clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

About that first round pick? Thanks for nothing, Minnesota

New, comments

With the likely trade of Kevin Love to Cleveland, the Phoenix Suns can nearly close the books on 2012 with a sad thud (and bury said books alongside the 2011 and 2013 books). It appears as if the promised first round pick from the Robin Lopez trade will never materialize.

Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Remember when the Phoenix Suns acquired a future first round pick (and Wesley Johnson) from the Minnesota Timberwolves in a three-way trade that sent Robin Lopez and Hakim Warrick to the New Orleans Hornets?

With apologies to Smilin' Wes, the prize return on that trade was the lottery-protected pick from "rising" Minnesota, a team who appeared destined to return to the playoffs in the near future on the back of All-Star Kevin Love and young prodigy Ricky Rubio.

I mean, that team was going to win big, right? All-Star Kevin Love. All-time-beautiful passer Ricky Rubio. Clearance of the riffraff (Michael Beasley). What could go wrong?

How about bad coaching and bad injury luck. Love missed most of the 2012-13 season due to a hand injury (the Wolves kept the pick, taking Shabazz Muhammad). But even when he returned in 2013-14, the Wolves set league records for ineptitude in closing out close games (again, they kept the pick and took Zach LaVine).

But the Suns had WON that trade, dammit!

Getting a future mid-first pick back in exchange for a disappointing extra center who wanted out while also dumping Warrick's $10 million remaining was seen as a coup for the Suns.

In July 2012, Lopez had just finished his fourth season in the valley - his worst season yet. He injured his back late in the 2010 season and never really recovered his explosiveness over the next two seasons. When he became a restricted free agent on July 1, the Suns made a gesture toward him but really looked forward to trading him for something else.

The Suns no longer needed Lopez anyway. They already had high-producing Marcin Gortat who had won the starting gig by outplaying Lopez at every turn, and everyone (except xCasx) knew that Channing Frye was best used as the backup center.

So they traded Lopez for that first round pick. But trades don't always work out the way you want them to.

Lopez eventually found his game - a reality that was prophesied by our own Seth Pollack - and has had a solid career since leaving Phoenix. He was eminently replaceable next to Anthony Davis in New Orleans (traded for a second round pick the next year), but blossomed in Portland beside All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge last season.

He has played and started all 164 games since leaving Phoenix, putting up career highs in points (11.3), rebounds (8.5) and just about every other category over the past two years. In Portland, he became the player the Suns always wanted him to be. He even became a better rebounder - something not expected after four lackluster years in Phoenix.

For their part, the Suns have cycled through four centers since Lopez left (Marcin Gortat, Channing Frye, Miles Plumlee and Alex Len), but none have dramatically outplayed Lopez these past two seasons. Plumlee and Len have potential to excel, though.

Meanwhile, the prospect of that shiny first round pick is looking dimmer and dimmer.

Minnesota has been a colossal disappointment since the trade and now might start a rebuilding process with the proposed trade of All-Star Kevin Love to Cleveland later this month.

The remaining protection on that prized pick is top-12 in each of the next 2 years. After that, it turns into a pair of pumpkins second round picks in 2015 and 2016.

Luckily, the Suns didn't sit around waiting for that pick all this time. They've taken five picks in the first round of the last two drafts since that trade, plus two more coming in the 2015 Draft. All without that Minny pick. They also won 48 games last year (more than Minny) and plan to continue rising back into the annual playoff picture.

Still, the Suns had that trade in the win column. Now maybe that's moving to the loss column.