Home > Uncategorized > Lament of the Phoenix Part One…

Lament of the Phoenix Part One…

The Suns lost another road game last night. It was their sixth loss in their last eight games and it dropped their road record to 9-15. The loss means the Suns currently sit in seventh place, with Memphis half a game behind, and another three teams a single game out of that final playoff spot. Granted, the Suns are also just a game away from being in fourth place in the conference, such is the nature of the Western Cofnerence this year, but they’re moving in the wrong direction.

After the outlandish expectations that accompanied the Suns’ 14-3 start, it would appear that the playoffs are a rapidly fading dream. Worse, the prospect that the Suns will miss the playoffs, or at best be a first round patsy, and then lose Amare Stoudemire this summer is making the team antsy to move their mercurial forward.

We all know that the “seven seconds or less” era is dead. The Suns still play open, offensive basketball, only they don’t race up court the way that they used to, and the championship potential they had from 2004-2007 is gone, but… moving Stoudemire would be like the signing of “Hark! From The Tombs A Doleful Sound,” with only the eulogy (Steve Nash’s departure) left in the Suns’ funeral.

It’s popular to blame Suns owner Robert Sarver for the demise of the Suns and frankly, it’s also accurate. Sarver’s cheapness boggles my mind. I mean, why own a franchise, if you’re just going to let the most exciting team since the late eighties shrivel and die by selling draft picks and watching costs closer than Victoria Beckham watches calories.

Still, Sarver isn’t the only one to blame in this tragic demise. There’s also the men who make the actual basketball decisions. Sure, Sarver was strict in his demand to keep the payroll around 65 million, but that doesn’t excuse the signing of Marcus Banks, and it doesn’t excuse allowing Eddie House to leave after a season in which he averaged 9.8 points in only 17 minutes of action. Worst of all, it doesn’t excuse Brian Colangelo and his successor, Steve Kerr, from selling all of those draft picks.

Yes, the owner wanted to save money, but young players are cost effective and the job of the GM is to explain to an irrational owner why keeping Luol Deng, Rajon Rondo, and Rudy Fernandez made fiscal sense. For instance, in the summer that the Suns drafted Rondo and Sergio Rodriguez, they sold both, to Boston and Portland respectively, for approximately five million and then used those savings to sign Marcus Banks to an absurd 5 year 21.3 million contract. A year later, when he was playing a paltry ten minutes a game, they couldn’t get give Banks away and eventually used him as salary filler in the Shawn Marion-Shaq trade.

This is a full list of the draft picks that the Suns traded away during the last five seasons:

Luol Deng (7th), 2004 to the Bulls for a future draft pick (21st pick the following season).

Nate Robinson (21st), 2005 to the Knicks as a throw in of the Quentin Richardson – Kurt Thomas deal.

Marcin Gortat (57th), 2005 to the Magic for future considerations (or, in other words, nothing).

Rajon Rondo (21st), 2006 to the Celtics along with Brian Grant’s contract for cash considerations and Cleveland’s future 1st rounder.

Sergio Rodriguez (27th), 2006 to Portland for cash considerations.

Rudy Fernandez (24th), 2007 to Portland along with James Jones for… wait for it… cash considerations.

Serge Ibaka ((24th), 2008 to The Zombie Sonics for Kurt Thomas.

Unknown (?), 2010 to The Zombie Sonics for Kurt Thomas.

Now, those seven players aren’t winning you a championship (and the 2010 pick is probably not going to be John Wall), but Rondo’s a budding allstar, Deng’s a solid starter, Fernandez is a preeminent sixth man, and the others are solid to decent bench pieces. And, more importantly, each is an asset that could have been used during Phoenix’s protracted attempts to acquire Kevin Garnett.

Before we get too far, it should be made clear that many of those picks were the Suns’, because they’d previously traded a pick, so they couldn’t have had all of those guys, but with a few simple moves they could have done this:

Don’t trade Deng, well at least not for the Chicago pick. Not trading Deng would have meant the Suns wouldn’t have had the cap space to sign Quentin Richardson, which means they never trade Richardson and the Bulls’ pick to New York for Kurt Thomas (although I think Thomas was a worthy warrior, just not a 9 million a year warrior). Thus, they never have to trade two picks to the Seattle Zombie Sonics for taking Thomas off their payroll.

Now, after Deng’s rookie year, his stock was high. He looked like a superstar. After that year, if the Suns had committed to Joe Johnson, as they should have, they could have moved Deng to Atlanta for Boris Diaw and the Lakers’ pick, which Atlanta owned from a previous deal, they might have even been able to get more, but for the sake of argument we’ll just go with that deal. That pick became the 21st in the 2006 draft, which the Suns used on Rajon Rondo. Now, trading Rondo to Boston was perhaps the worst move the Suns made during this entire process, so we just aren’t going to do that.

Instead, because the Suns don’t trade Rondo to Boston, they wouldn’t have had the 24th pick in the 2007 draft, but they could have swapped their 29th choice for the 24th, a second rounder, and some other small piece (cash, future picks, whatever). Why would we do this? Because the 24th pick was Rudy Fernandez and the 29th was Alando Tucker. Just saying…

(This post was really frickin’ long, so I broke it in two…)

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