Once again, the national media is not in love with the Phoenix Suns' summer moves.
Here's something to remember about summer moves, though: the teams who have the "best" summer fit into 2 categories: (a) they had the longest way to go, or (b) they were already good, and somehow added even more big "names" to their rotation.
So does a great summer portend a great NBA season? Hardly.
Let's go to the tape.
First, let's recall last offseason.
Do you remember who got the highest marks last offseason, according to the mother ship (who did not widely differ from any other prognosticators)?
- San Antonio Spurs - for adding McDyess, Jefferson and Blair to an already loaded team
- Orlando Magic - for adding Vince Carter, Matt Barnes and several other role players to an already loaded team
- LA Clippers - for replacing Zach Randolph with Blake Griffin and Rasual Butler
- Detroit Pistons - for adding Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon, the summer's second and third best free agents (behind Hedo Turkoglu)
- Washington Wizards - for adding Mike Miller and Randy Foye (and predicting a healthy synergistic comeback from Gilbert Arenas)
- Boston Celtics - for adding Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels to an already loaded team
- Dallas Mavericks - for adding Shawn Marion, Drew Gooden and Tim Thomas to an already loaded team
- Toronto Raptors - for adding Hedo Turkoglu amongst a 90% roster turnover in an effort to appease Chris Bosh
Did ANY of these teams exceed their previous season because of these new additions? ANY of them?
The Spurs, Magic, Mavericks and Raptors all finished worse than the year before, in terms of playoffs. The Spurs even went down hard to a team that previously couldn't beat them! (ouch, huh?)
The Celtics made it back to the Finals, but Rasheed was a shadow of his former self and Daniels was out of the rotation in lieue of Nate Robinson
And here's the Suns writeup from last fall (out of all 30 NBA teams):
Key additions: Channing Frye, Earl Clark
Key subtractions: Shaquille O'Neal, Matt Barnes
In limbo: Stromile Swift (U)
Phoenix GM Steve Kerr broke up one of the most enjoyable teams in NBA history to get O'Neal in 2008. But within about a year, the Suns went from title contender to lottery team. Last month, the Suns gave Shaq away for cap relief.
It appeared the team was beginning to embark on a major rebuilding project. However, there have been more recent signs that the Suns are still trying to compete. Talks of an Amare Stoudemire trade have cooled considerably; they signed Grant Hill and Frye; and they agreed to a contract extension with Steve Nash.
Still, do the Suns have enough to make a serious run in the West? With the Lakers still looking dominant, the Nuggets still a threat, and the Spurs and Mavs vastly improved, it's going to be harder than ever.
And then here's this year's grade (out of only the 15 Western Conference teams):
Key additions: Hedo Turkoglu (trade), Josh Childress (trade),Channing Frye (re-signed), Hakim Warrick (trade), Lon Babby (president), Lance Blanks (GM)
Key subtractions: Amare Stoudemire, Leandro Barbosa, Steve Kerr
After one last run in the playoffs for the always fun Suns, the sun began to set on Phoenix this summer. Steve Nash, the heart and soul of the Suns, is still plugging away at age 36. But the rest of his teammates have, one by one, left the team. Of the original run-and-gun Suns, he's the only remaining member.
The biggest defection of the summer came when Stoudemire bolted the team for the Knicks. If you've followed the Suns at all the past couple of years, you saw this coming, but when it finally went down, it still stung a little.
GM Steve Kerr also left the team, leading to an awkward situation where owner Robert Sarver used an NBA agent, Lon Babby, to help him navigate the summer free-agent waters without a GM. In the process, one of Babby's clients, Turkoglu, and one of his former clients, JChildress, landed in Phoenix and Barbosa was shipped off to Toronto. When the summer was over, Sarver hired Babby as the team's new president.
Babby is a respected agent and has been a voice of reason over the years, but his first moves this summer didn't wow anyone. Turkoglu is a good fit in the Suns' system but he's grossly overpaid with four years, $40 million left on his contract. Childress is super versatile, but was he worth a six-year, $33.5 million contract? And did I mention that he and Turkoglu both play the same position as another Babby client -- Grant Hill?
Meanwhile the Suns are very thin up front. Frye turned one good season shooting the ball off the bench into a starting gig and $30 million. The team also paid Hakim Warrick $12.75 million over three years to help back him up. Third-year big man Robin Lopez is the team's only true physical presence in the middle.
Gentry and Nash will still figure out how to get the most out of this squad and maybe even sneak the team into the playoffs -- but the direction the Suns are heading is clear and it won't be long until darkness covers the land of the sun.
So, does it matter that the mother ship rates the Suns' offseason 14th out of 15 teams this year?
No, it doesn't.
What matters is what happens on the court. Bring on the season!