Archive for the ‘NBA’ Category

What a week it was for the Phoenix Suns. The Suns traded away the longtime face of the franchise to their most bitter rival. They signed a shooting guard who played in just nine games last season to a maximum 4-year/$58 million offer sheet. They signed another offensive-minded tweener forward to a 3-year/$18 million dollar contract. They then finished the week up by signing a former backup point guard to a 4-year/$34 million deal. Whoa… let’s start at the top.

Suns trade Steve Nash to Los Angeles Lakers for Draft Picks and Cash

I really have no issue with this deal. Steve Nash resurrected the Suns franchise eight years ago and to repay him by helping him go to the team of his choice was a classy move by the Suns organization. For all the naysayers out there who cannot believe the Suns would actually help the Lakers, who really cares? There is no chance in hell the Suns are going to compete at an elite level over the next three seasons, so why not take a strong deal and earn some goodwill in the process? Sadly though, the four draft picks acquired in the deal will likely look much better on paper than they ever will in a Suns uniform. The two first-round picks will likely be very late in the round, and one must simply look at the Suns’ recent draft record to see where my pessimism stems from.

Suns sign SG Eric Gordon to 4-year/$58 million offer sheet

I said it the second it happened and I’ll it again… there is NO WAY the New Orleans Hornets do not match this offer sheet and retain the services of Gordon. After trading away the bloated contracts of Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza, the Hornets only have $22m on the books for 2012-13 (not counting their recent draft picks). In no scenario could the Hornets ever justify not resigning the centerpiece of last year’s Chris Paul deal. People who say, ‘It might happen. Gordon doesn’t want to be there.’  Yeah, okay… You’re telling me the Hornets new ownership wants to start their reign by explaining to their fan base why they let Gordon go even they are $30m under the salary cap? No chance. The NBA/Hornets could never defend the Chris Paul trade if they only got nine games worth of Eric Gordon and a draft pick in return for Paul (yes, that is actual amount of games Gordon played last season). Worst case for the Hornets – they resign Gordon, show the league he is healthy, then trade him down the road when his value and their leverage is much greater. Not-so-bold prediction: I believe the Hornets will match Gordon’s deal before the ink even dries on the Suns’ offer sheet, once again leaving the Suns without a starting-caliber shooting guard.

Suns sign SF Michael Beasley to 3-year/$18 million deal

Just what the Suns needed – another offensive-minded tweener forward who plays a minimal amount of defense. Don’t they already have 4 or 5 of those? Channing Frye? Hakim Warrick? Josh Childress? Markieff Morris? Jared Dudley? Those are five guys who already don’t have a true position, so why not add another? I know Beasley will add some scoring punch to the Suns, but at some point or another, don’t the Suns have to attempt to play some semblance of defense? On the night of the NBA Draft, Suns’ General Manager Lance Blanks justified the questionable pick of Kendall Marshall by saying, “He’s in perfect alignment with what we want to be about as people and as an organization. He’s just a wonderful human being.” If you’re spending lottery picks on good people for the organization, then why spend $18m on a player who was asked by his former team to enter a rehabilitation center in 2009, and then was arrested for marijuana possession this past year? It seems to send mixed messages to a fan base when one justifies a lottery pick for the exact opposite reasons their newly signed free-agent was available in the first place. Do the Suns want good people with limited abilities or good players with limited character? At this stage, it seems the Suns will inconsistently settle for either one of those options.

Suns sign PG Goran Dragic to 4-year/$34 million deal

On February 24th, 2011, the Phoenix Suns traded Goran Dragic and a first-round pick to the Houston Rockets for Aaron Brooks. For the Suns, the result of this trade was nothing short of horrific. In return for dealing Dragic and the pick, the Suns got 25 appearances and 9.6 ppg out of Brooks. Then, as result of Brooks signing to play in China before the NBA lockout ended, the Suns endured a 2011-12 season with extremely mediocre back-up point guard play. As for Dragic, he flourished in a brief starting cameo this past season and drove up his market value well-beyond previous expectations. Had the Suns not made this trade, they would have kept a first-rounder, had a much better back-up PG situation this past season, and likely would have been able to retain Dragic at a much cheaper price. It baffles me that the Suns had to watch Dragic flourish in another uniform before they realized he was the ‘heir’ to Nash’s throne. What could they have possibly seen differently in a handful of games than they saw while watching him every single day for two and a half seasons?

