In the second part of our Offseason Trade Chronicles (check Part I while you’re at it), me and my bro Fish took the time to analyse the moves made by the Phoenix Suns in the off-season.
Once Amare Stoudemire announced his intention to sign with the Knicks, Phoenix worked out a token sign and trade deal where they got a future pick and, more importantly, a hefty trade exemption.
The Suns then used said exemption to get Josh Childress from Atlanta (via Olympiakos) for another token S&T (a future 2nd round pick) and then sent Leandro Barbosa to Toronto for Hedo Turkoglu.
I’ll take a look at the Childress deal first cause it’s easier. I’ve been a fan of his ever since his Stanford days – while I do think he got overvalued in the 2004 draft (in hindsight, the Hawks probably should have made the same picks the other way around – J-Smoove at 6 and Childress at 17) I still rate his defensive abilities very highly, and he can contribute offensively as long as you don’t rely on him. I wanted the Warriors to use our full MLE to get him (which the Suns ended up paying) and thought we had a legit shot since he’s from the Bay Area.
That all said, how does he fit into Phoenix? Answer – like a glove. Ever since Raja Bell left Phoenix, the Suns haven’t had a genuine perimeter stopper for the likes of Kobe, Brandon Roy, Joe Johnson etc. (I firmly believe that had B-Roy been 100% fit last year, Portland would have beaten the Suns in the playoffs). Grant Hill did a decent job on Kobe in the WCF last year, but the dude’s 38. He can only do so much.
Childress is that perimeter stopper. He can still play lockdown D on almost any guard in this league. Given how tough the Euro leagues can get, I’m sure playing a few years away from the NBA won’t have killed his game. I suspect that he may become the starting SF in the Valley of the Sun, with Hill moving to the bench.
While there is a school of thought that Phoenix probably overpaid a bit (considering Atlanta’s glut of wing players, they probably wouldn’t have matched any offers) I’d have to say that this is a pretty sweet deal for all involved.
The Hedo trade is a bit more complex. On the surface of things it makes reasonable sense – Barbosa’s minutes were heading south in Phoenix, and given Toronto seriously need some attacking punch (along with defense, rebounding and divine intervention) getting a piece like him back for Hedo (who fast became Public Enemy No.1 in Toronto) has to be seen as a fair deal for the Raptors. Meanwhile, the Suns get a guy who can play four positions, spread the floor and gives them another attacking threat. Sounds all good right?
Then you look a little closer and the deal makes less sense.
Hedo’s best skill as a basketball player is his ability to create shots both for himself and others. However this comes with a caveat – he needs the ball in his hands to be effective. He was most useful in Orlando playing the point forward role. When Toronto tried to use him as a spot-up shooter, he failed.
In Phoenix, however, it just so happens that the PG is a bloke by the name of Steve Nash. One of the most unselfish players in the game, yes, but a guy who needs the ball to make everyone around him better.
Maths equation time – you have two guys who need the ball all the time to be effective, there’s only one ball, what happens? You see what I mean here.
Plus, when he can’t play to his strengths Hedo’s weaknesses come to the fore. As a starting power forward he’s practically useless, since he can’t rebound or play anything resembling defense – particularly problematic in Phoenix when your only big man with any inclination to do either is Robin Lopez. As we learnt in Toronto, he’s prone to having a sook if things don’t go his way.
To be honest with you, I think the Suns made a big mistake with the Hedo trade. The only way I can see him being effective is if they play him in a sixth man role while Nash rests – however that cuts into Goran Dragic’s role and minutes as well and the Suns clearly see him as a future star.
I personally think Phoenix misjudged the off-season. Once Amare left, they had two options. Either:
a) Pursue an Al Jefferson/David Lee type player with the Amare exemption – a guy who can come in and fill the role Amare did, while being better in some regards (rebounding for DLee, offensive post play for Al Jeff).
b) If they failed with a, trade Steve Nash to a contender (cause after all he’s done for Phoenix it’s the least they can do – you don’t think Orlando would bite on a Nash+JRich’s expiring for Jameer+VC’s expiring trade?) and start a full-bore rebuild around Dragic and Lopez.
As we know, the Suns failed with A (personally, I’m stunned they didn’t even seem to make a play for Jefferson or Lee) but they didn’t have the balls to go through a rebuild right now. Hence, a half-arsed move like the Hedo trade. This deal doesn’t save Phoenix now – it certainly doesn’t make them title contenders in the stacked West after losing Amare – and it’ll cripple them in a couple of years when Nash retires/goes to play out his career in Miami or another contender and they’re unable to move Hedo’s deal.
In the NBA, unless you’re the Lakers (and even they’re gonna face it once Kobe, Fisher and Pau retire) rebuilding is an inevitability. Either you willingly put your team through it, or it’s forced upon you. The funny part is that generally a forced rebuild tends to be much more painful than a planned stage of rebuilding. The Suns are gonna learn as much soon enough.