Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver has the Suns in good shape, now and in the future. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

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Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver has the Suns in good shape, now and in the future. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

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Several weeks ago, I put up a FanPost on this topic. My conclusion was that franchise players - the ones who win championships - are almost always acquired via the DRAFT.

I only looked at the NBA since free agency started in full bloom, which limits the analysis to the past 20 years. The last 20 championships have seen the following players lead their teams to more than one championship: Michael Jordan (6), Hakeem Olajuwon (2), Shaquille O'Neal (4), Tim Duncan (4) and Kobe Bryant (2 by himself).

Of those only Shaq was acquired via free agency. The rest were drafted and kept.

Single-ring winners include the Detroit Pistons (no franchise star) and the Boston Celtics (3 stars, no one franchise player).

That's it. Two. Two championships won without a multi-ring franchise player at the helm.

You could argue that the Miami Heat's win in 2006 makes it 3 single-title winners (Dwyane Wade over Shaq) because Shaq was no longer the man at that time. Yet many people argue that Shaq was more deserving of NBA MVP in the 2005 season than Steve Nash. If that's the case, Shaq was not yet on the decline. And given Wade's limited (more like laughable) success since that season as his team's primary leader, an argument that Wade was the franchise player loses even more steam. 

So we're still at 2. Two teams who won a championship without that one leading multi-championship player since 1991.

Pretty obvious that you need that one guy, and that one guy must be acquired via your draft pick.

But let's dig a little deeper.

Jordan, Olajuwon and Duncan were drafted by their team's own draft pick. O'Neal was signed as a free agent. Kobe was acquired via a draft-day trade with Charlotte. Boston and Detroit were cobbled together via trades and free agency.

And even then, Duncan was "won" via the lottery. San Antonio was bad the year before, but not worst in the NBA.

So, that brings us down to 8 of the last 20 championships won by a team whose leader was drafted by them as a result of their own prior-season horrors. Olajuwon and Jordan. Both were drafted in 1984, by the way.

Conversely, 12 of the last 20 championships were won by team who acquired their championships via luck (draft lottery), trade (Kobe, Rasheed Wallace, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen) or free agency (Billups and O'Neal).

So you don't need to completely tank your season to "earn" the #1 overall draft pick to get your multi-ring franchise player. There is NO NEED to completely rebuild. No need to sacrifice a single win in 2010-2011 or beyond.


Free Agency

Free agency seems to be a complete crap-shoot, but it can still work if you've got enough cap space and the right "draw". The Lakers had Hollywood. The HEAT, who just brought in LeBron James and Chris Bosh) had unique friendship from the Olympics. And South Beach.

You need gobs of cap space and great location, and a little luck (just ask New York and New Jersey, who also cleared tons of cap space to end up with nothing).



The Pistons and Celtics won a ring thanks in the most part to trade. The Pistons got Rasheed Wallace at the trade deadline, and the Celtics got Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. You could even make the case that the Lakers don't win the last 2 championships without Gasol, who was acquired via trade.

In all cases, the team had the right assets to make the deal (expiring contracts, cap space, young players, movable contracts).

The Suns have put themselves into a great position in this regard. No overpaid players (except Turkoglu), lots of depth, solid core of youth and veterans, and a $5.7 mil TPE.

Also, if Grant Hill and Jason Richardson expire next summer before the draft, the Suns will have $11 million of space under the cap at draft time. (trust that Grant will be re-signed, especially with Babby here, but that can be done using Bird Rights after the Suns spend the cap space)

OKC acquired the #11 overall draft pick this summer because they were willing to absorb a $5 million contract into their available cap space from a team desperate to shed payroll (New Orleans). In the past, they also acquired 2 #1s from the Suns to absorb Thomas' 8 mill. Those *could* have been high picks, but lucky for the Suns they weren't.

Utah Jazz acquired the #9 overall pick in this year's draft in a trade years ago (involving the Suns, no less).

