Phoenix Suns: Worst Trades of the Last Decade
Although the team was able to stay extremely competitive after signing eventual two-time MVP Steve Nash and sharpshooting forward Quentin Richardson in the same offseason, creating the "run and gun Suns" that the fans know and love, they made a fair amount of pathetically bad trades, crippling the team's chances at winning long term.
Whether it was in an attempt to change the team's identity or trading draft picks that really could have helped the team in the long run, while gaining nothing in return, the Suns have been one of the worst franchises at helping their team through trades.
It's time to delve into the worst Suns trades of the past 10 years and the ramifications that those moves had upon the team.
2004: The Deng Dilemma
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With the seventh overall pick in the 2004 NBA draft, the Phoenix Suns selected Luol Deng out of Duke University. However, they then traded him on draft day to the Chicago Bulls for a future first-round pick and the rights to Jackson Vroman.
Vroman lasted just two seasons in the NBA and only 11 games with the Suns before he was traded along with Casey Jacobsen and Maciej Lampe to the New Orleans Hornets in exchange for guard Jim Jackson. Vroman had career averages of just 3.3 points and three rebounds per game during his two NBA seasons.
But wait, the Suns didn't just trade Deng for Vroman, they also acquired a future first-rounder!
Correct, but that future first-rounder ended up being the 21st overall pick in the 2005 draft. So essentially the Suns traded Deng (the seventh overall pick) for a pick three times lower down in the next year's draft.
The Suns, however, were able to replace Deng by overpaying Quentin Richardson to play small forward, who had arguably his best statistical season in the Mike D'Antoni run offense. "Q" also beat Dan Majerle's Suns record of most three-pointers made in a single season.
Nevertheless, having a forward in Deng for cheaper money than it cost to add Richardson probably would have been better for the Suns in the long run.
I wouldn't want to trade the Suns' epic run-and-gun season for anything, it was far and away the most fun I've had watching basketball in my entire life, but trading Deng for nothing in return still has me shaking my head.
Who did the Suns take with the 21st overall pick in 2005 you ask? Sadly, that brings me to the next trade on the list...
2005: Goodbye to the Run and Gun Suns
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With the 21st overall selection in the 2005 draft acquired in the Luol Deng trade, the Suns drafted eventual slam dunk champion Nate Robinson.
Despite selecting the spark-plug guard, the Suns stuck with their tradition of trading their picks on draft day, shipping Robinson and Quentin Richardson to the New York Knicks for Kurt Thomas and the rights to Dijon Thompson.
After the Suns' lack of defense was exploited in the playoffs the season before, they felt it necessary to get away from what they do best and trade two players who fit perfectly in D'Antoni's system for a defensive-minded center in Thomas.
Thompson—the other player acquired in this depressing trade—had a promising college career at UCLA, but was never able to gain traction as a reliable NBA talent.
Suns fans can only wonder what might have been had the team held on to Robinson and Richardson and continued with an aggressively offensive run-and-gun style.
2005: Cash Considerations?
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In addition to the Suns' 2005 draft day trade of Nate Robinson and Quentin Richardson for Kurt Thomas, they also traded 57th overall pick Marcin Gortat to the Orlando Magic for cash considerations.
Cash considerations? Come on guys. Gortat was exactly what the Suns needed. A 7' center who, though raw early on in his career, could intimidate players from driving to the basket and block shots.
Had Gortat played alongside lackluster defensive player/offensive superstar Amar'e Stoudemire, I think the team would have been pleased with the results.
So to summarize, instead of having two solid prospects at two different positions (Robinson at guard and Gortat at center), along with Richardson who had his best statistical season with the Suns a year earlier, they decided to trade all three players.
Not only did Suns management trade all three players, but the trades yielded a return of Thomas, NBA-dud Dijon Thompson and cash. What a mess.
So again, just to recap, instead of adding Gortat and Robinson while also keeping Richardson, the Suns received nothing but Kurt Thomas and some cash? Ouch.
2006: Celtics Swipe a Superstar
In 2006, the Boston Celtics made one of the greatest trades in NBA history.
Not only did the Celts acquire the Suns' 21st overall pick Rajon Rondo, but they also got forward Brian Grant and cash considerations in exchange for a future first-rounder.
This trade still makes me physically sick to my stomach. Not only were the Suns naive enough to trade Rondo to the Celtics, but they essentially paid them to take the future superstar off their hands by adding cash considerations to the deal. No words can describe just how upset I am more than five years later.
Rondo is now an NBA champion, two-time All-Star and has twice been selected to the NBA All-Defensive first team.
Hold on now. This was a terrible trade, but the Suns did acquire a future first-rounder!
Oh no, not again...
2007: Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!
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With the 24th overall pick in the 2007 draft acquired in the sickening Rajon Rondo trade, the Suns drafted three-point sharpshooter Rudy Fernandez.
