The Phoenix Suns started positioning themselves as major players in the trade, draft and free agent markets back before the 2013-14 season began. They were scarfing up draft picks like Oliver Miller used to scarf up…okay nevermind that. Point being, the Suns intended on making an impact. Then something strange happened — they started winning. Suddenly the they traded in their dreams of landing a big name with their dreams of making a playoff run.
So did they make the right play? Was staying pat the best thing for the team? As always, the answer is complicated. Let’s take a look at a couple specific areas that didn’t get addressed.
DEFENSIVE REBOUNDER/RIM PROTECTOR
To be fair, the NBA as a whole aren’t exactly crawling with these guys. They’re increasingly rare and teams know it. Because of that, the price was going to be much too steep for the Suns. They can look at their team right now and feel like they can get by without one. I’d disagree with that, as the playoffs are a whole different animal and the Suns inability to clean the defensive glass is going to haunt them.
Still, even if the Wolves were willing to part with Kevin Love (defensive rebounding extraordinaire), it would have gutted the Suns future. No offense to Love or the Wolves, but he hasn’t exactly shown that LeBron James carry-my-team gene just yet.
MORE PERIMETER DEFENDERS
One of the biggest problems the Suns have had since Eric Bledsoe has been out has been their perimeter defense. Don’t get me wrong — Goran Dragic, Gerald Green and Ish Smith have been very good offensively — but they’re not solid perimeter defenders. Coach Jeff Hornacek has had to employ a swarming scheme to help makeup for the lack of perimeter defense (which could very well be leading to the defensive rebounding issue).
Evan Turner was out there for the taking and could have been had on the cheap. I’m surprised the Suns didn’t make a stronger play for him but I can understand the idea that breaking up chemistry would have been counterproductive. After all, it’s the bench that’s been so good and that bench is made up of guys who’d have to give up minutes. Chalk this one up to “why mess with a good thing.”
WHY NOT TRADE EMEKA OKAFOR’S CONTRACT?
This is one that really has me scratching my head, unless there’s some belief that Okafor will be good to practice sooner rather than later. If they feel like they can get some productivity out of Okafor, then I understand. He has been a very good rebounder throughout his career, averaging 9.9 per game and 11.3 per-36 minutes. In fact, 2012-13 was his finest rebounding season, averaging 12.1 per-36 minutes.
It looks extremely unlikely, but if they were able to get him back once the playoffs rolled around, that would be a big help. Of course, the latest we heard is that he’s still expected to be out for the season, so let’s not get our hopes up. Still think the Suns could have snuck in and acquired more assets, though. At this point he may never put on a Suns uniform and he’ll walk this offseason.
THERE IS LIGHT
At the end of the tunnel, there is some light. Don’t forget that the Suns have been playing without their best perimeter defender and arguably their best player. Getting Bledsoe back will be just like snagging up a big name in a trade, except it won’t cost the Suns anything.
Dragic has made a lot of people forget about Bledsoe, but he was averaging 18 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.5 steals when he got injured. As long as he’s able to come back healthy, he’ll be strong and ready to go big minutes in the playoffs. Bledsoe adds yet another layer to the offense, as a guy who can slash to the lane and create open shots for his teammates.
So, while the Suns stayed pat, we shouldn’t be too disappointed. We thought they’d be horrible and they’re 33-21 and in the thick of the playoff race. Maybe staying pat was the best thing to do as well.