One season after finishing with a Western Conference-worst 25-57 record—the lowest mark since the inception of the franchise in 1968-69—the 2013-14 Phoenix Suns are 30-20 and fighting for a playoff berth. A major question now is whether or not the Suns will pull the trigger on a trade to make an immediate impact or stay patient as the rebuilding process continues to take shape.
According to a December article by Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com, the Suns “are making it known around the league they are open to trading one or more picks in the loaded 2014 draft if they can get an established star capable of making an impact now.”
The Spaniard is a two-time champion and four-time All-Star. However, he’s also 33 years old, set to become a free agent this summer and is entering the twilight of his NBA career.
The Lakers have been adamant in their stance that they won’t deal him without receiving a young player or first-round draft pick in return, according to Stein, and the Suns appear to be echoing the Cleveland Cavaliers’ viewpoint that a first-rounder is too much to give up for Gasol as a three-month rental. (The Cavs ended up trading injury-prone big man Andrew Bynum to the Chicago Bulls for Luol Deng.)
League source not w/ Lakers or Phoenix skeptical Suns trade 1st round pick for Gasol, esp. w/ no assurances he would return next year— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) February 3, 2014
Also, according to Ramona Shelburne and Stein of ESPN, the Suns want to reevaluate Gasol after he returns from injury. He’s missed the past three games with a strained groin.
The Suns and Lakers may strike a deal prior to the Feb. 20 trade deadline, and they may not. In any case, Suns general manager Ryan McDonough has hinted toward something bigger. Per Howard-Cooper:
I think one of the things that’s important for people to realize is that we may not draft four players even if we have four picks. Our preference would probably be to maybe package a few of them. We’re obviously all looking for stars and we feel like we can put together a package as good, if not better, than any other team in the league if and when a star becomes available. That’s kind of generally what we’ve wanted to do, not only with our draft-pick situation but also with the cap space that we’ve acquired.
The Suns are clearly in the market for a star player they could add to a young roster that already includes Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe. But are there any guys available who fit the bill?
Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics has seen his name surface in rumors since returning from an ACL tear, but he isn’t a logical fit on a Suns team that already features two All-Star-caliber point guards in Dragic and Bledsoe.
Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves, meanwhile, is a superstar name many Suns fans have been pining for. He can spread the floor with outside shooting, run the floor better than most big men and he rebounds more efficiently than just about everyone in the Association.
McDonough and Co. could certainly put together a Godfather offer for K-Love, but his availability in the trade market is a prevalent obstacle.
In July 2012, Love said, “My patience is not high,” with regard to the T-Wolves’ inability to put a winning product around him, per Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports.
Love can’t be pleased with Minny’s 24-27 record so far in 2013-14 either, but Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders said last summer on ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike that he won’t be trading his All-Star power forward, per the Star Tribune’s Jerry Zgoda:
First thing w/ Flip on Mike and Mike, KLove clears up that he won't be trading. "Maybe people will stop calling me now," Flip says.— Jerry Zgoda (@JerryZgoda) June 6, 2013
In addition to Saunders’ stance, an anonymous Eastern Conference executive said, “No one thinks (Love's) staying. Everyone knows he wants to go to the Lakers,” per CBS Sports’ Ken Berger.
So not only are the Timberwolves not keen on trading Love, but an NBA executive also said that the former UCLA standout wants to join the Los Angeles Lakers.
If the Suns were to trade for a guy who may already have his heart set on a different destination, giving up valuable assets for him would be a considerable risk.
While reports are insinuating that the Suns want to make a blockbuster deal prior to this year’s deadline, the old adage “patience is a virtue” needs to be in the back of McDonough’s mind.
Nobody—repeat: nobody—thought this Phoenix team would be where it is to this point in the season, 10 games over .500 to be exact.
Would adding Gasol to the upstart roster improve its chances at making a deep playoff run? If the veteran jells with teammates under Coach Hornacek, of course it would.
Could giving up a bounty of picks and young assets for a bona fide star put Phoenix back on the map for years to come? If McDonough found the right piece to the puzzle, the answer is a resounding yes.
Should the Suns make a trade prior to the Feb. 20 deadline?
With that said, Bledsoe is sidelined for the foreseeable future due to a knee injury, and the Suns still need to find a way to retain him this summer when his contract expires.
McDonough has hinted that he may not utilize all four first-round picks moving toward the draft. Nevertheless, making the wrong deal now as opposed to the right deal later is a genuine possibility.
The Suns have already won five more games than they did all of last season. Fans are seeing that the franchise is ahead of schedule in terms of rebuilding, so perhaps striking a deal prior to Feb. 20 isn’t a necessary plan of action.
If nothing else, Phoenix can a make a draft-day trade or select international prospects to store overseas until they’re ready to make an impact in the NBA—like the San Antonio Spurs have done through the years.
McDonough has plenty of options, so he doesn’t need to limit himself to a deadline deal.