Suns' off-season overhaul awaits potentially sticky sign-and-trade scenarios with Hornets.
By RANDY HILLFS Arizona
They experienced Steve Nash Independence Day on the heels of claiming the heart of
While Phoenix Suns fans were still reeling from those maneuvers, they were asked to wrap their roster-roulette-playing minds around the risky Michael Beasley business and the return of The Dragon.
Yeah, it was one of the most dramatic weeks in Suns history.
But this week could be even more important.
The next move, of course, belongs to the New Orleans Hornets, who must decided how much potential grief can be dispensed upon them by Gordon if Gordon is not allowed to play in Phoenix. If the Hornets believe his heartache can be soothed by matching the financial bounty in a Suns' four-year, $58 million offer sheet Gordon plans to sign Wednesday, Phoenix must look to shooting-guard Plan B.
If the Hornets aren't interested in keeping a player who yearns to work elsewhere — even if he is a relative kid who figures to be the cornerstone of their offense — they'll attempt to pry from the Suns the most that can be fetched in a sign-and-trade deal.
That's where things should become really interesting around here.
According to league sources, the Hornets are expected to match the Gordon offer sheet, despite an over-the-weekend agreement on a sign-and-trade deal for Orlando Magic stretch four man Ryan Anderson. By the way, we all know the "we're going to match" warning is what the team is supposed to say.
The Hornets, however, could be wrangling for Suns assets that — in the last several days — have grown from limited to at least middling.
Every anticipated list includes center Marcin Gortat, rookie point guard Kendall Marshall, swingman Jared Dudley, power forward Markieff Morris and a host of draft picks.
Agreeing to throw Gortat — a rare above-average NBA center — into such a deal would, in my opinion, tremendously diminish the seeming victory in overpaying for Gordon's scoring potential. With Goran Dragic back on the payroll, losing Marshall would seem less severe, even though it wouldn't take Marshall long to demonstrate his superior offense-generating skills.
Dudley's presence as an emerging team leader (especially in in absence of Nash and, possibly, Grant Hill) is almost as important as his potential on the floor. Morris wouldn't be a great loss, and the draft picks sent to Phoenix from the Los Angeles Lakers in the Nash deal probably would do little to appease New Orleans.
If Gortat stays, coughing up their own first-round pick for 2013 might not be a bad option. With Gordon, The Polish Hammer, Dragic and Beasley, Phoenix might have enough to, again, remain in the Western Conference's top 10. And, based on input from several NBA talent sharpies, the 2013 draft won't be as deep as the 2012 edition. The same people also said the high school class of 2012 was one of the weakest they've seen in years.
There will be a few evaluation uprisings, but without a shot to land a really high pick, the Phoenix selection might not have great value.
Throwing Gortat and their No. 1 pick for 2013 would seem to be deadly for Suns fans.
It should be noted that if the Hornets match the offer sheet for Gordon with the intent to trade him (to Houston, for example), such an exercise would require Gordon to OK the deal.
Gordon-gate probably will be reconciled before we find out the Suns' position regarding Robin Lopez.
Added to the loot committed to Dragic, Beasley and Marshall, Gordon's money could require pulling the amnesty card (Josh Childress? Hakim Warrick?) to afford their backup center. Because the Suns were under the salary cap on July 1, they do not have the mid-level exception to play with.
If New Orleans goes the sign-and-trade route, the Suns' flexibility would depend on how much salary they'd be sending back to the Hornets. If New Orleans simply matches, the Suns would have the money to be competitive in wherever the Lopez derby takes them.
But they also would be required to find another shooting guard.
As mentioned previously, the options could include bringing back Michael Redd or Shannon Brown. Redd, according to reports, has had interest from the Chicago Bulls. If the money is close, insiders believe the former All-Star would choose Phoenix and its A-list training and medical staff.
Another popular name has been O.J. Mayo, a player tossed out by the Memphis Grizzlies, but talented enough to — according to some observers — approximate Gordon's expected production for a lot less money. Mayo's name has been linked to several teams, but (at post time) remained on the market.
BAYLESS SKIPPED BY RAPTORS
Last week's report that the Toronto Raptors intended to keep former St. Mary's and Arizona star Jerryd Bayless — in the event of a Nash signing — was trumped by the trade for Kyle Lowry.
With the relatively young Lowry now on board with veteran Jose Calderon, the Raptors choose to rescind Bayless' qualifying offer.
Although he played well as a starter in Calderon's absence, many league observers consider the 6-foot-2 Bayless more of a shooting guard than a facilitator at the point position.
But the former lottery pick, who scored 57 points over a two-night stretch last season, is receiving interest from a few teams.
While Dallas seems to be an obvious connect-the-dots destination for an available point guard, one league insider said the San Antonio Spurs could have an interest in Bayless.