Further complicating the point guard issue, by signing Dragic to a four-year deal, the Suns pretty much guaranteed they just spent a lottery pick on a player who won’t start for at least four seasons! Are you kidding me?!? You’re telling me there wasn’t one player left on the Suns’ draft board the team could envision starting over the next 4 seasons? I simply can’t believe that. Compounding one mistake with another is what happens when an organization has inconsistent goals and poor leadership. Why would fans ever believe the Suns will develop Marshall better than they did Dragic? Or will we also trade Marshall along with a first-round pick in 2 ½ years for a different backup point guard like we did Dragic? This is what happens when a team drafts for need rather than drafting the best player available. Newsflash Suns: You need upgrades at all positions! But instead of taking a high-potential guy, the Suns used a lottery pick on a back-up point guard they called ‘not very athletic’ but a ‘good person’. Great…

Summary

By July 11th, this whirlwind of moves will have left the Suns no closer to being a contender within the next 3-5 years. While they have added two late first-round draft picks, it should be remembered the Suns have squandered such commodities time after time in recent years. They will have also added a high-risk, high-reward tweener forward whose playing-style overlaps several of the over-paid players already on the roster. Furthermore, they will be handing the reigns of the offense to a point guard they were so sure was NOT the point guard of the future just 18 months ago that they included a first-round pick just to ship him off in return for 25 games of another back-up point guard. The Suns will still have no starting-caliber shooting guard. They will still play little defense. They will still have little toughness. And worst of all, they will still have the same inept front office and ownership making questionable decisions going forward. Maybe the organization will finally realize how fed up the fan base is when only 13,000 fans are showing up for games next season. Suns owner Robert Sarver already moved away from his infamous front-row, center-court seats amid this past season’s struggles, I can only imagine where he will hide next… That’s that.

I knew the Phoenix Suns were in trouble by the fourth pick. Almost every single ‘expert’ mock draft had the Cleveland Cavaliers taking Small Forward Harrison Barnes. So of course, the Cavaliers took Shooting Guard Dion Waiters. By pick #8, I knew the Suns were screwed. With the 8th pick, the Toronto Raptors surprised everyone by taking SG Terrence Ross – a player most ‘experts’ had landing somewhere in the 15-20 range. There seemed to be a common theme emerging… shooting guards were coveted.

Such development should come at no surprise to anyone who watched the recent NBA Finals. The series matched up two of the most-freakishly athletic teams in the league, and the role of the ‘big man’ was almost negligible. Much of the games consisted of each team having 4-wing players and a token ‘big man’ down low. There was no post-presence demanding the ball 20 times a game – a la Hakeem Olajuwon or Shaquille O’Neil. It was a series where the court was spread and the athleticism flourished.

You see, the NBA game has transformed. Recent the rule changes have benefited the quicker, more athletic players, so it’s no wonder why a team featuring Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and James Harden was in the Finals while a team with featuring Steve Nash, Jared Dudley, and Grant Hill was the 10th best team in their conference. In the modern NBA game, if you don’t have elite athletes on the wing, it’s simply tough to compete.

Back to the draft… When SG Austin Rivers predictably went to the New Orleans Hornets with the 10th pick, it left only one elite shooting guard remaining, and still two picks until the Suns drafted. After Portland took a token white guy, there was only one pick separating the Suns from a chance to draft the last elite shooting guard they desperately need – Jeremy Lamb. Then it happened. I don’t know why ever I expected it wouldn’t. I should have just looked at the track record of the Suns drafting under owner Robert Sarver – TERRIBLE. Like a scene out of a sad drama, the NBA Commissioner, David ‘Have you stopped beating your wife’ Stern, said, “With the 12th pick of the 2012 NBA Draft, the Houston Rockets select Jeremy Lamb from the University of Connecticut”. Dammit!

