No one really knows for sure what will happen to James Harden, now that he is "the man" on the Houston Rockets. He certainly knows all about offensive efficiency and getting the most out of his shot attempts. And, he knows how to distribute the ball. But he has never wanted to be "the man" and has never had to worry about an entire defense scheming against him. It's a sharp fall from Westbrook and Durant to Lin and Asik.
But few would argue against Harden's skillset to be an All-Star level. He has top-level talent, and has shown the ability to create excitement and wins for his team.
Houston GM Daryl Morey wanted a player of Harden's ability for a long time. He made a dizzying array of moves in order to position himself to be the General Store for anyone who wanted to go shopping.
What did Morey give up for Harden?
Was it too much? Three starting-quality players (or at least two) for one who has never started or been "the man" on his own team before?
Actually, in retrospect I think it was a heck of a deal for Houston. They get a top-level talent for three guys who were not. Why couldn't the Suns offer a better trade after two years of trying to position themselves for this kind of acquisition?
And an even bigger question is: why weren't the Suns even in the conversation?
Of course, we don't know for sure that the Suns were NOT involved in these discussions. But it seems that Yahoo! reporter Adrian Wojnarowski was in bed with the Thunder FO last night to put together the timeline of the deal and it appears that only the Rockets were involved. The Thunder originally wanted more players and picks, eventually settling on Martin (expiring), Lamb and two #1s in 2013 plus a high #2 (Charlotte's). Why wouldn't the Thunder actively involve the Suns to, if nothing else, drive up the price to Houston? OKC had wanted Chandler Parsons too. And another #1 pick.
The Suns' best offer seemed to be: $7 million in cap space to absorb unwanted contracts, up to three #1 picks next spring (including their own likely lottery pick), glue-guy Jared Dudley, Marcin Gortat and young PF prospect Markieff Morris.
The problem with Gortat is that he isn't as big as Perkins, and therefore not such an asset against the Lakers like Perkins can be. But Gortat's contract is one year shorter than Perkins, so that huge tax hit in two years could be avoided without amnesty.
The problem with Morris is that the Thunder just signed Serge Ibaka for $12 million a year, so Morris would never elevate to starter-status before needing to be paid on the FA market. But Morris appears to have a nice upside, and would have been a good piece for the Thunder front line (though the Thunder apparently don't want front line help, or they would have plucked one of the 15 from Houston).
So we've got comparable picks available, between Houston and Phoenix:
The big difference between the Rockets offer and the Suns' best offer is the players involved: Jared Dudley vs. Kevin Martin, and Markieff Morris vs. Jeremy Lamb.
One could argue that three affordable years of Dudley (at $4 million per) is better than one year of Kevin Martin. But maybe the Thunder don't want three years of Dudley, preferring to roll the dice on a great year from Martin and then free agency (or Lamb) in the future.
One could also argue that Markieff Morris is a better prospect than Jeremy Lamb. Morris has shown a lot of progress this spring with a versatile, aggressive offense, while Lamb is a jump shooter on a team suddenly heavily reliant on jump shooting.
So why weren't the Suns in the bidding?
Or were the Suns in the bidding, but decided that three #1 picks plus Dudley and Morris were too much for Harden? or, three #1 picks plus Dudley, Gortat and Morris for Harden and Perkins?
If the Suns had acquired Harden for that package and signed him to a max extension, their future flexibility would be largely gone. No 2013 draft pick, and less than max cap room to fill out the roster. Here would be the 2013-14 roster at the beginning of draft/free agent season:
Gortat (final season of deal)
The Suns would have less flexibility to fill out the roster - only $7-9 million to spend on at least 5 players to fill out the 13-man roster, with no #1 draft picks. Yet the Suns still don't know for sure what they have in Beasley and Dragic.
What if none of the three (Harden, Dragic, Beasley) ever becomes an all-star? Should the Suns forego flexibility just to lock those guys up for multiple years?
Houston's Daryl Morey, with a similar combination of Harden/Lin/Asik, answered yes to that question. He is gambling that those guys are worth it.
Phoenix's front office is of a different disposition. They are not risk-takers who commit both big money AND assets for any one player. They didn't offer a truckload trade to New Orleans, and didn't offer a truckload trade to OKC. That's a lot of risk to take on. The Suns' youth and big contracts would be on the perimeter. They'd have to find frontline help to make any hay in the West.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports first reported the deal which is being confirmed by multiple sources.
The deal will send James Harden, Daequan Cook, Lazar Hayward and Cole Aldrich to the Houston Rockets, while the Oklahoma City Thunder will receive Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and future draft picks.
So, Suns fans, it appears Harden is off the table... Should the Suns have been in pursuit? Could they have offered a better package? Who should the Suns target now?
The Suns ended the preseason with an upswing last night after defeating the young and talented Denver Nuggets at home. The Suns were led by the incredibly hot shooting of Michael Beasley who scored 29 points in his 33 minutes of play, going 13-21 from the field and also grabbing 10 rebounds as well.
Denver out-rebounded the Suns 54-41, and also dominated the Suns with scoring inside the paint to the tune of 52-26. However, the Suns won the turnover battle 15-27 (yikes), and also shot a better percentage than Denver at 41%-37%...including, and most importantly, from downtown where the Suns shot nearly 40% making 9-23 compared to Denvers' paltry 18% going 2-11.
