20121205_ajl_al2_492

There's no question about it, the Phoenix Suns are in full rebuilding mode and looking to acquire young talent at nearly every position.

Although the front office at the time seemed reluctant to do so, the Suns were basically forced into this reality last season when they earned the 4th worst record in the NBA, going 25-57. After posting the second worst record in the history of this successful franchise, everyone predicted a change in staff and philosophy on the horizon...and that's exactly what happened.

Where They Stand

With the ousting of Lance Blanks and Lindsey Hunter, and the acquisitions of GM Ryan McDonough and Head Coach Jeff Hornacek, the Suns appeared to be starting fresh, and finally beginning their process of rebuilding without trying (unsuccessfully) to be mediocre at the same time.

The 2013 NBA Draft netted the Suns' a top five draft pick which they used to draft Maryland Center Alex Len, and also the 30th pick, which they traded up to 29th in order to draft Kentucky PG Archie Goodwin. Both of these picks have a great deal of upside and potential, and could develop into future starters at their positions in a few years.

Both picks were investments for the future and not expected to make an immediate impact. This fit with the Suns' new strategy of getting better through acquiring young talent in the draft, and still puts them in prime position to acquire another top pick in the 2014 draft, which is regarded by many to be the most talented group of prospects in over a decade.

So far so good.

In addition, the Suns weren't expected to be major players in free agency this year. Instead they were expected to maintain their cap flexibility for the coming years when they could take a shot at one of the top free agents in either 2014 or 2015.

However, when free agency began, it didn't take long for the Suns to jump in head first with one of the biggest trades thus far. The Suns acquired one of the most sought after assets in the NBA with PG Eric Bledsoe, in addition to SF Caron Butler and his $8 million expiring contract. Outgoing was fan favorite SG/SF Jared Dudley and a 2014 2nd round pick.

While this trade was regarded by most as a huge win for the Suns, new questions now arise as to the immediate impact on the Suns' future.

What Happens Next?

As of right now, the Suns have 15 players under contract for next season, and are sitting right at the salary cap limit.

PG: Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, Kendall Marshall, Archie Goodwin

SG: PJ Tucker, Shannon Brown, Malcolm Lee

SF: Caron Butler, Michael Beasley

PF: Luis Scola, Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris

C: Marcin Gortat, Channing Frye, Alex Len

That's the current roster, but the positions above aren't set in stone...as many of the players have versatility to play two positions, (Dragic, Bledsoe, Goodwin, Tucker, Beasley, Morri, Frye)

This versatility gives the Suns the option to make more moves either in free agency, or before the trade deadline in February...and more moves are certainly expected to happen.

But what will they be?

Trading Scola seems very likely once July 15th comes around...but what is his value?

Gortat is a top 10-15 center in the league on a great contract and could be moved for another 2014 first round pick at some point, but it's unlikely it will be to another rebuilding team with a high draft pick next year.

Dragic could also be traded now that the Suns acquired Bledsoe, but I believe this is the least likely scenario given his relatively young age (still just 27), and his status as the current face of the franchise and best player on the team. Besides, there are indications that the Suns plan on using both Dragic and Bledsoe together in the starting lineup.

So How Good/Bad Will the Suns Be Next Season?

Honestly there's no way to know at the moment as the roster is still in flux. But we can at least look at a few factors to see where they are headed.

A back court consisting of Dragic and Bledsoe at the same time would give the Suns speed, athleticism, and aggression on offense; and in my estimation, could be one of the better defensive back courts in the NBA as well.

If the Suns choose to keep Gortat for the time being, the Suns will retain one of the better centers in the league, and also expect to see the return of Channing Frye who will add three-point shooting and help the Suns space the floor either as a back-up center or possibly a starting power forward.

But surely losing Dudley will hurt them, right?

His veteran leadership and chemistry with his teammates will certainly be missed. However, one can't forget the one-year rental of Caron Butler who could start at small forward for the time being, and averaged 10.4 ppg last season in around 24 min; while shooting approximately 39% from beyond the arc and 42% overall.

These stats are at least similar to Dudley's production of 10.9 ppg in 27.5 min, averaging around 39% on three point shots and around 47% overall.

In my opinion, the Suns look like a better team overall, which is certainly a good thing...But how much better? And, will it hurt their chances of landing a coveted top five pick in the highly anticipated 2014 Draft?

The Competition

The Suns are just one of the teams who will likely be playing for a top lottery pick next season, whether intentionally or unintentionally. While anything can happen, it looks like the Boston Celtics, Charlotte Bobcats, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, Detroit Pistons, Sacramento Kings, and Toronto Raptors are just some of the teams that could be competing with Phoenix for one of the best picks next season.

