duties on or around June 3, 2007. The draft occurred on June 28. I will not submit that Kerr had no say whatsoever, but it should be considered that while he was with the organization, he hadn't been on the GM job for that long. Nevertheless....

2007

The Suns had the 24th and 29th picks in this draft. With the 24th pick, Rudy Fernandez was selected and promptly shipped to Portland for cash. Obviously the fingerprints on this deal belong to Robert Sarver and Co.

With the 29th pick though, the Suns took Alando Tucker. Obviously that didn't work out so well. Tucker certainly had the college credentials that would lead one to believe he could work out at the NBA level. He broked Michael Finley's all time scoring mark at Wisconsin and collected a variety of awards including Big Ten Player of the Year in 2007 as well as first team All-American.

Looking back to see who the Suns could have selected in Tucker's stead, the biggest name I can find on the board is Carl Landry at #31 (first pick round 2). There are some other players that have stuck around the NBA-Glen Davis, Ramon Sessions, Marc Gasol. Of course Gasol may have been a gamble as he was playing in Spain and didn't make it to the NBA until 2008.

Tucker's time with the Suns was marred by injuries and ineffective play, all of which contributed to his lack of playing time, along with a sub-NBA game leaving him incapable of deseating any of the players ahead of him on the depth chart.

The next pick was D.J. Strawberry. He was touted as a defensive specialist. Unfortunately his offense was so bad, his defense never became much of a factor. Strawberry's choice was wishful thinking, but inevitably, like many 2nd rounders, a long shot to win a job and play in the NBA.

2008

The Suns had the 15th pick of the 1st round in 2008 which they obtained from Atlanta. Kerr went for the big man with an eye on defense, Robin Lopez. This was not a very popular pick at the time for a number of reasons. First and foremost was the fact that Kerr picked the least talented basketball player in the Lopez family. Brooke Lopez was the 10th pick for New Jersey. He had better collegiate numbers, he was better skilled, and posessed more upside than Robin.

Robin Lopez's college numbers were fair: 10 ppg, 5.7 rebounds, 53% FG, perhaps the numbers of a second unit role player, but was he worthy of a #1 pick? In addition, look at the names the Suns left on the board:

Marreese Speights
Roy Hibbert
Nicolas Batum
Darrell Arthur
J.J. Hickson
Kosta Koufos
Courtney Lee
George Hill
Donte Greene

Just to name a few. The jury is still out on virtually all of these players. That is, no one turned into a Kobe or LeBron immediately. Further, none of us know how things will play out from this draft. But we do know how Robin Lopez has been playing of late, and his development is very encouraging. If I have to rate the choice now, I give Steve Kerr a nice little golf clap for picking up Robin.

2009

With the 14th pick, Kerr selected Earl Clark, leaving names like Ty Lawson, Omri Casspi, Taj Gibson, and a large group of second rounders that have played well in their first season in the NBA. Again, the jury is still out on Clark. He's shown some flashes in limited minutes of being a valuable future cog in the Suns lineup. He's also played like a rookie, shooting at the wrong time and too often, becoming frustrated at the stress of learning two positions while dealing with very little game minutes.

While many of the 2009 picks have seen more court time: Tyreke Evans, Jordan Hill, Stephen Curry (just to name a few), Clark simply isn't ready to deseat Grant Hill or Jared Dudley at the 3 or Lou Amundson at the 4. I will say this: I understand why Clark was selected. He is very athletic, and he is freakishly long. If you have been watching every game this season, you can see the difference already, even though he plays very little. He is slowly becoming more aggressive, playing with more confidence. Once the IQ increases, along with the playing time and conditioning, (oh and the shot-let's stick with midrange for now, Earl), he could be a quality player for the Suns.

FA Signings

Kerr has had a fair amount of luck in this area. Grant Hill was an excellent pick up. Apart from being a high character, popular guy among his teammates, Hill has also enjoyed some good success on the court which is obviously a function of his health. Hill played in every game last season for the first time in years. The lauded Suns trainers and medical personnel can be credited to a high degree for Hill's health.

It looked as though Grant would leave the Suns last year after receiving numerous offers from serious title contenders. However, Kerr was able to come to his senses and extend him. This in turn helped in Steve Nash's extension. And with Goran Dragic still a question mark, and Jared Dudley a mostly second unit guy, it was the easy decision for Kerr to ink both Hill and Nash to reasonable deals.

Louis Amundson was a one dimensional journeyman in the NBA. His signing was a low risk endeavor, yet one that has produced high yield results. Pony boy has been a quality asset for the Suns, coming off the bench to crash the boards and play defense. He's the toughness the Suns typically lack, a high energy, consistent role player that rarely fails to accomplish his duties. Good signing, Steve Kerr.

Channing Frye was a surprise pick up to many. With many suitors milling about, Kerr swooped in to grab Frye, knowing his game was a nice match to the Suns up-tempo system. Through the first two months of the season, Frye proved a potent weapon from outside that opponents had a difficult time defending. But once the secret was out, defenses adjusted to Frye on the defensive end and attacked him and out-muscled him on the other end. As Frye continued to get pushed around, his shot began to falter. Frye has recently seen a bit of a resurgence in his game coming off the bench.

Still, Channing Frye came as advertised, so no one should be surprised that he can't rebound and he's soft on the defensive end. Still, an additional 120 3-pointers is a good addition to any team, especially for the Suns who have lost Leandro Barbosa's contribution from beyond the arc virtually all season. I give props to Kerr for the Frye signing.