Last year, Washington traded their #5 overall pick to Minnesota for a couple of warm bodies, in their ill-fated attempt to bring in veterans for a playoff push. Minny drafted Ricky Rubio, a pick that may yet pan out to be a great one (though he won't likely play in Minnesota).

Three years ago, the Celtics traded their #5 overall pick to Seattle for Ray Allen and a bad contract or two. 

Remember, Kobe was drafted #13 overall via a draft-day trade. So these high picks *could* turn out to be franchise players.


Luck (Draft Lottery)

Utah had that #9 pick for years. There was a chance they could have won the lottery this season. Though Wall wouldn't necessarily fit alongside Deron Williams, they could have traded down a spot or two for yet another asset, plus drafted Evan Turner or Derrick Favors, two positions they really needed to fill. Utah won 53 games this year, and still nearly won the lottery.

The Suns, for their part, *almost* got Lew Alcindor in the 60s.

More recently, they *almost* got a #6 draft pick (would have been used to take Joakim Noah) in the summer of 2007. They had Atlanta's top-3-protected pick. Unfortunately, Atlanta got lucky and kept it by lucking into the #3 pick (taking Al Horford). The Suns had won 62 games that year and *almost* got the guy they needed in Joakim Noah that *could* have propelled them to a ring or two.

Acquiring higher draft picks from iffy franchises is a great way to go.



The Suns BEST chances keep winning a lot of games in 2010-2011 AND acquiring that next great franchise player without losing a beat are.... 

(drum roll please)


Option #1:

Use that $11 million in cap space after JRich and Hill expire in June to acquire a top-15 pick in the draft while absorbing someone's bad contract, and use it to hit on that next great player. It could be as high as #5 (as shown above), but not likely to be top-3, so you have to get real lucky.

Option #2:

Use J-Rich 2 months earlier for a talented PF on a long contract plus a high future #1. The key here is the ability to use J-Richs $14 mil to take someone else's cap-killer (who can help the Suns maintain their current season) for the big key: potentially really high future draft pick.

Option #3:

The free agency route. A crap shoot. Buuuuuuuttt, next summer there's a special situation.

Atlanta has high-priced Josh Smith and soon-to-be high-priced Al Horford. Both *should* play the same position (PF), and the 2 together are not winning any championships because their games don't mesh perfectly on the court. One of them ultimately has to go.

Suns could use that 11 million next summer to front-load an offer for Atlanta PF/C Al Horford. It's one or the other for Atlanta, and the Suns should be the recipients. If $11 mil isn't high enough as a starting offer, then the Suns can offer a sign-n-trade. Returning Altanta a future draft pick might be worth it to acquire Horford.

This guy is the best available next year. He's a 24-yr old 20/10 waiting to happen, but in Atlanta he's being stifled as their starting C so he's not hitting his ceiling. The Suns would be fortunate to get him before he really explodes. He could be a Duncan type, if played in the right system.

Alternately, if the Hawks pay a bundle (max) to keep Horford, the consolation prize is Josh Smith and that's pretty damn good too. That one could be done at the trade deadline, and could possibly be enough of a missing link to put the Suns over the top. In fact, absorbing Smith's big long-term deal for J-Rich's expiring one might also net a future #1 draft pick.

Fact is, both guys are underperforming in Atlanta. Suns can pounce, and they've got the right pieces to do it.

And all three options (acquiring a high draft pick via trade/cap space, or Horford/Smith next summer) could be executed without sacrificing a single win this season or next.

No need to rebuild. The future is out there. Suns just need to grab onto it.

After a week in which the Suns signed second-round banger Gani Lawal and summer league sensation Matt Janning, it’s easy to forget about second-round pick Dwayne Collins. Collins, selected No....

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After a week in which the Suns signed second-round banger Gani Lawal and summer league sensation Matt Janning, it’s easy to forget about second-round pick Dwayne Collins. Collins, selected No....

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]
With the regular season schedule set to be released on Aug. 10, the Phoenix Suns announced their 2010 preseason schedule Friday afternoon via press release. The eight-game slate features the...