Even with the recent additions to the Suns thus far, Phoenix still projects to be pretty bad next season...But will they be bad enough?

Historically speaking, there is a significant drop off in a team's chances to land an All-Star caliber player after the fifth pick in the draft.

Here's a look at the percentage of draft picks who turn out to be All-Stars by their draft position, taken from the link above:

  1. Pick #1 - 18/27 - 67%
  2. Pick #3 - 12/27 - 44%
  3. Pick #5 - 10/27 - 37%
  4. Pick #4 - 10/27 - 37%
  5. Pick #2 - 9/27 - 33%
  6. Pick #10 - 6/27 - 22%
  7. Pick #9 - 6/27 - 22%
  8. Pick #6 - 6/27 - 22%
  9. Pick #18 - 5/27 - 19%
  10. Pick #24 - 4/27 - 15%
  11. Pick #17 - 4/27 - 15%
  12. Pick #11 - 4/27 - 15%
  13. Pick #7 - 4/27 - 15%
  14. Pick #21 - 3/27 - 11%

There's no question that the first pick gives a team the best odds (67%) of landing a future All-Star by far. However, pick #3 also gives 44% odds, while picks 4,5 at least give teams 37% odds of drafting a game changer.

But as you can see, after the top 5 picks, the percentages drop significantly and the difference between them becomes much less significant.

The projected top prospects in next year's draft will be Andrew Wiggins (SF), Julius Randle (PF), Jabari Parker (SF), Aaron Gordon (PF), and Marcus Smart (PG). There will certainly be other risers and perhaps some fallers (like Shabazz Muhammed this year), but either way, the top five of a draft is usually where the best talent is found.

So will the Suns really be bad enough next year to secure another top 5 pick?

Time will tell, but with every improvement they make right now, their chances of doing so goes down.

Would the Suns be smarter to wait until next year to make any more trades for other valuable players, and trade only for draft picks and expiring contracts? Or, should the Suns jump at the first opportunity to improve their team, regardless of whether it comes via free agency or the draft?

Even if they choose to stand pat as far as talent and only acquire more picks and role players for the time being, just how bad are the Suns likely to be next year with the team they currently have?

Poll
Which draft pick will the Suns land next year based on their record?

  1056 votes | Results

20130528_mjr_su5_056

Marcin Gortat is a quality NBA starting center. He can play 30-35 minutes every night, putting up a double double and providing quality help defense. Every NBA team needs a quality starting center, the Suns being one of them, but the teams who need a guy like Marcin Gortat in 2013-14 are dwindling.

The question is not whether the Suns will trade Gortat, it's when. At 29 years old with an expiring contract, he doesn't fit the profile for the rebuilding Suns who won't (and shouldn't) sniff the playoffs until 2015 at the earliest. And the worst possible outcome is just watching Gortat walk away next summer.

To the surprise of many, new GM Ryan McDonough and PBO Lon Babby already turned swingman Jared Dudley and (with an assist from Lance Blanks) third-string PG Sebastian Telfair into a potential star player in combo guard Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe may turn out to be nothing more than a good sixth man, but that's his floor. His ceiling is much higher. Higher than any Suns player from last season's roster.

Can the new Suns front office make a similar move with Marcin Gortat, to acquire a young asset that's been buried behind a star and just needs the minutes to shine?

I have argued all along that Gortat has more value in trade than Jared Dudley. The issue facing McDonough is finding that partner who is both (a) in need and (b) holding the right assets to send back.

Let's review the potential suitors and what assets they might be able to offer in return.

Suitors for Gortat likely fit the following profile:

  • playoff expectations in 2013-14 - no team trying to tank will acquire Gortat
  • hole at center
  • quality asset(s) to send back

Off the table

These teams already have a quality center under contract: Brooklyn Nets (Brook Lopez), Charlotte (Al Jefferson), Chicago (Joakim Noah), Denver Nuggets (Javale McGee), Detroit Pistons (Greg Monroe), Golden State Warriors (Andrew Bogut), Houston Rockets (Omer Asik), Indiana Pacers (Roy Hibbert), Los Angeles Clippers (DeAndre Jordan), Memphis Grizzlies (Marc Gasol), Milwaukee Bucks (Larry Sanders), New York Knicks (Tyson Chandler), Portland Trailblazers (Robin Lopez, Myers Leonard), Sacramento Kings (DeMarcus Cousins), San Antonio Spurs (Tiago Splitter just re-signed), Washington (Emeka Okafor, Nene).

These teams are tanking the 2013-14 season: Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers

Need a center, but who knows what they want?

