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 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.
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.
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.
Have you ever seen one of those stores with a banner out front that boasts "Everything on Sale!"? Often everything isn't really on sale, and in some instances they just got done raising prices, but the point of the advertisement is to draw in potential suckers consumers who might not otherwise be interested in purchasing their products. Who cares if it's junk, it's on sale!
In recent years there was no need for a sale. Nash, Shaq, Stoudemire, Marion and Hill jerseys flew off the rack at a rather brisk rate. The cast of athletes that will don the purple and orange this season aren't quite as star studded as that ensemble. In fact, the only Sun currently on the roster with an all-star appearance is Jermaine O'Neal, with 6. I doubt JO is going to move the needle that much. Going back as recently as 2009-10, the trio of Nash, Hill and Stoudemire combined for 19.
I asked a person (trying to protect their anonymity) I know that I would describe as a casual fan how many current players on the Suns he could name. I got two names in response - Dragic and Frye. Not even Dudley registered. The same person was able to name all five of the recently departed players from the preceding paragraph plus Barbosa.
Who is the face of the franchise?
Secondary to that, who are the fans going to develop a familiar bond with this year? Familiarity may breed contempt, but it also puts butts in the seats and sells jerseys. Is there somebody amidst the rabble that is destined to become a household name? Whose jersey do you want on your back?
Jump to see me stump for the players who might gain notoriety this year.
Assets: The best moniker on the team (The Dragon), a visage that makes women swoon, high upside, playing the point for a point guard centric franchise, I think he had a good game against the Spurs once
Liabilities: People can’t even figure out how to pronounce his name (drahg-ich vs. drahj-ik) - do you know?, 26 years old and only 36 NBA starts – there’s still no proof in Goran’s pudding
This could be Goran’s for the taking. Like I mentioned, they could have a less toothsome face to deal with. It appears that Dragic’s development has been stunted by limited playing time based on his early career situation. Through four years Dragic boasts paltry averages of 8.0 points and 3.3 assists per game. Last season may have been his coming out party. Over his last 26 games with the Rockets, Goran averaged 18.2 points and 8.0 assists per game. If the Suns get that Dragic, he has a great chance at being the man. But will he be the Dragon or revert to a hatchling?
Pros: Athletic hands, mad Twitter skillz, prototypical underdog, impressive elocution with the media
Cons: A ninth floor vertical, lack of athleticism and (let’s face it) elite talent, can the face of the franchise be best suited as a sixth man?
I would like Jared Dudley to be this guy. I really would. He’s an affable guy. He’s charismatic. He’s likeable. He’s just not that good. Despite increasing his scoring averages each of the last four seasons, his scoring per 36 minutes has remained fairly unchanged. Despite the obvious effort on defense, Omaha’s analysis delineated his deficiencies at that end of the court. Jared Dudley is a great teammate. He’s a great player to have on your team. But if he’s the face of the franchise, you’re pretty screwed.
Credits: Most proven talent on the team (under 30), in his prime (28 years old), the leadership role on this team could be his should he clutch it in his hands
Debits: The beak, tissue paper soft in the lane, ESPN NOT top 10 finishing technique, doesn’t provide the imposing, space eating element that is preferable in a center
This should be a prime year for Gortat. He has shown an increase in production since he came to the Suns, but there is rampant speculation as to what degree that should be accredited to Steve Nash. If he can dispel the doubts being raised by his critics and maintain or improve upon the level of play he displayed last year, eventually people will have to take notice. Sprinkling in a couple more savage dunks would also help.
Merits: Greatest raw talent (potential) of anyone on the roster, former No. 2 overall pick, has the ability to make the electrifying moves that bring crowds to their feet, can take over games
Demerits: Insert compulsory marijuana joke here, has failed to live up to his talent, appears at times to be giving the effort of a somnambulist
This is another great candidate to be the man. Or fail epically. Beasley has the sexy skill set that fans will gravitate towards if he can ever put it all together. He can be that guy who can drop 15 in a quarter. He can average over 20 points a game. Or he can continue to let his personal demons stymie his potential and never reach the zenith he is capable of.
Assets: Genius level IQ, law degree, former player agent, has Sarver interfering plenipotentiary control of this team
Liabilities: Talks like a cartoon character, entering final year of current contract, questionable track record
This entry is a little tongue in cheek, but depending upon how this works out, he stands a great chance to be the villain. Babby didn’t inherit a great situation. Some of that he may or may not have been culpable for, depending upon your leanings. Despite some obstacles along the way, this is pretty much his team now. If things go awry, he will be the fall guy. If things succeed enormously, one of the other four guys listed above will get the credit. What if the team is in the middle? Can a 35 win team stir enough excitement in the fanbase to garner an extension, or will a blanket of apathy cozily nestled over the team spell his doom?
So who's it gonna be Bright Siders? Who is most likely to make the ascension this season?