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Howdy all…

For the subject of today’s post I chose one at will be important for us Suns fanatics over the coming season…What do we need from Robin Lopez? While the departure of Amare Stoudemire and his 23 & 9 was partly compensated by Turkoglu, Warrick, and copious quantities of hope, we will need Fropez/RoLo to step it up a tad this year....So what qualifies stepping up? Well, besides staying healthy and buying the right conditioner/detangler for his ‘fro, I think quantifying the required contributions as raw statistics gets a little dicey. Of course that won’t stop me from giving it the old college try. In my infinite Sun God-like wisdom, I have captured this with just slightly more accuracy than guessing.


REBOUNDING– Robin averaged 4.9 rebounds per game last year. At face value, this is pretty sucky, but when you consider that Robin averaged almost 7 boards a game (amidst back problems and limited time on the court) once he was inserted into the starting line-up, it is a little more comforting. The problem arises that our defacto PF for this year, Hedo Turkoglu averages about 4 rebounds a game less than our departing Power Forward. When coupled with the thought that Hakim Warrick, the back-up PF, rebounds just slightly better, it raises the acid level in my stomach, and causes me to take a 3 hour Hooter’s lunch on company time…

However, it’s never as bad as it looks like (Or so I tell my boss whenever he asks why I never get anything done...). The Suns wings rebound better than virtually every other team’s wings,  plus Hedo can't possibly rebound any worse than last year...he has no choice but to improve.  This translates into I am actually anticipating is that we need Robin to give us a solid 8.5 to 9.0 rebounds a game. We all know Robin spent a lot of time off the court due to match-ups, fouls, and injury last year. This year, if he can stay healthy and away from foul trouble, there is no reason he can’t play 25-30 minutes a game and bring in that number of boards.

SCORING – Robin averaged 8.2 point per game last year. At face value, this is also nothing to write home about, but when you consider that Robin averaged almost 12 ppg as a starter, it becomes a lot more palatable. Personally, I feel that this is the area we don’t need a whole lot of improvement from Robin this year. The Suns are going to score some points regardless. Looking at their personnel and their system, I would be very surprised if we don’t score at least 109 ppg as a team and lead the league in scoring…again.

I also expect Nash’s scoring average to go up as he will be freed up to take more shots with Hedo on the court. JRich becomes more of an offensive option (I fully expect a 20+ ppg season from JRich) and we have a few guys on the bench that can fill it up in Frye, Hakim, Childress, & Goran. I say we just need Robin to give us 14-15 ppg…totally within the realm of possibility as he gains greater significance in the offense without STAT. If I am wrong about this, sue me, laugh, or talk about me, your choice….

DEFENSE – This is an area that I think Robin is already fairly decent at. He plays good post defense, maintains his position, and doesn’t go for a lot a fakes. He also is a pretty good shot-blocker. One area I think he can improve is on learning not to foul his defender as his defender is making the move to the basket. Personally, I feel this is just a matter of learning how to playing the NBA and making adjustments to the game. This will come in time and I fully expect Robin to be much better in this regards this year. I also expect Robin to increase his shot-blocking to about 2.0 blocks per game with a full season of starting and getting the minutes he needs.  Of course I expect to win the lottery every year, so I just may be full of crap…you never know…

INTANGIBLES – Well, what can I say? Our boy Lopez here can be an animated individual...All this can be readily exemplified from the breaking of a glass door, assorted scowls and snarls, terse interviews, all the way to some well placed elbows on opponents. Personally, I love it!!! Every team needs one or two guys that can set the intensity level and tone. Robin embraces this role as “our enforcer”…a guy that can lay the wood on someone that drives the lane with abandon, or drop a timely elbow on an opposing player that needs some “love…” Personally, I think he just needs to keep doing what he does. His intensity level is exactly what we need. He will get smarter and understand how and when to pick his spots as this next season progress...

All in all, I think if he gets the minutes by staying on the court and being healthy, there is no way he does not give the Suns what they need next year…But hey, don’t believe me…tell us what you think he needs to give the Suns next year…!


What does Robin Lopez need to give the Suns for 2010/2011...?

  993 votes | Results

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