These teams could go either way in the next few weeks, toward building a playoff participant or tanking: Atlanta Hawks, Toronto Raptors (Jonas Valencuinas?), Utah Jazz (Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors). All three are either missing centers, or they have youth at the spot that won't help them make the playoffs.

In fact, just this morning (July 5), the Jazz are looking into acquiring Andrew Bogut from Golden State. So, they aren't settling for kids like Favors and Kanter, indicating a desire to make the playoffs.

Potential Need, depending on the Dwecision

These teams might very well be desperate for a center if Dwight does not choose them: Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks.

Depending on how the Dwecision plays out and these teams' reaction to losing him, it's possible that they will want a veteran center on a 1-year deal to stopgap the 2013-14 season with an eye toward the playoffs.

The problem for the Suns is that neither team has any young assets to send back that compare to Eric Bledsoe (or really, any young assets at all). The Lakers cannot send any first-rounders out until 2017 at the earliest. And the Mavericks' (top-20 protected) 2014 first round pick has already been bandied about the league a few times, currently sitting in the lap of the OKC Thunder. And that protected pick rolls over as far out as 2018, when it becomes unprotected.

So, forget the Lakers.

It's possible the Mavericks would offer their 2014 #1 pick unprotected (like the Lakers did in 2013), where the Suns only get it if they are in the top 20, but I really doubt the Mavericks would go to that trouble for the 2013-14 season.

Definite Need for an upgrade at center

That leaves this final category of teams who may still be in the market for a starting quality center because they want to make the playoffs next spring. That doesn't mean they will acquire one. It just means they might want to explore their options.

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavs don't have a great option at center. They have played with Sideshow Bob (Andersen Varejao) at center for years, but that doesn't add wins and they really want to win next season. Their best pure center is second-year player Tyler Zeller, who isn't ready to play big minutes on a playoff caliber team.

Assets: the Cavs have a lot of young assets - Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller. With the recent acquisitions of Anthony Bennett and Earl Clark, along with Sideshow Bob's best position being PF, it's quite possible they would consider parting with Tristan Thompson for Marcin Gortat.

Miami HEAT

These guys are only on here because they need a center. The HEAT got by with Chris Anderson and Joel Anthony, but could always use an upgrade. Why not Gortat?

Assets: none. So there's no use thinking about the HEAT any more.

Minnesota Timberwolves

If the Cavs or someone else decide to go with signing Nikola Pekovic to a big offer, then the Wolves need a center.

Assets: The sad thing about the Wolves is that their only real, young assets are guards and Derrick Williams. They just drafted Shabazz Muhammad to go along with Rubio and Shved, and just signed two veteran shooters (Chase Budinger, Kevin Martin). There's just nothing worth sending back to the Suns here.

New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans just traded their 2012-13 center for a bag of beans, and they weren't even magic beans. Pinto, I think. They definitely need a center.

Assets: the ever-available Eric Gordon is a luxury now in that expensive back court. Guard Austin Rivers is the only other kid with potential that NOLA would be looking to move. Their team is still very shallow, with no bench and no cap room to make one. NOLA could try to trade Gordon to the Suns in a many-to-one transaction to fill out their bench. Also, there are no first-round picks to trade until 2016 at earliest. The Pelicans just sent their 2014 pick to Philly.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Now here's an interesting option. The Thunder are stuck with Kendrick Perkins ($19 million over 2 years) and really need an upgrade to go all the way.

Assets: Serge Ibaka, Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones and lots of first round picks. Yet, the Thunder suddenly really need Lamb to pan out for them, unless they sign one of the few remaining shooters on the market. The roster is totally top-heavy, but the Thunder will have to make a decision on how hard they want to go to the Finals. Adding the expiring Gortat while shedding Perkins' contract might just entice the Thunder to give up some future assets to get it done. The Thunder currently have their own 2014 first-round pick and the Mavericks' top-20 protected pick, plus their own 2015 and 2016 picks.

Summary

I never would have pegged Jared Dudley to the Clips for Eric Bledsoe, so maybe I've got this all wrong too. But it sure seems like the Suns' best bets for Gortat are the OKC Thunder (for Perkins and some combo of Jones, Lamb, picks), New Orleans Pelicans (Eric Gordon) and Cleveland Cavaliers (Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller).

Of course, Cleveland could just spend big on Nikola Pekovic or sign a free agent center like Chris Kaman, Zaza Pachulia or Sam Dalembert.

But OKC and New Orleans no longer have the cap space to sign anyone outright, so they will need to make a trade.

A wild card could be Utah. If the trade for Andrew Bogut falls through, they've already showed their hand that they want to make the 2014 playoffs and don't feel their current centers can get the job done. Might they turn to Gortat instead?

