It’s that time of year again, folks! Every fan of the Phoenix Suns is currently playing the same game: let’s make a deal! Not sure if Monty Hall will pop up to introduce us to the players, but again, you’re all too young — as am I — for that reference.
With the trade deadline slowly peeking over the horizon – February 10 is when we will be bathed with the rays of trades – fans are making their way to their favorite trade machines and punching in deals like it’s NBA2K. For a few weeks in January and February, we all lose sight of the fact that the Suns are not only the best team in the NBA, but the best it’s ever been.
Bright Side is here to play the game as well. Why not punch some trades and try to justify them?
You can always make something that is great, a bit greater, I guess. And that is what we are going to explore today. Will it happen? Probably not. But it doesn’t hurt to explore all options in an effort to find the missing piece that will ultimately bring the Suns an NBA championship.
There are numerous factors that go into the transaction that is a trade. Money. Team chemistry. Balance. Winning the trade isn’t always a priority, as some franchises are simply looking to dump assets in an effort to set themselves up for seasons to come.
Enter the New Orleans Pelicans.
The team drafted Zion Williamson with the first overall pick just three seasons ago. Since that moment – and many moments prior to the 2019 NBA Draft (see: Anthony Davis) – not much has worked out for the organization. In their 2+ seasons since taking Zion, the team has gone 30-42 in 2019-20 and 31-41 in 2020-21. They currently sit at 18-32, which is good for 12th in the Western Conference.
There is no doubt they are trying to find a winning combination to put around Zion. GM David Griffin is not shy when it comes to pulling the trigger on a deal. This is a team that had Lonzo Ball, Jrue Holiday and Julius Randle. Heck, they once waived Christian Wood, albeit before he was Christian Wood, in 2019.
Yet they constantly seem to be turning the page and trying to find the right recipe for success. Up to this point it has not occurred.
Part of the issue has been Zion, obviously. His health has been less than stellar. He has played a total of 85 games out of an available 194 in his young career (43.8%). When he did play, he posted astronomy numbers, dropping 25.7 points on 60.4% shooting and shagging 7.0 rebounds. Yet the Pelicans were 40-45 in games in which he played.
Why? New Orleans did not put the right pieces around him that allowed him to excel. Zion is a paint roamer, somebody who dominates with veracity inside of ten feet from the cylinder. In the 85 games Zion has played, 54 have occurred with Steven Adams at the five. The Pelicans are 25-29 in those games. This is most likely why David Griffin traded Adams away in August of 2021. In return, however, they received Jonas Valanciunas, who also is a paint clogger (although the Pelicans have him shooting from the outside this season as he’s taken 106 3PA, the most of his career).
When you have Steven Adams and Jonas Valanciunas on your team, who are players who make a living in the area that Williamson excels in, it’s not conducive to success for young Zion Williamson.
Yes, all I’m doing is setting the stage for a trade with the Pelicans, and trying to justify why they would do it. Because let’s be real. The majority of these trades that we’re finding on Twitter, Facebook, and Bleacher Report are generated by fans via trade machines and are completely unrealistic. Every one of them benefits the Suns rather than seeing the transaction through the point of view of the opposition. No one wants Jalen Smith. The Suns jacked that asset up for anybody who would try to receive them. So stop.
My suggestion, as unlikely to happen as it may seem, brings Josh Hart to the Valley of the Sun. I heart Hart.
Why would the Pelicans want this? Because involved in the trade would be Dario Saric. Injured this year, yes, but will be healthy next season. Right around the time that Zion Williamson will finally be healthy. Dario can effectively play a stretch five, allowing Zion to execute in the space that he excels at.
Dario Saric would be reunited with head coach Willie Green as well, who knows his strengths and weaknesses.
While the Suns are at it, they can throw in Landry Shamet. Why not? Outside of a 17-point performance two games ago, he has been a savage disappointment. A “change of scenery would do him well”. It’s a phrase that I’m sure he’s heard before.
In return the Phoenix Suns would receive Josh Hart. He is a versatile player who currently is starting for the Pelicans. At 6’5” he can play shooting guard, small forward, and power forward if needed. Hart, who played college ball with Mikal Bridges at Villanova, is currently averaging 13.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 4.1 assists this season. He is shooting 50.5% from the field and 32.3% from three.
Pound-for-pound, Hart is one of the most elite rebounders in the NBA. His shooting touch has fallen off this year with the volume – he averaged 39.6% from deep as a rookie with the Lakers – but reinserting him into a role he knows well, the bench role, there’s an opportunity for him to see an uptick in production. Of the 282 regular season games he has played in his career, 178 have come as a reserve.
Would he be expected to be a fireball three-point shooter coming off of the bench? Would he be able to carry an offensive load when Devin Booker takes a seat? I’m not sure if that’s what he would be asked to do. When healthy, Cameron Payne carries the offensive load. Adding Josh Hart would add more physicality and defense to our second team unit.
There’s two modes of thinking when it comes to our backup shooting guard position.
- One: Add offense. This was the role Landry Shamet was expected to fill. Outscoring the opposing bench while your top scores are taking a rest allows you to win.
- Two: Play defense. The other side of that coin is don’t allow the opposition to score at all when your starters are taking a breather.
Josh Hart could assist with both of these aspects.
One of my primary objections to bringing a player such as Eric Gordon into the fray in the contract situation. As much as I love the idea of adding him to the team, he has nearly $20M owed to him next season fully guaranteed AND another year after that becomes guaranteed if his team wins the championship — a clear goal for the Suns in acquiring him.
Hart, conversely, makes $12M this season and does not have a guarantee on his contract for next season. The math makes sense not only for the short term, but for the long term as well. Per PelcianBrief.com, “Since Hart will more or less be an expiring deal this season, he will be a valuable commodity at the trade deadline, where teams will not only like the skills he brings to the table but the fact that he is on a team-friendly deal that won’t hamper their cap sheet.”
What say you, Bright Side?
Do we go against the “continuity” phrase that James Jones used when referencing the trade deadline on Sunday’s BallySportsAZ broadcast? Do the Suns take a shot at bringing in Josh Hart? Or will people simply comment on the article without reading it, stating reasons ‘why not’ even thought I already acknowledged those reasons?
Let us know below!