5 Best NBA Trade Destinations for Phoenix Suns' Marcin Gortat

Sam CooperCorrespondent IIIFebruary 14, 2013

5 Best NBA Trade Destinations for Phoenix Suns' Marcin Gortat

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    The NBA Trade Deadline is now just about a week away, and the struggling Phoenix Suns will soon have to decide what they are going to do with starting center Marcin Gortat.

    This season, the 6'11" center is having a down year, averaging just 11.3 points and 8.7 rebounds a game. He does not appear to be a main piece of the team's offense anymore, and with the Suns at the bottom of the Western Conference, they may decide to move Gortat by the trade deadline.

    However, the direction of the Suns right now is fairly confusing. Gortat turns 29 in just a couple of days, and it would make the most sense for a rebuilding team like Phoenix to trade him for young prospects and future first-round draft picks.

    But on the other hand, the Suns could also potentially emerge as buyers at the deadline. Phoenix has already been linked to players such as Al Jefferson, Josh Smith and Iman Shumpert in just the past couple weeks, and acquiring a borderline All-Star such as Smith or Jefferson would almost certainly require giving up Gortat as a main piece in return.

    In any case, Gortat is certainly the team's most valuable trade asset, and the Suns are likely going to shop him over the course of this upcoming week.

    Here are five of the most realistic trade destinations for Marcin Gortat. 

Oklahoma City Thunder

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    The Thunder are already an elite team in the NBA, but acquiring Marcin Gortat for some young prospects and draft picks could make them virtually unstoppable.

    Right now, Kendrick Perkins starts for the Thunder at center. Perkins averages just 6.6 points and 8.5 rebounds per 36 minutes, and although he isn't paid to be an offensive threat on a team that already has Durant and Westbrook, he is definitely one of the worst starting centers in the league.

    The Thunder mainly keep Perkins around because of his defense. However, Gortat can easily bring the same defensive intensity to Oklahoma City's frontcourt while also giving them a reliable offensive presence down low.

    Perkins has a reputation for his defense, but Gortat's stats are actually better in a lot of cases. Gortat has the better block percentage and is a better offensive and defensive rebounder, and when playing at center he allows his opponents to score just 13.4 points and grab 9.9 rebounds per 36 minutes. Perkins, on the other hand, allows his opponents to score 15.4 points and grab 10 rebounds per 36 minutes. 

    In addition, Gortat is the much better offensive player. He has a higher field-goal percentage, a higher free-throw percentage, is an expert at the pick-and-roll and has a consistent jump shot that allows him to spread the floor more than some other back-to-basket centers. 

    If these two teams made a trade, the Suns would definitely want youth in return. Kendrick Perkins would probably be the largest salary sent to Phoenix in order to balance contracts on both sides, but after that the Suns could get some young prospects such as rookies Perry Jones and Jeremy Lamb.

    Also, the Thunder have a surplus of draft picks they don't need, considering they are already a contending team. The Suns could ask for a protected first-round pick from the Mavericks, or they could try to acquire Toronto's 2013 first-round pick, which will almost certainly be a top-10 pick in the upcoming draft. 

    Perkins is not an expiring contract, and that makes signing free agents a little more difficult for Phoenix. But if they could get someone like Jeremy Lamb and acquire Toronto's lottery pick, they should definitely consider pulling the trigger on a trade. 

Atlanta Hawks

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    In all likelihood, the Suns will be sellers at the deadline this year. However, one exception might be made if the Suns can actually acquire Josh Smith from the Hawks.

    The Suns were recently linked to the 27-year-old star power forward, and Phoenix may try to pursue Smith in an attempt to find a consistent scorer and defensive anchor who can be the center of the Suns temporarily while they continue to rebuild.

    But first, let's be realistic. There is a lot of demand for Josh Smith right now, and several other teams are reportedly interested. It would take a lot of pull this deal off, and even if the Suns part with some valuable pieces they might not offer enough to Atlanta. Phoenix just might not have the assets to compete with other teams and could come up short in negotiations. 

    However, Marcin Gortat would definitely be the center of any package sent to Atlanta. He's not young, but he is an above-average center who can score or defend, and he can take over at center while Al Horford moves to power forward.

    After that? Well, the Suns would probably just have to include anything else the Hawks are interested in. Jared Dudley might draw interest, and the Suns might have to give up a draft pick or two as well.

    The Suns are pretty desperate for a go-to scorer, and that is really the only reason they would try to make this trade. Josh Smith has never made an All-Star appearance, and he simply could not lead Phoenix to a playoff spot without a lot of help. 

    Because of that, this trade probably isn't worth it. Smith seems to be under the impression that he deserves a max contract, and that alone should scare Phoenix away. Giving up valuable players and draft picks for someone who is not a superstar and will force you to overpay is generally not a good idea.

Milwaukee Bucks

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    Once again, if the Suns aren't pursuing Josh Smith or Al Jefferson at the deadline, then they need to focus on acquiring more youth to fully start their rebuilding process. Milwaukee might just be the perfect trade partner.

