While I’m a Pistons man, my best friend from college is a Phoenix Suns guy. I eventually adopted them as a second team because they are in the West and rarely play the Pistons and Steve Nash is really fun to watch. Honestly, everyone should love the Suns for Nash alone; I hate to generalize, but if you don’t like Nash then you are a soulless machine. And so the news this offseason has made me sad, because the Suns are destroying themselves. Here’s the rundown:
Suns offer Eric Gordon the max: I know there are a good number of people who think that Gordon is either a star or a star waiting to happen. So far though, I don’t think that’s true. Wins Produced says he’s been a little above average at best and Win Shares agrees. PER has him more in the star range the last two years, but we all know that PER rewards shooting a lot, and Gordon certainly does that. On the other hand, he doesn’t rebound enough and his turnovers have been increasing along with his assists. His true shooting percentage has dropped each season. Interestingly, RAPM has a different view; it sees Gordon as a pretty solid player on the rise. However, it has his defense as a negative, and (perhaps) RAPM’s best contribution is illuminating players’ defensive ability. On the whole, I haven’t seen too much that makes me think Gordon is a star, or will become one, as opposed to another shoot-first guard. I’m not against giving him a shot, but offering him the max seems like too much. On the other hand, word is that the Hornets will match the offer (he’s only a restricted free agent), so the Suns might get off the hook here.
Suns sign Michael Beasley: It turns out that wilQ covered Beasley better than I could. But just to put some summary numbers out there: Beasley’s best season according to WP is .08 WP48, which is below average. He’s never been above-average according to RAPM either. Win Shares agrees, and even PER says that he’s gotten worse every year (although he started out above average by that view). Maybe Beasley can turn it around, but even if he does, how much of a contribution can he make? A career year for him would mean playing average.
Suns sign Goran Dragic: I don’t mind this move. The Suns just moved Steve Nash (which I’ll get to in a second), so they need a point guard because no one is giving Sebastian Telfair a start at this point. They also probably don’t want to hand things over to Kendall Marshall as a rookie if they can help it. Goran had been in Phoenix before, so he has some familiarity with their players and system. While he wasn’t a good player in his first few years, he was better in Houston according to WP, Win Shares, and PER. RAPM, though, has him closer to average. On the whole I think this is a solid move, although I could have also seen an argument for getting Andre Miller for fewer years and cash to teach Marshall the ropes (if Miller was on-board with that plan). If Goran stays at his Houston-level of productivity, I think this will end up being fine.
Suns sign and trade Steve Nash: I’m not going to lie, the part of this I hate the most is that Nash is going to the Lakers. Even if he and Kobe are a year older and they’ll have to learn how to play well together, the Lakers will be better after this move. I can’t stay angry at Nash. Just for the record, as a 37 year old Nash put up a .26 WP48, a 5 RAPM (and his defense is apparently improving with age), a .144 WS48, and a 20.3 PER. In short, he’s still an amazing player even though it’s been 7 years since he won the MVP. But I can be angry at the Suns. Yes, it was nice to let him go. But they should have gotten something back, right? They got four draft picks from the Lakers, first and second rounders next year, a second rounder in 2014, and a first rounder in 2015. What are those going to be worth? They’re the Lakers’ picks, so next to nothing. The Lakers haven’t picked any lower than 10th in seven years (when they took Bynum), and then you have to go back to 1994 to find the last time they picked that low. In that whole time span they only have one other pick in the teens, and it was 19. The second round picks are essentially garbage, and the Suns are unlikely to get anything of worth late in the first round either. Basically, the Lakers signed Nash and gave him to the Lakers.
The Suns used to be a great team. They never broke through to the championship, but they were a contender, extremely entertaining, and certainly capable of winning a title. Last season, depending on what metric you like, the Suns only had four or five above-average players: Gortat, Nash, Dudley, maybe Childress, maybe Frye, maybe Lopez. Now they’ve traded away their best player for nothing, and are bringing in a below-average player, a maybe above-average player coming off injury, and another maybe above-average player (if Dragic has figured it out). Dudley plays the same position that they’ll probably stick Beasley, which is a bad thing because Beasley will take his minutes. If they slide Dudley to shooting guard, he bumps into Gordon. The Suns needed more big men but they went small. They were an average team last year and I don’t know that they got better, even if they aren’t dramatically worse.
I hope this all works out well for the Suns; maybe Dragic and Gordon become a top backcourt duo. But I’m not optimistic, and I’m particularly sad that Nash is a Laker for free. Maybe LA will be foolish enough to send Gasol away for nothing?