Before the draft, there were five shooting guards I would have been happy for the Suns to end up with. I wasn’t being greedy. I didn’t beg for a particular one. I just wanted any one of five! By our pick, the roof had fallen in. What were the chances that five of the first twelve picks taken would be shooting guards? And what were the chances, the one year the Suns were desperately looking to add one, they happened to have the thirteenth pick. Oh, the humanity!

As I sat there shaking my head, pondering how Suns fans would again be disappointed by yet another draft day letdown, I prayed hard the Suns wouldn’t panic and draft Point Guard Kendall Marshall.  I hoped in the months of preparing for the draft, the Suns had anticipated this worst-case scenario and had some sort of contingency plan. Boy, what was I thinking?

Like clockwork, with the 13th pick of the draft, the Phoenix Suns selected PG Kendall Marshall. I mean, why wouldn’t they? After all, this was the same Kendall Marshall many draft ‘experts’ said would become a solid-back up point guard in pre-draft coverage (just what we needed from this talented draft lottery, another non-difference making reserve). The same point guard everyone said wasn’t very athletic, but compensated for it with his great passing. Do you know what helps makes a player look like a great passer in college? Great talent around him… The University of North Carolina had four draft picks in the top-20 this year. They were the second most talented team in the nation. Of course Marshall’s assist numbers look good! All Marshall had to do was get outlet passes and push the ball up to his uber-talented wing players. Sorry, Kendall, you’re not going to have that luxury in Phoenix. You’re going to counted on to create, penetrate, and make shots – you know, things a lottery picked point guard must be able to do. Great athleticism would help with that. Marshall’s athleticism will not. Don’t believe me? Just ask Suns General Manager Lance Blanks…

Blanks said, “We didn’t get Kendall for his athleticism and Kendall knows that. We got him for his brain and his ability to make people better, who he is off the court for our locker room. He’s in perfect alignment with what we want to be about as people and as an organization. He’s just a wonderful human being.”

Holy shit. Really? That’s what you have to say about the Suns most-recent lottery pick? ‘We didn’t get him for his athleticism. He’s just a wonderful human being’. Hey Mr. Blanks, you have a whole roster of nice guys with limited athleticism and look where that got the Suns lately. The Suns are grasping at the edge of mediocrity, about to fall into the dark-ages of irrelevance.

Did the Suns front office simply stop watching basketball when the regular season ended? Did they not see the levels of athleticism needed to compete for a championship in the NBA?

Obviously not. From what I can tell, the Suns just drafted a poor-man’s version of the aging Steve Nash, but one who can’t shoot the ball. Great. When can I renew my season tickets?

On top of all this, there are now whispers the Suns may be pursuing soon-to-be 37-year old shooting guard Ray Allen, who is fresh off of ankle surgery. Yes, the same Ray Allen who used to be represented by former-agent and current Suns President of Basketball Operations, Lon Babby. Just what we need, another one of Lon Babby’s former clients… because that whole 5-year/$33.50 million contract Babby handed to another one of his former clients, Josh Childress, has worked out so great! Is this really happening to Suns fan?!?

To be a Suns fans these days is to live through a dramatic performance of Murphy’s Law. “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” The only thing the Suns added from this draft was an ‘unathletic’ point guard who didn’t score in double-digits during college. I’m pretty sure we could have found one of those on the free-agent market… just another great use of a lottery pick by ‘Your Phoenix Suns’. Robin Lopez, Earl Clark, Markieff Morris, Kendall Marshall. Four top-15 picks, ZERO difference makers. But at least with our first pick in 2010, we took a guy out of the basketball powerhouse Georgia Institute of Technology! (Yes, look it up)… Ladies and gentlemen, we are watching the Titanic of NBA franchises. Robert Sarver is our captain asleep at the wheel. It’s going to be a very ugly 3-5 years ahead. Godspeed to all. That’s that.

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