Nash trade partners hard to come by
We seem to have reached the point of greatest return in trade-projection exercises co-starring the Phoenix Suns and Steve Nash.
For the record, I expect the Suns to embrace the recent Nash-provoked victory salvo -- now hiking their record to a robust 11-14 -- and swing for the fringes of the NBA's Western Conference playoff roster.
And it's highly possible that these player-management entities will strike another contractual accord this summer, giving us two more seasons of marginal won-loss success and "Free Steve Nash!" conjecture.
So, we have that to look forward to.
But the seemingly slim odds of a Nash trade haven't prevented many disparately-motivated media concerns from offering solutions regarding his basketball future in Phoenix. One national scribe -- breaking a story we locals were presented with two months ago -- even revealed the Suns are open to trading their 38-year-old point guard if he decides it's time to move along. Given Nash's steadfast opposition to such (in his eyes) self-serving behavior, and the divorce that would separate him from his three kids, we recommend exhaling.
Another helpful reporter tweeted that, considering this (cough) recent change in the Suns' positioning vis-a-vis trading Nash, Phoenix could send him to the Los Angeles Lakers for a lovely bonanza of Derek Fisher and Metta World Peace. This tweeter is either a genius of ironic comedy or heroically insane.
Anyway, as Nash continues playing his way to Orlando (relax, I'm referring to the All-Star Game) and the Suns make visual contract with the caboose on the end of the playoff train, it's a great time to indulge the sensibilities of Speculation Nation.
What follows is a review of teams that could or should be interested in acquiring the Suns' two-time MVP. Prerequisites for inclusion are a reasonable expectation of immediate playoff advancement and the need to upgrade the point guard position. Yeah, that whittles the list considerably. To expedite this imaginative process, we'll include recent offerings discovered online. We'll look at why each fanciful trade idea works for one team and why it might be completely idiotic for the other. Some of these notions may be absolutely cuckoo for both sides.
It should be noted, however, that sniffing out trades is a lot like avoiding crocodiles -- the one you can't see will be the one that bites you.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
The Blazers are in the hunt for a playoff ticket, but point guard Raymond Felton (expiring contract) seems to be the weakest rotation link.
One truly inspired writer suggested Felton and forward Nicolas Batum coming to Phoenix for Nash. Hey, that seems pretty good ... for the Suns. Felton played well last season as a New York Knick in Mike D'Antoni's screen-roll-heavy system, is relatively young and might be rehired for reasonable loot.
But not agreeing to a contract extension doesn't mean the Blazers want to move Batum. They're simply waiting for the market to be set on this restricted free agent this summer. Then they'll match it and keep him.
Batum still has some rising to do before reaching what appears to be way-above-average potential. The Suns probably can't get better value for a soon-to-be-free-agent point guard who just trotted past his 38th birthday. But they probably won't have a prayer of prying Batum out of Portland.
Another (more plausible) trade idea floated in the ether is a return of Felton, two contract-matching young players and a first-round pick for Nash.
Well, if Steve assisted the Blazers as well as expected, that first-round pick would be shoved pretty far down the line. And even though Markieff Morris represents a nice addition for the future, the Suns haven't exactly made a commitment to rebuilding through the draft.
If the Suns can't conjure any more than this (especially considering how well Nash is playing), the status quo figures to be maintained.
Right, how much of a point-guard upgrade from Rajon Rondo do you need?
As long as we're in speculation mode, please remember the Celtics reportedly we're attempting to ship out Rondo for Chris Paul. Yeah, that seems to qualify. CP3 has a lot more tread on his tires than Nash, but any Cs' interest in this Phoenix scenario might involve having another perimeter scoring option (Nash) in a closing-window title push with the Big Three.
A straight-up trade would be close enough to a salary match, but the Suns probably would insist that Boston kick in a first-round pick. Rondo is under contract for another three more years at a total of $36 million; any cap space the Suns could save for this summer's free-agent market probably won't yield anyone nearly as good.