Keep your eyes and ears open, Suns fans. Things are always changing. But it just might be in the Suns best (and only) interest to keep Gortat for a while and wait to see who gets injured next season, opening up new needs for playoff teams.

20130528_mjr_su5_056

Marcin Gortat is a quality NBA starting center. He can play 30-35 minutes every night, putting up a double double and providing quality help defense. Every NBA team needs a quality starting center, the Suns being one of them, but the teams who need a guy like Marcin Gortat in 2013-14 are dwindling.

The question is not whether the Suns will trade Gortat, it's when. At 29 years old with an expiring contract, he doesn't fit the profile for the rebuilding Suns who won't (and shouldn't) sniff the playoffs until 2015 at the earliest. And the worst possible outcome is just watching Gortat walk away next summer.

To the surprise of many, new GM Ryan McDonough and PBO Lon Babby already turned swingman Jared Dudley and (with an assist from Lance Blanks) third-string PG Sebastian Telfair into a potential star player in combo guard Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe may turn out to be nothing more than a good sixth man, but that's his floor. His ceiling is much higher. Higher than any Suns player from last season's roster.

Can the new Suns front office make a similar move with Marcin Gortat, to acquire a young asset that's been buried behind a star and just needs the minutes to shine?

I have argued all along that Gortat has more value in trade than Jared Dudley. The issue facing McDonough is finding that partner who is both (a) in need and (b) holding the right assets to send back.

Let's review the potential suitors and what assets they might be able to offer in return.

Suitors for Gortat likely fit the following profile:

  • playoff expectations in 2013-14 - no team trying to tank will acquire Gortat
  • hole at center
  • quality asset(s) to send back

Off the table

These teams already have a quality center under contract: Brooklyn Nets (Brook Lopez), Charlotte (Al Jefferson), Chicago (Joakim Noah), Denver Nuggets (Javale McGee), Detroit Pistons (Greg Monroe), Golden State Warriors (Andrew Bogut), Houston Rockets (Omer Asik), Indiana Pacers (Roy Hibbert), Los Angeles Clippers (DeAndre Jordan), Memphis Grizzlies (Marc Gasol), Milwaukee Bucks (Larry Sanders), New York Knicks (Tyson Chandler), Portland Trailblazers (Robin Lopez, Myers Leonard), Sacramento Kings (DeMarcus Cousins), San Antonio Spurs (Tiago Splitter just re-signed), Washington (Emeka Okafor, Nene).

These teams are tanking the 2013-14 season: Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers

Need a center, but who knows what they want?

These teams could go either way in the next few weeks, toward building a playoff participant or tanking: Atlanta Hawks, Toronto Raptors (Jonas Valencuinas?), Utah Jazz (Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors). All three are either missing centers, or they have youth at the spot that won't help them make the playoffs.

In fact, just this morning (July 5), the Jazz are looking into acquiring Andrew Bogut from Golden State. So, they aren't settling for kids like Favors and Kanter, indicating a desire to make the playoffs.

Potential Need, depending on the Dwecision

These teams might very well be desperate for a center if Dwight does not choose them: Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks.

Depending on how the Dwecision plays out and these teams' reaction to losing him, it's possible that they will want a veteran center on a 1-year deal to stopgap the 2013-14 season with an eye toward the playoffs.

The problem for the Suns is that neither team has any young assets to send back that compare to Eric Bledsoe (or really, any young assets at all). The Lakers cannot send any first-rounders out until 2017 at the earliest. And the Mavericks' (top-20 protected) 2014 first round pick has already been bandied about the league a few times, currently sitting in the lap of the OKC Thunder. And that protected pick rolls over as far out as 2018, when it becomes unprotected.

So, forget the Lakers.

It's possible the Mavericks would offer their 2014 #1 pick unprotected (like the Lakers did in 2013), where the Suns only get it if they are in the top 20, but I really doubt the Mavericks would go to that trouble for the 2013-14 season.

Definite Need for an upgrade at center

That leaves this final category of teams who may still be in the market for a starting quality center because they want to make the playoffs next spring. That doesn't mean they will acquire one. It just means they might want to explore their options.

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavs don't have a great option at center. They have played with Sideshow Bob (Andersen Varejao) at center for years, but that doesn't add wins and they really want to win next season. Their best pure center is second-year player Tyler Zeller, who isn't ready to play big minutes on a playoff caliber team.

Assets: the Cavs have a lot of young assets - Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller. With the recent acquisitions of Anthony Bennett and Earl Clark, along with Sideshow Bob's best position being PF, it's quite possible they would consider parting with Tristan Thompson for Marcin Gortat.