However, the Suns yet again pulled off a draft-day trade sending Fernandez to the Portland Trail Blazers for cash considerations.
With a point guard like Steve Nash on the roster, who relishes driving to the basket and kicking the basketball out to great shooters for three points, it's hard to comprehend the team's thought process on this one.
Fernandez would have fit like a glove in the Suns' system, but another draft-day trade sent him packing before he could even play a single game alongside Nash and Co.
2007: Even More Lunacy
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Quietly, one of the worst trades on the list: in 2007 the Suns traded Kurt Thomas and two first-round picks to the Seattle Supersonics (now the Oklahoma City Thunder) for a second-rounder.
I had to double take as well. I know Thomas had a contract that wouldn't be easy to trade, but trading him to the Sonics along with not just one but two first-round draft picks. Not only that, but all they got in exchange was a useless second-round pick?
Was this a test? Were the fans supposed to riot in protest?
The two future first-rounders the now Oklahoma City Thunder acquired were for the 2008 and 2010 NBA drafts.
In 2010, the Thunder used the pick acquired from the Suns to draft Quincy Pondexter 26th overall. No big loss there, right?
Until you get to who the Zombie Sonics added in 2008.
With the 24th overall pick via the Suns' trade, they selected Serge Ibaka. Again, I'm shaking my head.
2008: Operation Shaqtus
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In 2008, the Suns, behind the mind of Steve Kerr, traded disgruntled All-Star forward Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks to the Miami Heat for the Diesel, the Big Aristotle, the one and only Shaquille O'Neal.
With regard to this dice roll of a trade, Kerr was quoted saying, "If it works, I'm a genius. If it doesn't, I'm a moron, I guess."
The trade for "Shaqtus" clearly did not work out. Despite playing surprisingly well in Phoenix (presumably by being rejuvenated by the Suns' training staff), O'Neal bogged down Steve Nash's ability to run an uptempo offense, and everything seemed to run through the play of the big man.
Despite the failed Shaq experiment in Phoenix, it's hard to be angry with the man who has one of the NBA's biggest personalities.
In addition, there certainly was no lack of team chemistry.
2009: Steve Kerr a Moron?
After the failed Shaq-to-Phoenix experiment, the Suns traded Shaquille O'Neal to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Ben Wallace, Sasha Pavlovic, a second-round pick, and cash.
Don't get me wrong, this was one of the greatest "addition-by-subtraction" trades in the NBA, but hear me out.
What was one of the biggest issues hindering the Suns from taking that next step toward being a championship contender?
Defense, and more specifically, interior defense.
Instead of hanging on to Ben Wallace, one of the NBA’s greatest defensive centers, they bought out his contract along with that of Pavlovic.
The Suns clearly wanted to dump Shaq’s contract and get back to the run-and-gun style after Steve Kerr’s bone-headed trade to acquire "The Big Cactus" failed to work out (I’m sure nobody saw that coming). But why not keep Wallace to provide interior defense to help out Amar’e Stoudemire (who played close to no defense).
This trade was made all the more frustrating when compared with an article by ESPN's Chris Broussard. The headline should tell you all you need to know, "Suns won't trade Shaq just to save cash." Oh really? They won't trade Shaq just to save cash? Well, that's exactly what they did.
Given the fact that the Suns had to compete with a Los Angeles Lakers team that sported offensive big men, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, you'd think the Suns might have thought twice about keeping Wallace as a defensive presence that the team had been missing for years.
Maybe if the Suns kept Wallace, he could have defended Gasol/Bynum and increased the Suns' chances of reaching the finals.
Instead, the Suns lost a hard-fought, six-game Western Conference finals series to the Lakers later that season.
2011: Fans Will Miss "The Dragon"
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The most recent Suns trade, and perhaps one of the most depressing, at least in my opinion.
The Suns traded backup point guard Goran Dragic and a first-round pick to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Aaron Brooks.
I heard about this trade via a very somber voicemail from my buddy Mike after leaving one of my college classes. Sadly, Dragic heard about the trade in much the same way.
Despite Dragic's inconsistent play, he had flashes of brilliance with the Suns. Specifically, his 23-point fourth quarter explosion against the San Antonio Spurs in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals (a series the Suns eventually swept from their long time rivals).
Brooks played decent basketball for the Suns after the trade, but I still don't understand why the Suns would give up a promising prospect in Dragic who enjoyed being under Nash's wing, as well as a first-round pick for him.
Inexplicably, Brooks' free-throw percentage dropped from 94 percent as a member of the Rockets to just 80 percent with the Suns after the trade.
Adding insult to injury, Brooks signed a contract to play basketball in China during the NBA lockout. As a result, he's not currently a member of the Suns, who are now relying on a tandem of Ronnie Price and Sebastian Telfair to back up Nash.
Only a Suns trade could send a great prospect like Dragic along with first-round pick for no yield a season later.
Unless Suns management turns this around soon, they could be looking at a long stretch of mediocrity.