There have been others: Gordon Giricek was a stretch run signing that would have worked better if Gordon would have made a few more threes. Stromile Swift was a also a roster filler in the absence of Amare. Brian Skinner was a nice, tough-guy-role-player for a season. His contribution wasn't significant, but neither was his playing time. Matt Barnes on paper looked like a good fit-3 point range, hard nose defensive specialist built in the Raja Bell mode. Of course by the end of the season Barnes was making us cringe every time he loaded up for an ill-advised three pointer. To my knowledge, no tears were shed after the season when he was not re-signed.

Trades

Here's where it gets a bit dicey for Steve Kerr:

  • Let's get to it so we can try to forget about the Kurt Thomas trade to Seattle for a future conditional second-round pick. The dump left Suns with an $8 million trade exception and one less big man (leaving them with uh, none).

Said Kerr after the trade:

"We feel good going forward having our core group of players under contract for several years, including the recent addition of free-agent Grant Hill. The bottom line is there are tough decisions to make, but we have flexibility and our core together. We really like the group of players we've assembled and feel we can make a legitimate run for an NBA championship next season."

Championship? That's good. Funny.

  • Next up: Shawn Marion. We loved him. We wanted him to stay. We even got a bit giddy several months back when we heard a rumor about him talking to Steve Kerr about a return to the valley. Of course he's a Maverick now. Shawn Marion for Shaq will go down in BSOTS history as the deal that established the Steve Kerr Moron Meter. If you weren't lurking around here to see it, you missed something very special....But let's get down to brass tacks here: Shawn Marion was ready to go. He wanted big money and he simply wasn't worth it. He was a great player, he was the glue that held the Suns together. The dirt worker who took on the toughest defensive assignments, and was left out of the play calling mix. Still, he was making great money and the fans loved him.
  • But Shawn got tired of it:

"I'm tired of hearing my name in trades. I love my fans in Phoenix but I think it's time for me to move on."

It was widely known that Marion pouted in the locker room and suffered from the "Whose the Man" syndrome. It was indeed time for him to go. Thing is, Steve Kerr traded him for Shaquille O'Neal. This was the moment many of us began to feel the cool Spring time breeze from the open window turn August hot then suddenly disappear. The window was closed, and the Steve Kerr hand print could be seen all over the Suns franchise:

"If it works, I'm a genius. If it doesn't, I'm a moron, I guess." -Steve Kerr

The trade marked the beginning of the sea change for the Suns. Soon Mike D'Antoni was out, Terry Porter in, and you remember the rest....

The clearest example of Steve Kerr's naivete as a general manager was assuming his team would respond to Terry Porter. Many people were interviewed for the Suns head coaching job, but Kerr was merely conducting his due diligence. Terry Porter was his pick and we all knew it early on. Porter was the hard ass who would whip the Suns into shape on D and instill that toughness designed to take out San Antonio once and for all not to mention any other WC softies in the way.

But the Porter hiring was a failure. The Suns were constructed of a veteran roster. One built to run and shoot. It was a team that liked their previous coach, the easy practices and his easy going demeanor. How would these guys go for a total philosophical change? From run and gun to toss it into the big guy and let him work. It was built to fail.

"It wasn't as exciting for the fans. It's not as fun for everybody (on the team). I'll always remember Phoenix with (previous coach) 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."

-Boris Diaw

As perhaps a show of support for Porter, Kerr shipped out two of the most vocal critics of Porter and his ideas: Raja Bell and Boris Diaw. The return, from Charlotte, Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley, were seen as additions that could both revive a bit of the 7SOL fast paced excitement while also adding a scrappy, defensive edge the Suns were lacking.

I'm partial to call this trade a wash. Richardson has shown signs of offensive brilliance and has good size to defend a two. But he needs the ball more to create his rhythm from the field. He simply doesn't get it in Phoenix. Further, what the numbers fail to capture is Richardson's somewhat frail psyche. Dudley on the other hand is young, cheap, and plays both ends of the floor. Diaw continues to play like he did here-INCONSISTENTLY and Raja Bell has played 6 games this season, a shadow of his former self. The only huge problem with this deal as it stands now is Richardson's contract. Maybe Kerr can rectify that soon.

We can criticize Steve Kerr for some of his moves as GM, but we should also consider how he reacts once he realizes he's made a mistake. These go in no particular order:

  • Fired Terry Porter: That was a good day for many of us. No offense to Terry, but 28-23 and miserable players playing uninspired basketball sucks to watch and be a fan of.
  • Replaced Porter with player favorite Alvin Gentry-The player's choice who promised to open up the offense. A good day for many of us fans and Suns players
  • Traded Shaq for buyouts and a draft pick-The experiment didn't work. Shaq clogged the lanes and slowed up Nash from creating. Whispers spoke of a Shaq/Amare fued not to mention Nash's control over the Suns front office. Either way, Shaq had to go. Perhaps the Suns could have gotten more in return, but to rid themselves of O'Neal's presence and contract was worth a slightly dismal return.

Cut to now....This moment, whatever moment we happen to read this: Steve Kerr is now pondering what could be the biggest decision of his career as GM:

What to do with Amare Stoudemire?

Steve Kerr will not let Amare walk away for nothing. It's bad business. Part of GM: 101. If he has no choice but to trade him or let him walk, he must trade. With an aging roster with plenty of holes to fill, picking up young talent, draft pick(s) and creating space to go after some FA talent this off-season must be a priority in any deal. That means conceding the rest of the season. Many Suns fans will be very displeased at the prospect.

Many of us accept the fact that this team as constructed will be lucky to get into the playoffs. Even if the Suns could make a push or at least maintain they aren't going to go far. Yes the revenues generated by playoff sales is a nice bonus, but would it make a significant difference if the Suns didn't have home court advantage or if they went one and out? To the point, what does going to the playoffs actually do for the Suns this season other than keep some of us engaged a bit longer and give others delusions that this team has a chance to do some damage in the WC?

So, I put it to you Suns fans, what do you think of Steve Kerr?