Phoenix Sunrises: The Five Most Pivotal NBA Draft Moments in Suns History

Kevin Roberts@BreakingKevinSenior Writer IJune 16, 2009

OAKLAND, CA - MARCH 15:  Shaquille O'Neal #32 of the Phoenix Suns looks on against the Golden State Warriors during an NBA game on March 15, 2009 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

(Above: Could Shaq be another draft-day trade casualty?)

The NBA Draft is only nine days away, and with the future of several Phoenix Suns uncertain, things could get very interesting.

Shaquille O'Neal trade rumors have been swirling, and the future of point guard Steve Nash has been in doubt since Mike D'Antoni left for New York.

Really, ever since Steve Kerr shook things up, this team has been without a true identity, and it looks to get yet another face-lift before June commences.

But before fans' questions (and hopefully prayers) can be answered, here's a look back at five of the biggest draft-day moves that shaped Phoenix into the organization that it is today.

While we all know players like Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle, and many others were huge pieces to Phoenix's rich past, this article is focusing on the modern era, dating back to 1990.

5. Jake Tsakalidis (Greece) vs. Zarko Cabarkapa (Serbia)

Tsakalidis was taken in 2000 with the 25th pick of the first round, while All-Star Michael Redd was still on the board (and lwould remain there until the second round), as well as solid rotation man, Eddie House.

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While there weren't many better options for Phoenix to mull over, it's safe to say Tsakalidis didn't last long in Phoenix, and went down as a wasted pick.

The Suns tried their hand at landing an international sensation again in 2003, however, and drafted Cabarkapa with the 17th selection in the first round.

Cabarkapa was a versatile combo forward with a ton of potential, but, unfortunately, much like Taskalidis, never realized it.

The Suns made the mistake of passing on David West, future Sun Boris Diaw, and Josh Howard.

4. Suns Trade Draft Rights of Rudy Fernandez to Portland

It was only two years ago, and in hindsight, it was actually a good move. Fernandez wasn't able to make the leap to the NBA in 2007, so Phoenix would have either been carrying dead weight, or waiting for Fernandez to come to the United States.

However, Fernandez entered the league in 2008 and went to Portland, where he became a solid sixth man in his first season.

He's still young and brings solid athleticism and shooting to a young, rising Portland squad, something the Suns could desperately use right now.

All Phoenix got out of the deal was some money, while getting to watch Fernandez progress for a Western Conference rival.

3. Suns Trade Seventh Pick in 2004 Draft For Future First-Rounder

That seventh pick turned out to be Luol Deng, who turned out to be a pretty good player for Chicago, and is still very young with a ton of untapped potential.

The Suns used the future first-round pick on point guard Nate Robinson, who is no longer with the team.

Yet again, another first-rounder wasted for the Suns.

2. Suns Draft Shawn Marion

With the ninth pick in the 2002 NBA Draft, the Suns drafted Marion, who would become the heart and soul for them on both sides of the court for several years.

Until things went sour over a contract dispute, Marion was pouring in double-doubles on a consistent basis, was a fan favorite, and was a huge part of the Suns' playoff success.

The Suns eventually traded Marion to the Miami Heat in 2007, and he and the Suns haven't been the same since.

1. Suns Draft Amare Stoudemire

This is how you build a foundation. The trouble is, when you have a GM like Steve Kerr operating things, it can easily be destructed.

The Suns took Stoudamire with the ninth pick, like Marion, and fans instantly saw they had something special. He broke out in his second and third seasons as a dominant force inside, until he was slowed down by a knee injury.

The knee injury took away his explosiveness, but he remained confident and worked hard to improve other areas of his game, and returned to near-full strength two seasons later.

Last year's addition of Shaquille O'Neal brought Stoudemire's level of play down a bit, as O'Neal clogged the lane and hampered both Stoudemire's and Nash's impact.

While Stoudemire currently has issues with an eye injury, and was reportedly demanding to be traded, trading Shaq could easily resolve the issue, and keep Stoudemire as a key piece to the Suns future.

Honorable Mention

The Suns prepared for a future without Shaq, and even potentially Stoudemire, as they drafted Stanford's Robin Lopez in 2008.

Other notable draft picks were Michael Finley from Wisconsin, who eventually was traded away, and Nash, who also left the team, only to return several years later as an MVP-caliber player.