The Suns were coming off a surprising playoff run in 2006 after early season microfracture surgery for Amar’e Stoudemire had tempered expectations for the team. Phoenix pushed the Dallas Mavericks to six games in the Western Conference Finals after a felicitous loophole in the playoff seeding, which was later changed, allowed the Suns to avoid the San Antonio Spurs in the second round.
Steve Nash had just won his second of back-to-back MVP awards, while Shawn Marion and Boris Diaw were playing the best basketball of their careers.
With the anticipated return of Stoudemire for the 2006-07 season, the off-season was pivotal to helping the team take the next step.
Instead the Suns fell on their face.
The sudden departure of Bryan Colangelo, who had served as the team’s general manager from 1995-2006, left a void that was inexplicably filled by head coach Mike D’Antoni. D’Antoni’s tenure as GM would only last about 15 months before he was replaced by Steve Kerr in June of 2007... which led to the advent of the moron meter (a topic of discussion for another time).
Mike D’Antoni was not a particularly good GM.
The gist of his moves as a neophyte GM were as follows...
Traded the 21st overall pick in the draft (Rajon Rondo) along with Brian Grant to the Boston Celtics for a 2007 first round pick.
Allowed Tim Thomas and Eddie House to leave as free agents.
Signed Marcus Banks.
The trading and sale of draft picks during the 7SOL era has been a sore spot for fans of the team, especially in hindsight after most of them seemed to turn into very good players and/or All-Stars.
This particular case saw Rondo go the Celtics... where he did alright.
In fact, the 20-year-old rookie played very well for Boston right out of the gate, posting 6.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 78 games (25 starts).
The Suns could have just drafted their backup point guard.
But... D’Antoni didn’t like rookies.
Tim Thomas was coming off a magical playoff performance that included a legendary three pointer in game six of the Suns’ first round playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Thomas averaged 15.1 points and 6.3 rebounds over 20 playoff games while shooting 44.4% from three point range.
But... D’Antoni didn’t like a deep rotation... and because Stoudemire and Kurt Thomas would both be rejoining the team after season ending injuries... Tim Thomas was expendable.
He ended up heading to the Los Angeles Clippers on a two year deal for just under $11 million.
Unlike Thomas, Eddie House had floundered in the playoffs after a regular season in which he scored a career high 9.8 points while shooting 39% from three point range.
As a defensively limited player that was chucking up eight three pointers per 36 minutes it would seem like House was the perfect fit for a Mike D’Antoni system. D’Antoni didn’t see it that way, though, and House ended up signing a one year, $1.4 million dollar deal with the New Jersey Nets before landing in Boston the following year, where he won a title with the Celtics.
Instead D’Antoni went with a very un-D’Antoni-like player.
Enter Marcus Banks.
The 24-year-old Banks was coming off a breakthrough season where he had increased his production from 4.6 points and 1.9 assists per game up to 10.0 and 3.8, respectively.
In particular, Banks had averaged 12.1 points and 5.2 assists per game over his last 28 games of the 2005-06 season after taking over the starting role for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Many felt Banks would have the opportunity to fight for a starting role in the league and would sign with a team that afforded him that opportunity. It was a bit of a surprise that he ended up signing with the Phoenix Suns, where playing behind Steve Nash guaranteed he would be cemented as the backup.
In addition to that, Banks was more of a defensive minded player that didn’t shoot threes.
Still, the crown jewel of D’Antoni’s signings during his short tenure as GM was a five year, $21 million dollar deal for Banks. The acquisition was lauded as the long term answer to shoring up a glaring weakness at the reserve point guard position.
It didn’t really work out that way.
Banks quickly played himself out of the rotation, scoring two points or less in 13 of his first 21 games... and making just one three pointer.
One three-pointer in 21 games.
Banks ended up going just 5-29 (17.2%) from long range all season.
For comparison, Eddie House went 75-175 (42.9%) that year. Much more D-Antoni-like.
I think the best measure of Banks’ “contribution” was probably his laughable plus/minus for the season.
Banks finished dead last on the team at -138.
This chart is also representative of the truncated rotations (eight players) that played a role in post season disappointments.
Banks played (poorly) in just two playoff games for the Suns that season, totaling two points and one assist in a grand total of nearly seven minutes.
Banks averaged 4.6 points and 1.3 assists per game during the regular season.
For his trouble, Banks was awarded the Least Valuable Player award for the 2006-07 season by Bill Simmons and became the subject of polls on Bright Side of the Sun as to whether the Suns might be able to dump his terrible contract.
He was basically the 2007 version of Brandon Knight.
The Suns doubled down on the Marcus Banks experiment over the summer of 2007... or at least they professed to, because what else could they do?
There were even discussions of converting him into a shooting guard... you know, one of those shooting guards that can’t shoot.
Of course that didn’t work.
Banks did manage to make a career high number of threes in the 2007-08 season (a whopping 40), but only 25 of them came for the Suns before he was traded along with Shawn Marion to the Miami Heat for Shaquille O’Neal.
The trade seemed like a bit of a panic move, considering Phoenix had the best record in the Western Conference (34-14) at the time, but many felt the Suns just didn’t match up well in the playoffs against other top teams.
At least it allowed the Suns to shed the last 3+ years of Banks’ contract.
2006 was the summer of Marcus Banks.
A signing that just didn’t work out... at all.
There was also this...
"We stayed the course," Sarver said. "We're on a mission here for the next few years to win a championship, and we think we have the pieces to do it. We may not have made a lot of moves, but we also didn't snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory either. I feel really good where we're at."
Sounds a lot like the rhetoric from this summer.
Nice to see the company line has been alarmingly consistent for the entirety of Sarver’s reign of terror.