One of the few bright spots in the Phoenix Suns 2012-13 season was the emergence of P.J. Tucker as a wing defender and opportunistic offensive player. Now, he will return for the 2013-14 season as one of the few steady, predictable players on what promises to be a very young squad.
While other veterans leave, the Suns have decided to keep both free agents Shannon Brown and P.J. Tucker from last year's squad on the wing.
Each night, Tucker would take on the opponent's best offensive threat, no matter how tall or short. He guarded point guards through small forwards. He was not always effective (no one else on the Suns was either), but he was always willing to body up them up, get in their back pocket and try to wear them down by the end of the game. They knew who Tucker was.
Offensively, Tucker was often offensive. He can handle the ball and drive to the hoop, though he can't shoot and he can't really elevate over a defender. But he scores opportunistically - on put-backs, fast breaks and the occasional three pointer from the corner. But by the end of the season, opponents were regularly ignoring Tucker on offense and playing the Suns' other four guys with five defenders, making life very tough on Dragic.
Still, Tucker made up for all that with hustle and commitment.
After Lance Blanks' team discovered and signed him, he became a Dan Majerle favorite during summer league. You might remember my article on him last year predicting his fan-favoritism.
Once the season began, Tucker went from 12th man to fan favorite to starter in a matter of months.
P.J. Tucker is definitely one of a kind, but you can always count on his best effort. He has been hanging out at the Suns arena (along with Shannon Brown and the three Ms) and has already committed to the Suns summer league squad, making him an early favorite of new coach Jeff Hornacek as well.
All hail the return of P.J. Tucker!
Either way, the Suns can't see this trade as anything but a win. For the record, the trade cannot be finalized until the new league year begins on July 11.
Eric Bledsoe has pushed for starting time on a contender, and has only been held back by transcendent superstar Chris Paul. Some will point to his deficiencies - dishing, turnovers, weak shot - as big red flags on Bledsoe's future as a starter in the NBA. But in more NBA circles, Bledsoe is seen as one of the NBA's next stars once he gets the minutes.
The 23-year old PG Bledsoe has been one of the most sought-after young players in the league for the past two seasons, and now the Suns have him for the small price of Jared Dudley (who fits better on a winner) and a second round draft pick. Frankly, this was more than I thought Dudley was worth, so big kudos to the Suns for that.
How does this impact the Suns offseason plans?
By taking on Caron Butler's $8 million (expiring) and Bledsoe's $2.65 million in exchange for Dudley's $4.25 million, the Suns are now capped out.
The Suns will now only have access to a $2.5 million/year "room" exception, plus the ability to sign any number of minimum-salary guys. With a PG and PF heavy roster, the Suns still have a lot of work to do just to take the court in October. Expect the Suns' next deals to look a lot like this one: trading veteran assets for young talent or picks.
Extra bonus: the Suns have more than $19 million in expiring contracts on three players alone (Butler, Gortat, Brown).
Smart money says that Dragic and Bledsoe share the guard duties as a two-headed, lightning quick, playmaking, highlight reel monster. Dragic spoke openly last year of needing another dangerous playmaking offensive threat in the lineup with him, and now he's got one in Bledsoe and another in Goodwin.
If Ryan McDonough has any predictability to him, it appears to be an affiinity for super-athletic combo guards who play superfast and hard on defense, but can't shoot it very well. First Rondo and Bradley in Boston. Now Goodwin and Bledsoe in Phoenix.
This bodes well for Goran Dragic, but not for Kendall Marshall. And Diante Garrett will soon be looking for another job.
Unless the Suns plan to trade away Goran Dragic just to pay someone else twice the money to produce many of the same results in fewer games, I don't see how the Suns waste a lot of assets on injury-plagued Eric Gordon.
While the Hornets/Pelicans are trying to bring Tyreke Evans onto their team after acquiring Jrue Holiday, it appears that Eric Gordon's days in New Orleans are numbered. Yet one of those potential destinations might have just disappeared.
Gordon's mini-max contract would demand playing time. The 6'3" Gordon shoots it well and is a clear 20-point scorer in the league, yet he's no bigger than Bledsoe or Dragic and much more often injured. There just wouldn't be enough minutes for all three of Dragic, Gordon and Bledsoe.
And frankly, I'd rather have Dragic/Bledsoe for $10 million total than Gordon for his $14 million all by himself.
Even if the Suns wanted to, acquiring Gordon would be tough now as well. Now at the cap, the Suns would have to divest themselves of $14 million in the trade just to make it happen. The Suns could conceivably do that, but why would the Suns waste all those assets on Gordon? And there's no way the Pelicans would take expirings without also demanding draft picks. No thanks.
Thin rumors like these are ones that, luckily, make you laugh after they are proven false or the team makes other moves to preclude the action. Monta Ellis has no future with this Suns team in terms of fit or salary, and J.R. Smith is going to want more than $2.5 million for his services.
Unless the Suns can trade Gortat for a 2014 #1 pick from Portland, I don't see what assets the Suns would want from Portland that playoff-hopeful Portland would want to give up.
With Bledsoe and Goodwin added to Dragic, there's no need for another shoot-first combo guard like C.J. McCollum in Phoenix. Of the other kids on their roster, Myers Leonard is not as good as Alex Len, and Damian Lillard ain't going nowhere.
As my morning article proves, I have no clue what's going to happen when it happens. But it makes me happy that the Suns did the right thing! They got a great future (and current) asset for Dudley, and didn't break the bank on signing a guy off the street. That's a huge win.
What's next though?
The Suns clearly need some shooting from the perimeter. With the trade of Dudley, Caron Butler and Channing Frye are the only good outside shooters and that's iffy. It could very well be that the Suns trade Dragic, which opens up minutes for Gordon, which makes Gortat/Butler trade for Gordon make sense. It could be that McDonough still can't get enough of combo guards, and gets McCollum anyway. Whatever is next, it promises to be good.
Let me try this power out...
Does that work, BSotS fans?