I took an art class in college. [insert joke here]
One of the theories of art is that you tend to get tunnel vision when creating your artwork because you are so close to the canvas that you cannot see the big picture of what you are creating. Sometimes you get bogged down too much in the detail that you end up creating something that you did not intend to create.
Another thing they taught me was not to fall in love with what I am trying to create, as we too often get entangled into our own thought process to see clearly.
I believe the same things occur with front office personnel and their franchises.
Over the years, the Phoenix Suns have repeatedly made mistakes regarding their own players, either overvaluing them [Diaw, Frye], undervaluing them [JJ]. or misjudging them [Amare, Marion]. In each case, these mistakes have led the Suns down a reactionary path to further mistakes [Shaq, Hedo, trading picks, etc.].
This leads me to believe that we should learn from our mistakes and act now:
It is time to trade Gortat!
Yeah, yeah, I know. Most of you will say I am crazy. You will say that Gortat is the best real center we have ever had. You will say that he is a double double machine. You will say he is young, improving and already on the cusp of being an all-star. Maybe you would go so far as to say he is our future, our most valuable asset and the only player you wouldn't trade.
I have two words for you: Cotton Fitzimmons.
Back in the day, Cotton was not afraid of what people thought. He knew basketball and he was a visionary. This was a guy that was PROACTIVE. The Suns were in disarray and were going in the wrong direction. Despite their struggles, they had an amazing young talent at Power Forward, the likes that were rarely seen.
Larry Nance was a rare breed. At that time, you just didn't see power forwards who could make damage in the post, and pop out and shoot 20 footers [this was before guys like Dirk and Detlef]. He was a high scoring guy that could also defend at all-defense levels, block shots and was a matchup nightmare.
Nance spent his first couple of seasons building his skillset and by his 26th birthday, he had become a clear-cut all-star. Nance was the shit. And by 1987-88, Nance was clearly our franchise player. Averaging 21 ppg and about 10 rpg, any other GM would have told anyone that would listen that Nance was untouchable. Not Cotton.
At the height of Nance's popularity, as well as his production for the Suns, Cotton traded him. At the time, Suns fans were enraged. They called for Fitzimmons head, said he went nuts, branded him a traitor. Some suggested he was trying to destroy the franchise. Cotton didn't listen [the next year, fans booed him at the draft for taking this unknown player from some Podunk directional school nobody had ever hear of - and they were wrong then too].
But Cotton knew what few did. Apparently he took an art class too. He stepped away from the canvas that was the roster to look at it with a fresh perspective. And instead of spending his time coveting Larry Nance, he looked objectively at what he could do to build a team and decided that the best way to build is to use the most valuable asset you have to gain multiple pieces of the puzzle.
Those pieces turned out to be Kevin Johnson and Mark West. But he wasn't done. Cotton managed to also sign Tom Chambers that summer, a coup of sorts and the first official unrestricted free agent signing in NBA history.After that, he drafted Dan Majerle and the rest you know.
The point here is that at the height of our franchise players production and value, Cotton used that to pull together multiple pieces to create a winning team.
Now some of you are suggesting that is what we do with Nash. however, I would argue that we will get very little value for Nash now [for that argument to work, we would have had to trade Nash the summer after his first MVP season].
The real opportunity here is Gortat. Right now, he is having a great year numbers wise. He also has proven he is a top 7 center in the league [currently 6th in PER].
Here is my argument: Back when Sarver was deliberating about whether to re-sign Joe Johnson, he undervalued him and JJ walked. At the time, Marion had already started with his whining about not being respected. The next season, Marion exploded for 22/12 [almost] and was at the height of his production value. At that time, there were rumblings that Minnesota wanted to trade for marion and was willing to give up Garnett. Another rumor had the Grizzlies trading Pau Gasol for Marion. True or not, it was clear that at that particular time, Marion would likely have fetched a grade A star in this league. But Sarver, the FO, and even Suns fans coveted Marion too much to part with him. He was the cog that made the Suns work. He was the versatile piece that couldn't be replaced. We looked too closely at him and found no perspective.
So they waited.
They waited while he complained and complained. They waited until his last full season of his contract [2nd to last year, as his last year was an opt out]. They waited until his numbers and production slid and teams realized that he wasn't everything he seemed to be.
In 2005-6 Marion looked like a superstar. He was a Larry Nance type of enigma. Never seen before, he did things nobody else did. The quick jumping pogo stick who could knock down a 3, slash for an oop, and guard anyone on the floor. Around the league, Marion was viewed at the top of the game at that time. Nobody saw his flaws. They saw a small forward who averaged 22 and 12. They didn't see a guy that couldn't create his own shot. They saw a matchup nightmare who was young and productive. They didn't notice that he struggled on offense when he wasn't matched up with a bigger slower guy. He was forced to play PF and reveled in those matchups. Everyone thought he would continue to climb the production chart.
Alas, his numbers retracted from that year on. And because the Suns waited until his contract situation and his attitude affected his value on the market, the Suns were unable to get what they could have had. I really believe they could have had Garnett, and with him an NBA Championship. Who better to pair with Amare? A defensive stalwart who can knock down perimeter shots and can be a go-to guy if need be: Garnett.
But alas, we waited too long.
Same goes for Amare. Rather than trading him a year or two earlier, we fell in love with the idea of Amare rather than continuing to take that step away from our canvas to see if what we are creating is really what we thought it would be. We waited until Amare had control of the situation and teams had all the leverage, instead of striking while everyone was frothing over Amare and his other worldly skills. We waited until everyone started speculating on whether he really was a Max player [which everyone concluded - with exception of NY - that he wasn't]. Had we traded him a year or two earlier, what could we have pulled from some frothing team?
Sure, you can say anything in hindsight. But the reality is, it is often at times like these when you need to pull a cotton and trade your rising star. Do it before the scouts start doubting his game. Do it while other owners are saying "wow, that Gortat is something!" Do it when his production has shot through the roof, rather than when it is clear that Nash is the reason. Strike now when another center starved team is willing to give up a few great pieces for him. Do it before next season, when he can hold us hostage by opting out of his final year. Next year, if we try to trade him, teams won't give up as much because they know he will want out or that we aren't going to be able to sign him to a deal.
We know Sarver and one thing is for sure, if Gortat continues to develop, or even stays this productive, he will command big dollars that Sarver will not want to pay. We will then end up trading Gortat for whatever scraps someone will give us in a sign-and-trade deal.
Let's eliminate that problem now before we are stuck with the same scenario we continue to find ourselves in.