The Suns' starting unit was too much for Denver to handle last night, and although the Nuggets would close the gap nearly every time the Suns' bench would come in (except late in the fourth quarter), the Suns were able to outlast and outscore the Nuggets and hold onto their lead.
Michael Beasley did his best impersonation of Denzel Washington in "Man On Fire" last night as he hit shot after shot on his way to 29 points in 33 minutes, including some baskets that didn't look like they had a chance. However, as the old basketball adage states, it's only a bad shot if you miss...right?
Not only that, but Beasley was aggressive and effective on the boards pulling down 10 rebounds to surpass Gorat and Scola, who each had eight a piece, as the leading rebounder.
I realize it's only the pre-season...but does anyone honestly still miss that other guy right now? Dragic scored 13 points on 4-9 shooting in his 25 minutes, and still managed to dish out 6 assists even with Beasley taking the game over and creating most of his own shots.
The way Dragic is able to be ultra-aggressive in attacking the basket, and still deliver amazing passes when the shot is there for one of his teammates just goes to show what a great point guard Goran has turned into.
Though nearly invisible through most of the second quarter when the bench replaced the starters, both Morris and Brown stepped up big in the fourth quarter to secure the lead and carry the Suns to a victory. Morris scored six of his eight points in the fourth on three thunderous dunks, as well as grabbing three of his four rebounds. Brown pitched in with six of his 10 points in the fourth quarter as well.
The offensive rebounding was a little bit of a factor in the first half...It's not because we're not boxing out, but we're boxing out way, way, way too far under the basket. We've got to create some space and some separation so we're not trying to box out directly under the basket.
I find this hard to believe, but evidently the same problem I have when coaching 7th and 8th graders still applies to professional basketball players. Let's hope the Suns get this fundamental error worked out quickly.
When Gentry was asked if he thought the current Suns team matched up better with a (young & athletic) team like Denver better than they did a year ago, Gentry responded:
Well I think we have more options. We have more options...as far as being able to put more athletic guys out there.
I think this is code for the Suns being a younger and faster team without Grant Hill and that other point guard the Suns had last year. B.D. (Before Dragic), the Suns relied almost exclusively on the pick-and-roll to create their offense, and the other players were mostly used when that option was well defended.
But now, the Suns are using a completely different offensive strategy with Dragic and Beasley as the main play-makers, but they still have the ability to run the pick and roll with Gortat and Scola, or use Scola as a distributor/scorer in the post as well. This has opened up many more options as Gentry refers to here...and the one-dimensional Suns of yesterday are now a thing of the past.
Beasley, when asked what's been different about his time in Phoenix so far:
The fact that they're telling me to shoot, and get mad when I don't shoot. So. I'm still adjusting a bit (to that).
Although many Suns' fans initially cringed when they first heard that Beasley was being encouraged to take more, not less shots in the Suns offense, it now appears that Gentry may be right. On a team without a true superstar, Beasley is being asked to fill in as that role...something he has never really been asked to do before. Ultimately it's too early to tell if this is the right plan of action, but if the Suns can get anything close to this type of result on a semi-consistent basis from the Beas...then he deserves to be the main focus of our offense.
On where his points will come from when his shots aren't falling from outside had this to say:
It never ends...I didn't shoot one free-throw today. So, I gotta get to the basket a lot. My goal is to shoot 3-4 free throws per quarter...So I got a long ways to go.
This is the one area of Beasley's game that was noticeably absent last night, and its nice to know that he also recognized it. Time will tell if Beasley will be able to be more effective near the basket, but it's hard to complain when the shots are falling like they were last night.
On what he sees his role in the offense as:
Everything...From a play-maker, to a rebounder, to a scorer.
Beasley seems to be embracing his role as the main focus of not only the offense, but the team. His effort on the glass last night only further accentuated his outstanding offensive display, and it's this type of all-around effort that could take him to that next level as a player.
Dragic was asked how he felt about getting a win against Denver and the preseason as a whole...He had this to say:
The good thing is we won the last game. (But) their best players didn't play a lot. Still, we didn't play very well on defense and they got too many offensive rebounds. We have to work on those things, but Wednesday is the first regular season game and I'm really excited.
Dragic is obviously just being modest here. The Nuggets did play Ty Lawson, Javale McGee, and Kenneth Faried over 20 minutes each last night. Of course, the Denver Nuggets were without Danillo Gallinari and Andre Iguodala, but then again, the Suns were missing Jermaine O'Neal and PJ Tucker...so yeah, we'll call that even.
When asked about how to defend dribble penetration better...He had this to say:
When they play pick and roll we defend that well, but when they pass the ball out we have to rotate, and when we rotate (and) they penetrate again, we have to stay in front of those guys...we have to improve those things.
The lack of consistent defense has been a carry over throughout nearly all of the preseason games. Fortunately, the starting five seems capable of outscoring many of their opponents even when they can't stop them. But this is a dangerous game to play against the more talented teams in the league, and this is an area you can expect the Suns to continue working on.
This was a good win for the Suns to give them a confidence boost in entering the regular season with a winning record. The Suns haven't had much success in the preseason in recent years, so maybe this is a sign of good things to come.
The Suns' starting unit was once again very effective and efficient...hopefully giving Suns' fans a glimpse of what they can expect to see this season. The bench, however, has been nothing if not in-consistent without a true go-to scorer. Hopefully Morris, Brown, or Wesley Johnson will emerge from the shadows to become that guy. If not, the Suns will need to find the hot hand on a nightly basis and go with whatever seems to be working best.