    Currently, the Bucks have several big men competing for minutes. Larry Sanders, Samuel Dalembert, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Drew Gooden, Ekpe Udoh, John Henson, Ersan Ilyasova and Joel Pryzbilla are all guys who can play minutes at either power forward or center.

    However, despite all of that depth, the Bucks really don't have any above-average starters in their frontcourt. Larry Sanders is their promising young center of the future, but as a young team fighting for a playoff spot the Bucks could really use a veteran big man.

    That is where Gortat comes in. Gortat can play either power forward or center, and he can be a defensive anchor while also providing some low-post scoring for a team that currently relies on guards Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings as their two primary scoring options. 

    In return, the Suns would want some youth and preferably an expiring contract to balance the salaries for both sides. Larry Sanders is not going to be moved, but rookie big man John Henson shows a lot of promise, and although he hasn't received much playing time in Milwaukee he could very well become a future starter in Phoenix.

    In addition, the Suns would probably want an expiring contract like Samuel Dalembert or Beno Udrih to complete the deal. That way they can shed the contract at the end of the season and clear even more cap space for signing free agents. 

    However, if Milwaukee insists on sticking Phoenix with a bad contract such as Drew Gooden, a trade could probably still be arranged. As long as the Suns get Henson and one or two unprotected first-round picks, one expensive contract shouldn't be that much of a problem. 

Boston Celtics

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    They may have just had an impressive winning streak, but the Celtics are also starting to look pretty desperate. 

    Rajon Rondo, Leandro Barbosa and Jared Sullinger are all out, and now might be the perfect time to strike a deal with a team competing for a playoff spot that needs a guard and center.

    Luckily, the Suns can provide just that. Marcin Gortat and Sebastian Telfair could be packaged together and sent to Boston, and the Celtics would finally get a true center as well as some relief at point guard.

    Since Boston is now without two guards and is also 27th in the league in total rebounds and 26th in blocks, the Celtics might be desperate enough to give the Suns a great package of youth in return.

    The primary piece sent to Phoenix would have to be Avery Bradley. Bradley clearly has to improve his offensive game, but at 22 years old he has plenty of time to develop and is also already one of the greatest perimeter defenders in the league.

    In addition, the Suns could ask for a young big man by acquiring rookie center Fab Melo, and they could also ask for one of Boston's first-round picks in the next few years. Finally, a player such as Brandon Bass or Courtney Lee could be sent in order to balance the contracts. 

    Since Garnett and Pierce are aging and the Celtics have almost no chance at actually winning a championship this season, they may be reluctant to trade away Bradley and draft picks when they should probably start to shift their focus to rebuilding. However, the Celtics do seem keen on trying to make another playoff run, and the Suns could try to take advantage of Boston's recent injuries in order to make a great deal for the future. 

Utah Jazz

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    In addition to Josh Smith, it was recently reported that the Suns also have some interest in Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson, as well as Gordon Hayward.   

    Of all the deals that the Suns could make, this probably makes the least sense, not only for Phoenix but also for Utah.

    Trading for Jefferson would be all about making a big splash and acquiring a player that the Suns can truly build around. Jefferson does average 19.2 points and 10.3 rebounds per 36 minutes, and he is a vastly underrated center with a great offensive post game, but he just simply isn't someone who can lead the Suns to victory.

    Of course, Jefferson and Dragic would just be two temporary go-to pieces while the Suns look for that true superstar player either through free agency or the draft.

    But even so, Jefferson is already 28, and he could very well be 32 or 33 by the time the Suns finally find a superstar player. If Phoenix really wants to rebuild, they should trade veterans like Gortat for prospects and draft picks, not for borderline All-Stars who are about to start their decline. Simply put, there are no shortcuts to rebuilding and looking for loopholes will only elongate the entire process.

    At the same time, this trade also doesn't make much sense for the Jazz. While Utah does want to unload salary and get rid of players such as Millsap and Jefferson who are about to be free agents, they also want to make room for Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter to have more playing time in the frontcourt.

    The Jazz might be interested in receiving a center in return for Jefferson, but trading one above-average starting center for another does not help them develop their prospects. If anything, Utah would probably be more interested in trading for Jared Dudley and other players who can help them on the wing at shooting guard or small forward. 

    Within the next week, the first thing the Suns need to do before they trade anybody is figure out what direction they want to go in.

    If they want to take the general path of rebuilding and trade veterans to start a youth movement, then at least it will become clear that they have a plan set in place and that the Lindsey Hunter hiring was justified. If they decide that they would rather trade for veteran players in their prime and becomes buyers at the deadline, that is their choice as well.

    But if the Suns ever want to get rid of their current losing culture, they need to establish a plan for the future. Even if they are losing virtually every game for the next couple seasons, they need to put in effort and prove to the fanbase that there is always a reason for every distinct move that they make. Show the fans some promise when they go to games, or at least prove that the team has some sort of sense of direction.

    That is how they can fill up the seats, and that is how this team can ultimately get back on track.