The Phoenix Suns’ asset-to-turnover ratio has improved … again.
For the record, we’re referring to roster turnover. In what hardly qualifies as a shock, veteran power forward Luis Scola was traded Saturday to a team expected to win a lot more games than the rebuilding Suns.
That team is the Indiana Pacers, who will be adding the 33-year-old Scola to replace the departed Tyler Hansbrough as bench support for David West.
With general manager Ryan McDonough continuing what president of basketball operations Lon Babby started, Phoenix will receive second-year post player Miles Plumlee, 27-year-old small forward Gerald Green and a lottery-protected first-round pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
“The trade is consistent with our stated plan to continue to acquire young assets,” Babby said in a statement released by the Suns shortly after the trade was completed Saturday. “With this trade, we now have the potential for three first-round picks in the 2014 draft and five first-round picks in the next two drafts.”
The team’s first draft-acquisition dividend — secured when Babby lifted a first-round pick from the Los Angeles Lakers in the Steve Nash getaway deal — was 18-year-old Kentucky guard Archie Goodwin. Goodwin, one of the shining lights in the recently completed Las Vegas Summer League, was chosen after McDonough traded up from 30th to 29th overall during last month’s draft. If Goodwin continues to emerge as a gem from the late-first-round, the notion of giving McDonough additional picks to play with certainly will galvanize the hopes of the Suns’ fan base.
Aside from more young players, the Suns are also getting added flexibility.
“We are excited to add Miles and Gerald to our young core group of players,” McDonough said in the same release. “Miles was one of the best players in the Orlando Summer League, and Gerald’s scoring ability and athleticism will help us as we continue to build a team that plays an exciting, up-tempo brand of basketball.”
Beyond adding the first-round pick, the Suns are moving Scola’s contract of $4.5 million for next season (and less than $1 million guaranteed the season after) for the $3.5 million owed Green over two seasons and the $1.1 million on Plumlee’s tab. The Suns will have an option to keep Plumlee, the Pacers’ first-round pick in 2012, before the 2014-15 campaign.
Trading Scola, who was claimed by Phoenix after he was amnestied by the Houston Rockets last summer, could slightly diminish the Suns’ offensive efficiency during the coming season. In 82 games (including 67 starts) last season, the 6-foot-9 Argentinian gave the Suns 12.8 points on 47 percent shooting as well as 6.6 rebounds per game. Although he wasn’t much of a threat as an on-ball defender, Scola was crafty in help situations and capable of making the Suns a bit more difficult to handle in half-court offense.
With the 2014 draft pool shaping up as a perceived bonanza, the obvious question is how much worse the Suns are without Scola, but it’s difficult to pinpoint how his absence will impact Phoenix in the win-total department. A lot depends on how far upward explosive guard Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler — acquired by McDonough from the L.A. Clippers in exchange for veteran asset Jared Dudley — can propel the Suns.
Scola’s departure also strongly suggests a work increase for third-year pro Markieff Morris and the opportunity for coach Jeff Hornacek to play Michael Beasley at power forward more often. Based on numbers — and eyeball judgment — throughout his career, Beasley is more effective working outside-in against bigger defenders than posting and defending small forwards.
Any contributions from Channing Frye, who missed all of last season with an enlarged heart, remain speculative at this point.
Despite the possibility of moving Beasley from the small forward pool, the addition of the 6-foot-8 Green provides the Suns with enough bodies to handle that position if Butler and his expiring $8 million contract go away sometime between now and the trade deadline in February.
Green was a coveted high school prospect who jumped from McDonald’s All-American into the first round of the 2005 draft with the Boston Celtics. He averaged 7.0 points and 2.4 rebounds in 18 minutes per game for Indiana last season, making 37 percent of his attempts from field, 31.4 percent from 3-point range.
His numbers, athleticism and skills are similar to those of Wes Johnson, who worked one of the Phoenix wings late last season before moving to the Lakers in free agency. Green is bouncier than Suns three man Marcus Morris but with similar productivity and efficiency. Green’s ability to run and jump hasn’t translated to great sit-down defense when working at the shooting guard position, but he can play the two in certain matchups, a versatility bonus that can help if Goodwin struggles from time to time.
The 6-11, 255-pound Plumlee played in only 14 games for the Pacers last season but provides the Suns with another center to go with rookie Alex Len if Phoenix moves Marcin Gortat. Gortat’s expiring contract and solid productivity would seem to make him desired by quite a few teams.
Earlier this month, McDonough said, “I’m certainly not looking to move Marcin.”
With Len, the Suns’ choice with the fifth overall pick last month, easing his way into pro basketball, having Gortat as the bridge makes sense. But we could see further young asset acquisition if Len’s lower extremities comply (he has had two knee surgeries in the past year) and the 7-foot-1 center from Maryland makes impressive strides by the trade deadline.