Nobody saw a big trade coming less than a week before the 2013-14 NBA season started, but the Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards (Polish) hammered one out yesterday. The Suns sent starting center Marcin Gortat, Shannon Brown, Kendall Marshall and Malcolm Lee to Washington in exchange for Emeka Okafor and a top-12 protected 2014 draft pick. Because there are so many components to this deal and two sides to every trade, here’s a quick rundown of this impressive move from every angle you could possibly want.
Ryan “DA GOD” McDonough:
Ryan McDonough is a wizard. Actually, that’s not doing him justice, since he just made this tremendous trade with the Washington Wizards. He’s a master of wizards. Call him Ryan McDumbledore. Maybe I’m gushing a tad much about a general manager who just found a way to make the Phoenix Suns even worse for the 2013-14 season, but if McDonough makes one more brilliant move this season you might see the brains of every Suns fan spontaneously combust in unison.
On paper, trading Gortat, Brown, Marshall and Lee for Okafor and a draft pick seems a bit one-sided. Gortat will bolster Washington’s frontcourt and immediately contribute to a team that is all but bound for the playoffs now. I’m a bit surprised the Wizards have already declared they’ll waive Brown, along with Marshall and Lee, since Brown could provide the helpful bench production this team needs, but Brown’s streaky scoring might have something to do with that. From the Suns’ perspective though, not a single one of those losses is devastating compared to another 2014 draft pick, whether it’s top-12 protected or not.
The 2014 draft class isn’t just top-heavy because of Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker; it’s loaded and deep, too. Nabbing another first-rounder and Emeka Okafor (a solid post player who could be turned into trade bait if he plays this season) for Gortat (a guy who complained about being in Phoenix all last season) is a steal in my book. Ryan McDonough, you impressive bastard, you.
I love what McDonough has done this offseason not because Luis Scola, Jared Dudley, Marcin Gortat and Shannon Brown were untalented or because they couldn’t contribute to the team. If anything, Gortat was the Suns’ second-best player last season, with Scola and Dudley not too far behind. Hell, even Shannon Brown lit it up for a few games in Phoenix. But the true genius lies in the fact that if you look hard at those names, you’ll notice that none of them were really essential to Phoenix’s much-needed rebuilding process.
Marcin Gortat can function as a serviceable starting center for a playoff team. Not a playoff contender, mind you, but he undoubtedly makes the Wizards better. Luis Scola isn’t a starting-caliber power forward anymore, but he will bolster the weakest aspect of the Indiana Pacers — their bench. Likewise, Shannon Brown shouldn’t be starting for any team that fancies itself a playoff team, but he can still provide bench scoring for some team out there. As for Kendall Marshall and Malcolm Lee, we won’t really spend any time on them because they’re not really important to Washington OR Phoenix (didn’t I tell you early in the week it was time to admit he was a bust and say goodbye to Marshall?).
But as much as Gortat, Scola and Dudley will all have resurgent years with lesser roles for playoff teams, that’s the exact reason why trading them away was so brilliant. McDonough not only recognized the needs of playoff teams like the Wizards, Clippers and Pacers, but he fully embraced the fact that none of these guys are essential to the Suns’ rebuilding process. Dudley and Brown are about as good as they’re going to get, Scola’s prime stayed in Houston and everyone realized Gortat wasn’t as good as we thought after a certain Suns point guard left for Los Angeles and we could all see the Steve Nash effect in action. Amar’e Stoudemire says welcome to the club.
Still have doubts that the Suns should have kept any of those players? Consider these facts:
- In 2010-11, Luis Scola averaged 18.3 points and 8.2 rebounds with the Rockets, compared to his 12.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game in one season with the Suns. He’s also 33 years old.
- Jared Dudley is 28 years old and never started in more than 60 games in a season in Phoenix.
- Shannon Brown is 27 years old and has never averaged more than 11.0 points or 1.8 assists per game in a season.
- Marcin Gortat’s production dropped from 15.4 points and 10.0 rebounds per game in his last season with Steve Nash to 11.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game with Goran Dragic, a perfectly serviceable starting point guard. The point is, descending from a Hall-of-Fame point guard to a top-15 point guard shouldn’t alter somebody’s production that drastically. Also, Gortat is 29 years old.
With so much youth on their side now, the Suns didn’t need any of these pieces. Kendall Marshall is the only one with any youth on his side, but it’s high time the Suns treated him like the draft bust grenade he was and let someone else dive on him. Speaking of the Wizards …
They’re making the playoffs:
The last three spots in the East (following Miami, Chicago, Indiana, Brooklyn and New York) are pretty much a crap shoot. The Wizards, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors could all conceivably make the playoffs. But the Wizards just upped the likelihood of making the postseason with this move. John Wall is a terrific passer and after returning from injuries dazzled anyone bold enough to watch a Wizards game last season.
Adding Gortat to the fold could help the Polish Hammer’s numbers and make the Wizards a better shot to make the postseason. Gortat is a slight upgrade over Okafor and he’s healthy to start the season. Throw in an improving Bradley Beal and this Wizards team is a good bet to grab one of those last three playoff spots. Again, credit is due to McDonough for recognizing a trade that would make both teams better and capitalizing on it. But more importantly …
We see you, Philly:
Less than a week ago, I wrote that Sam Hinkie and the Philadelphia 76ers raised the stakes for Tankapalooza 2014 with the news that Nerlens Noel would probably miss the season. I made lame David Banner jokes, I expressed remorse that Tankadelphia would likely win the No. 1 pick and I even went as far as saying Hinkie was the Eric Cartman to McDonough’s Scott Tenorman. But apparently I wasn’t giving McDonough enough credit, since he effectively moved the Suns out of checkmate in the Riggins For Wiggins chess match.
Don’t get me wrong, the 76ers are so terrible they’re still the hands down favorites to win this suckfest. The Goran Dragic-Eric Bledsoe backcourt in Phoenix is still 20 times better than anything Philly has going on. But this trade means Alex Len will be the Suns’ starting center and he’s been completely underwhelming in the preseason so far, averaging 2.8 points, 4.6 rebounds in 15.4 minutes per game while shooting a paltry 37.5 percent from the floor.
McDonough made things a little easier as far as narrowing down the roster, but a lot of the talent is gone. McDonough has been more heartless in gutting this Suns roster than George R.R. Martin is with the Stark family in Game Of Thrones. But that’s the point of 2013-14 season for the Phoenix Suns. Out-tanking Philly and any other competitor is the ultimate goal. With as many as four(!) first round draft picks in the loaded 2014 NBA Draft, the Suns will be in a good place. They just have to be in a terrible place for the next eight months.