Are the Phoenix Suns Following The Pistons Model?

Who is the Suns' equivalent Chauncey Billups? (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

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Who is the Suns' equivalent Chauncey Billups? (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

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With all this discussion over whether or not to trade Steve Nash, I made an argument that you don't want to be the next Detroit Pistons.

For those not totally in the know about Detroit in the 2000s, hit the jump for more detail.

In 2008, Pistons GM Joe Dumars had a successful team that he saw fading. Instead of allowing the slow, agonizing fall to happen on his watch, he decided to retool on the fly.

Out: Chauncey Billups. In: Allen Iverson's expiring contract, meaning a boatload of cash for a new star that summer. Dumars was lauded for his visionary nature.

But what did all that cash and a higher draft pick get the Pistons? Austin Daye, Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva (the 2nd and 3rd best FAs that summer after Hedo) and the black-hole future in lottery-land he was desperately trying to avoid.

Joe Dumars made the cardinal mistake. When trying to retool on the fly, he traded his team's heart and soul. You don't trade the straw that stirs the drink!

How does this pertain to the Suns? Eerily.

Depending on how you look at it, the Suns are already rid themselves of that 'straw' (Amare) or are at the precipice right now (Nash).

More history on the Pistons:

From 2003-2008, the Pistons went to 6 consecutive Eastern Conference Finals. They peaked in the 2nd and 3rd seasons after acquiring Rasheed Wallace (2 Finals, 1 Ring. The next three seasons, the Pistons still made the ECF each time but lost. It was clear, they'd reached their peak with that team and some of the core was aging.

In the second week of the 2008-2009 season, GM Joe Dumars - very respected at the time - tried to retool on the fly. He wanted to avoid an agonizing descent into nothingness, even while every one of his core players was on a long contract.

He traded PG Chauncey Billups for PG Allen Iverson's expiring deal, sacrificing the current season while freeing up tons of cash for free agency to supplement his remaining core of Hamilton, Wallace and Prince.

Pundits around the league extolled Dumars for his vision and preplanning. He was going to avoid the Portland, Seattle, Minnesota, Clippers, Warriors doldrums and shoot his team right back to the top with a new star in free agency.

Joe Dumars had a valiant idea - retool on the fly - but his execution was miserable. Why? He traded the ONE GUY he couldn't afford to trade: Chauncey Billups. Billups was the engine. The heart and soul of the Pistons. Without the engine, the car fell completely apart.

Billups went on to lead Denver to his favorite place - the Conference Finals - while Detroit went out in the first round and hasn't made the playoffs in 2 years since. Now, the Pistons are a joke with no future and find themselves still saddled with 2 aging stars (Prince and Hamilton) who "deserve more than their fate".

Does this mirror the current Suns in a way that make you shudder?

Maybe.

Was Amare Stoudemire the Suns' equivalent of Chauncey Billups? Was Amare actually the straw that stirred the drink of the Phoenix Suns, moreso than Nash?

Or is Steve Nash the Suns' equivalent to Chauncey?

In my opinion, it's the latter. The Pistons were rudderless after trading Billups. The Suns are not. But either way, the Suns are looking at the abyss of lottery land with no future stars on their roster unless the new Front Office pulls a magic wand out of its waistband.

The Suns have to avoid any more panic moves.

Last summer is last summer. Those panic moves are done. Childress for 5 years. Warrick for 3. Hedo for 4. But at least they've already rid themselves of the last one, and the first two add up to less money (10 million) than the Pistons are currently paying undersized SG Ben Gordon, not to mention the 8 mill they're giving undersized, follically-challenged Charlie Villanueva. Detroit sunk 18 million a year for 5 years into those two, so it could be worse Suns fans.

Where the Pistons and Suns mirror each other is in the roster. Two inconsistent, aging stars around a bunch of role players.

But while the Pistons have already shot their free agency wad, the Suns' next best chance is still on the horizon.

And, in my opinion, they still have the star that stirs their drink in the meantime.


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