Time To Leave, Steve: With J-Rich Gone, Why Steve Nash Must Be Next

Brad DennyContributor IDecember 20, 2010

PHOENIX - DECEMBER 15:  Steve Nash #13 of the Phoenix Suns walks down court during the NBA game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at US Airways Center on December 15, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Suns defeated the Timberwolves 128-122.  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 Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Jerry Seinfeld once joked that being a devoted fan of a team essentially amounts to cheering for laundry.

With the names on the backs of the jerseys changing constantly, it’s the name on the front for which fans continue to cheer. 

If only the Phoenix Suns front office heeded Seinfeld’s words.

On Friday, the Suns pulled off a six-player trade in which they sent leading scorer Jason Richardson, Earl Clark and Hedo Turkoglu to the Orlando Magic for Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat, Mickael Pietrus, a 2011 first-round pick and cash.

So, what does it all mean for the Suns?

That their next move should…no…needs to be a trade of Steve Nash.

“Blasphemy!” most fans will scream, while simultaneously preparing their pitchforks.

Truth be told, their rage would be understandable. 

But if they truly cared more about the well-being of the four letters of the jersey’s front rather than the four letters on the back, they’d realize that trading arguably the greatest player in team history is in the franchise’s best long-term interests.

Here’s why.

The primary motive behind the move was to get out from their horrific signing of Turkoglu this past offseason. His signing was a total disaster and the team should get credit for taking corrective action sooner rather than later.

In order to find a taker for Turkoglu, they had to incur a downgrade in the backcourt. In the final season of his contract, Richardson was leading the team with 19.3 points per game, making him an obvious and attractive trade piece. 

They replace him with the 33-year-old Carter, who is averaging a career-worst 15.1 points per game. 

The Suns hope that his insertion into the Suns system can give his performance a needed lift, but perhaps his most important asset is that only $4 million of his $18 million salary in 2011 is guaranteed.

They also reacquire Gortat, who the Suns selected in 2005 but soon traded to Orlando. His starter-caliber skills have not been given the proper time while playing behind Dwight Howard and he is only 26 years old.

The 28-year-old Pietrus is a nice 6’6” small forward who adds much-needed defensive ability and three-point shooting. He has a $5.3 million player option for next season. 

So in total, the Suns ship off their leading scorer to gain a talented young presence in the paint, a solid role-player in the Raja Bell mold and to escape from the nightmare of Turkoglu’s contract. 

The trade also did nothing to help with the glut of wing players that the Suns roster possesses.

The Suns today are little, if any, better for this 2010 season than they were on Thursday.  If everyone can step up to fill Richardson's scoring void, if the new acquisitions can be assimilated quickly and if Nash and Robin Lopez can avoid injury, the Suns could challenge for the seventh or eighth seeds.

So what? 

What good does that really do?

Is the revenue from two extra home games while the team is quickly bounced by the Lakers or Spurs in the first round worth keeping the team’s title-contending window closed for a few more seasons?

Based on their history, this ownership group may very well answer "yes."  

They know that Nash is the lone remaining attraction for their fans and that Phoenix is a bandwagon town; even Suns beat writer Paul Coro feels the team will not deal Nash.

That shortsightedness could very well set the franchise back for years.

At 36 years old, Nash is still an elite-level point guard, averaging 17.5 and 10.2 assists this season. To a team that views itself as being one piece away from a championship contender, he could very well be the difference and therefore worthy of a princely sum via trade.

The Suns' strategy over the last eight years of essentially ignoring the draft has come back to haunt them. Since Amar'e Stoudemire left this offseason, they no longer have a young star and if there is any certainty in the NBA, it's that championships these days are won by stars.

This team, on its current course, is not winning that elusive first championship either this year or next. 

By then, Nash will almost certainly be nowhere near his current level, leaving the team in a position to make another patchwork fix that will keep them on the playoff periphery but outside of title contention.

The choice is clear.

A deal to a team like the Blazers, Rockets or the Knicks, would certainly return a host of pieces and more importantly, draft picks that could solidify the team’s foundation for years to come. 

It's time to trade in this rickety patchwork jalopy and put a draft-heavy down payment on a sleek new ride with a Larry O'Brien Trophy hood ornament.

By dealing Nash for picks and young talent, the Suns would be biting the rebuilding bullet for the next year or two. 

If they manage that wisely, they should open up a five or six-season window of genuine championship hopes.

And that, dear fans, is no joke.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @PHXSuns29 for the latest Suns insight from Bleacher Report


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