The draft pick won't fall in the lottery, but -- considering the performances of some late-round picks from last summer -- general manager Lance Blanks could find a useful prospect with it.
By the way, one projected deal had Nash, Grant Hill and (drum roll) Marcin Gortat going to Boston for Rondo, Jermaine O'Neal and Keyon Dooling. Hey, while we're doing all we can to help Boston, why not send this year's potential lottery pick to the Celtics, too? Without Nash and Gortat, the Suns would lose enough to make it a beauty.
For now, let's rotate the tires on our turnip truck.
Hey, the dreamers will have to look elsewhere if (as rumored) the Celtics decide Avery Bradley would be competent enough at PG to deal Rondo to the Lakers for Pau Gasol.
Having waved bye-bye to James Posey through the miracle of amnesty, the Pacers can add Nash without the pesky dilemma of finding a close-enough match of contracts.
The lead item in a suggested return from Indiana would be young point guard Darren Collison and what would be a draft pick destined to fall late in the first round. That's about as good as this one would get. Giving up Collison and, oh, Paul George might add up to the Pacers taking 1.5 steps back to take one forward. In renting Nash, the Pacers would either assume he would be provide enough to push them past Miami or Chicago, right?
If they don't believe that, why give up a pretty solid young playmaker in Collison or anyone else who currently makes a difference?
Despite Nash's high level of productivity, this (Collison, another lesser player and a pick) might be as well as the Suns could do, but it's also highly unlikely they'd even consider pulling the trigger.
The premise of Nash working pick-and-roll on John Stockton's turf would excite fans in Utah.
They'd be getting rid of Devin Harris, who has another year on his contract after this season, and adding a playmaker capable of helping their front line do some playoff damage.
Suns fans probably would be hoping to land a young big, with Enes Kanter or Derrick Favors as candidates. Put one of those guys with Gortat and Morris and you'll see some rebounds. But I doubt the Jazz truly believe a Nash rental would present enough of a playoff run to part with half of their baseline future.
On the flip side, moving existing starters Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap seemingly would diminish Utah's ability to win now, undercutting the need to trade for Nash.
If Utah would throw in that top-seven-protected lottery pick the Jazz received from Golden State, the Suns might be interested ... unless the Warriors win enough to fall at the end of the lottery. Well, that's if they believed in a draft-heavy rebuild ... which (as mentioned earlier) they don't seem to be. Harris, of course, would bite into the cap-space-creating plan.
Well, the Mavericks don't have a first-round pick this season to make it worth the Suns' while, and the salary-match return (Jason Terry, expiring contract) would cripple their scoring options ... especially if Roddy Beaubois is thrown in as the compensation with something of an on-court future.
NEW YORK KNICKS
Does Nash love New York enough to sign for a mid-level exception this summer?
Even If the Knicks don't think so -- and if Jeremy Linsanity has a limited Broadway run -- they can't muster enough salary going back to Phoenix.
Sure, the Suns like rookie guard Iman Shumpert, but the Knicks would have to part with him (doubtful) and half of the roster to make it work under the cap.
It's hard to imagine the twilight-edition of Nash being enough to make the Magic believe Dwight Howard would embrace his arrival as a reason to re-enlist.
The Lakers have two first-round picks, but their cap status and absence of young, available talent would require the involvement of a third team. Actually, a three-team transaction probably would be needed to make any of these flights of fancy work, but the possibilities would require a manuscript instead of a column.
Anyway, a Portland radio report -- relayed by a Phoenix sports-talk radio guy -- had the Lakers sending the aforementioned Fisher and Artest to the Washington Wizards, the Wiz unloading Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee on the Suns, and the Suns whisking Nash to Hollywood. I suppose Phoenix also would land one of those L.A. draft picks.
Hey, if the Suns decide they're now interested in employing two of the league's most-accomplished knuckleheads ... sure, why not?