Miami HEAT

These guys are only on here because they need a center. The HEAT got by with Chris Anderson and Joel Anthony, but could always use an upgrade. Why not Gortat?

Assets: none. So there's no use thinking about the HEAT any more.

Minnesota Timberwolves

If the Cavs or someone else decide to go with signing Nikola Pekovic to a big offer, then the Wolves need a center.

Assets: The sad thing about the Wolves is that their only real, young assets are guards and Derrick Williams. They just drafted Shabazz Muhammad to go along with Rubio and Shved, and just signed two veteran shooters (Chase Budinger, Kevin Martin). There's just nothing worth sending back to the Suns here.

New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans just traded their 2012-13 center for a bag of beans, and they weren't even magic beans. Pinto, I think. They definitely need a center.

Assets: the ever-available Eric Gordon is a luxury now in that expensive back court. Guard Austin Rivers is the only other kid with potential that NOLA would be looking to move. Their team is still very shallow, with no bench and no cap room to make one. NOLA could try to trade Gordon to the Suns in a many-to-one transaction to fill out their bench. Also, there are no first-round picks to trade until 2016 at earliest. The Pelicans just sent their 2014 pick to Philly.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Now here's an interesting option. The Thunder are stuck with Kendrick Perkins ($19 million over 2 years) and really need an upgrade to go all the way.

Assets: Serge Ibaka, Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones and lots of first round picks. Yet, the Thunder suddenly really need Lamb to pan out for them, unless they sign one of the few remaining shooters on the market. The roster is totally top-heavy, but the Thunder will have to make a decision on how hard they want to go to the Finals. Adding the expiring Gortat while shedding Perkins' contract might just entice the Thunder to give up some future assets to get it done. The Thunder currently have their own 2014 first-round pick and the Mavericks' top-20 protected pick, plus their own 2015 and 2016 picks.

Summary

I never would have pegged Jared Dudley to the Clips for Eric Bledsoe, so maybe I've got this all wrong too. But it sure seems like the Suns' best bets for Gortat are the OKC Thunder (for Perkins and some combo of Jones, Lamb, picks), New Orleans Pelicans (Eric Gordon) and Cleveland Cavaliers (Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller).

Of course, Cleveland could just spend big on Nikola Pekovic or sign a free agent center like Chris Kaman, Zaza Pachulia or Sam Dalembert.

But OKC and New Orleans no longer have the cap space to sign anyone outright, so they will need to make a trade.

A wild card could be Utah. If the trade for Andrew Bogut falls through, they've already showed their hand that they want to make the 2014 playoffs and don't feel their current centers can get the job done. Might they turn to Gortat instead?

Keep your eyes and ears open, Suns fans. Things are always changing. But it just might be in the Suns best (and only) interest to keep Gortat for a while and wait to see who gets injured next season, opening up new needs for playoff teams.

From youtube.com, check out the eye-popping plays the Phoenix Suns new guard can make.

20130503_kdl_ad8_192

The WojBomb has dropped and the Jared Dudley trade everyone's been anticipating has been completed.

Per Yahoo!'s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Suns have agreed to a three-team deal with the Los Angeles Clippers and the Milwaukee Bucks.

Clippers, Bucks and Phoenix have reached agreement on a three-team deal, sources tell Y!

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 2, 2013

Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler will go to the Suns, Jared Dudley and JJ Redick to the Clippers and 2 2nd-round picks to Bucks, sources tell Y

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 2, 2013

In the sign and trade scenario, Redick will get a four year, $27 million deal with the Clippers, sources tell Y! Sports.

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 2, 2013

Suns GM Ryan McDonough has started the Suns rebuilding with a young point guard -- Eric Bledsoe -- and a center -- Alex Len.

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 2, 2013

Dave has done it yet again. Just a few short hours ago he wrote about patience, and now here are the Suns making a big move.


Caron Butler is a sizable expiring contract, as he is on the books for $8 million for one more year.

But this deal was about getting Eric Bledsoe, a highly prized young point guard who spent the last two years backing up Chris Paul. Bledsoe is a tremendous athlete and can do a lot of things on the court. He is on the books for $2.6 million for this coming season before his qualifying offer id due.

This gives the Suns a lot of flexibility. Ryan McDonough traded away one of the Suns best assets in Jared Dudley, but getting Bledsoe in return frees up Goran Dragic as a movable asset. Or maybe the Suns could even look to move Bledsoe again.

Either way, this move gives the Suns more young talent and flexibility. It's tough to see Dudley go, but this is a pretty good return for him.

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