A brilliant trade can turn the fortunes of a franchise.
Sometimes the impact is felt right away. The incoming talent arrives with fanfare and conviviality. There are other trades of a more subtle variety. An opportunity or change of scenery catapults the career of a previously obscure or struggling player. Still others merely set the table for future moves. The first domino to fall in a fortuitous sequence.
Trades come in all varieties, and the Suns have a past littered with successful (and inauspicious) transactions. The focus here will be to highlight the deals made by the Suns that outshone the rest. The current administration would do well to take a cue from their predecessors and make some magic of their own.
Flip the script for a brief review of five trades that left indelible marks on the franchise history of the Suns and vote on which is the best ever.
Please vote - results will be tabulated for feature story on Wednesday.
1. The trade: The Suns send Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang and Tim Perry to the Philadelphia 76ers for Charles Barkley.
The skinny: Very rarely does a player of Barkley's caliber become available during his prime. Barkley won the MVP in the 1992-93 season and led the Suns to their second trip to the NBA Finals.
2. The trade: The Suns send Larry Nance, Mike Sanders and a 1988 first round pick (Randolph Keys) to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Kevin Johnson, Mark West, Tyrone Corbin, a 1988 first round pick (Dan Majerle), a 1988 second round pick (Dean Garrett), and a 1989 second round pick (Greg Grant).
The skinny: KJ, Majerle, and West were integral components of a fabulous era of Suns basketball which saw the team win no less than 53 games in a season for the next seven years.
The skinny: Kidd would lead the Suns to three 50+ win seasons during his four+ years with the team (one year was a shortened season). Kidd cemented himself as a bona fide star during his tenure in Phoenix.
The skinny: Nash leaves. Enter the Matrix. Marion would play a pivotal role in the 7SOL era of Phoenix Suns basketball as the team won at least 54 games in four straight seasons.
5. The trade: The Suns send Anfernee Hardaway, Stephon Marbury and Cezary Trybanski to the New York Knicks for Charlie Ward, Antonio McDyess, Howard Eisley, Maciej Lampe, Milos Vujanic, a 2004 first round pick (Kirk Snyder) and a 2010 first round pick (Gordon Hayward).
The skinny: Nash returns. This deal freed up the cap space needed to sign Nash as a free agent in the off season. Nash wins two MVP awards and the Suns reach the Conference Finals three times in six years.
Phoenix Suns fans have wondered about Michael Beasley's eccentricities, wondered what makes Beasley tick, and the likelihood that Beasley will mature into a normal, everyday basketball player once he crosses the Arizona state line.
So it's quite interesting to find out he had an anonymous estate sale this weekend in suburban Minneapolis, in an apparent attempt to sell off everything non-basketball-related that he'd acquired in two years in Minnesota.
Writes Joan Niesen of Fox Sports North, in the article:
During the season, I'd always imagined Beasley living in a hip condo or apartment downtown, much like Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio do. That assumption was based on little more than his age, 23, and that he had grown up in Washington, D.C., and this weekend it was shattered when word leaked that Beasley would be holding an estate sale at his suburban home.
Every Suns fan has GOT to read this article Niesen wrote about the sale today.
A suburban home for 23-year old Beasley, with no family and no real ties to the community? A house full of items ranging from high end furniture to "a book of Ingmar Bergman screenplays" to women's handbags. Maybe Beasley just didn't know what to do with all the money he had. Maybe he spent his offseasons and free weekends buying items from other peoples' estate sales? Or, more likely, he was snookered by an interior designer who went apeshit. I've seen Million Dollar Rooms on HGTV. There are apeshit designers out there. Trust me. (and the ones in Scottsdale are licking their chops at this moment)
Now he's selling it all. Boom. Gone. Everything he'd acquired to date, except the basketball stuff. Turning over a new leaf.
Or, just making room to start over from scratch.
The Phoenix Suns came into the offseason with a clear plan in mind. They intended to replace the current faces of the franchise - 38-year old PG Steve Nash and near-40 SF Grant Hill - with new, younger ones. Specifically, they focused on 20-year old PG Kendall Marshall, 26-year old PG Goran Dragic, 24-year old SF Michael Beasley and 23-year old SG Eric Gordon.
Marshall came via the draft, and all three free agents signed immediately (though Gordon's offer was matched by New Orleans).
Suns' master plan A:
Out: Steve Nash, Grant Hill
In: Kendall Marshall (R), Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley, and Eric Gordon
Gordon never made it to the Suns, leaving a big hole in the "face of the franchise" discussion. If Gordon had come to the Suns, then a clear roadmap to the future would have been in place.
Without Gordon, the Suns quickly had to make a new plan in order to stay off the "playoff bubble" treadmill: (b) dump contracts aggressively to fight for the #1 pick in the next draft, or (c) aggressively work to acquire a game-changer via trade to fight for a #1 seed.
As a franchise, the Suns immediately ruled out (b) because they just are "not into tanking". Plus, their entire front office only has one year left on their contracts. Go figure.
That leaves (c) and the search for a game-changer via trade or free agency. In the 5 weeks since then, the following players better than anyone on the Suns' current roster have been traded: Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, Andre Iguodala and Joe Johnson. Though only Howard and (maybe) Bynum are true franchise-changers.
Whither the Suns' franchise-changer, then? Plan (c) appears to be in trouble.
A quick look to the 2012 draft reveals that #1 pick Anthony Davis is also predicted to be a franchise-changer, while no less than three other 2012 draftees would be projected to start immediately ahead of their counterpart on the Suns' roster.
But the Suns don't want to "fight" for a top-5 pick. They proved this by the remainder of their moves this summer (after Nash/Hill for Dragic/Beasley).
While the Suns' top-end talent got worse, their supporting cast seems to have at least remained steady if not improved. Luis Scola is better than Hakim Warrick. Kendall Marshall is better than Ronnie Price. If healthy, Jermaine O'Neal is better than Robin Lopez.
It appears that, collectively, the 2012-13 Phoenix Suns are too good to earn a top-5 draft pick. That means the 2013 draft is an unlikely place to find a game-changer, unless your scouting department gets lucky.
It also appears that, collectively, the 2012-13 Phoenix Suns are not good enough to earn a home-court playoff seed for a deep playoff run.
They are still on that 8th-10th seed treadmill, knocking on the playoff door through March, they hoped to avoid when letting Nash and Hill walk out.
Suns fans have to hope the FO's makeover is incomplete. Lon Babby, Lance Blanks and personnel man John Treloar (as well as the entire coaching staff) are all on the final year of their three-year contracts.
If their only job was to initiate the "changing of the guard" to transition away from Steve Nash, then their tenure has been a success. If their job was to leave the franchise in a better place than when they arrived, their tenure has been a failure.
If/when the Suns underwhelm again this season, the next FO will have a very easy job. There are young guys with the talent to get better. They have 10 draft picks (including six mid-to-low first rounders) in the next three years. There is still $6 million in cap space this year, and up to $15 million next summer without dumping any players they don't want to dump. And there are a fistful of reasonable (tradeable) contracts on hand.
Strap in, Suns fans. This bumpy ride is not over.
Whether it's the current FO or a new one next summer, the building blocks are there for improvement.
There's really no long-term plan that wouldn't be received better than the current (incomplete) one.
In the meantime, we can root for the 8th playoff seed and potentiality of a Cinderella season.