June 02, 2010
It makes sense for just about everyone who isn't a Mavericks fan. Dallas and Phoenix are usually everyone's answer to "who's your favorite team, besides your favorite team?," mostly because Steve Nash(notes) and Dirk Nowitzki are such chill bros. But Dirk won't be playing for the Phoenix Suns next year. Yes, he's a free agent. Yes, he and Steve love working the Golden Tee together. And, yes, Amar'e Stoudemire(notes) might very well leave the Suns this summer for another team.
But the resulting cap space Phoenix would earn by letting Stoudemire walk for no compensation would not be enough to secure Nowitzki's rights, unless Dirk took a major, major pay cut. Before draft picks, and after picking up the options of both Grant Hill(notes) and Channing Frye(notes) (rather solid pay-for-play options, I might add, for Phoenix) the Suns are looking at around eight or nine million in cap space for this summer should Stoudemire split.
That's nothing to sneeze at, especially when you factor in that the Suns could trade for some other team's disgruntled superstar, and not have to send a whole lot back as the cap space absorbs the big deal. But it's not enough to get Dirk. See if you can get some desperate team to take on Leandro Barbosa's(notes) two-year deal (second year is a player option that, if this season is any indication, he won't deserve). Go ahead. Dirk's just not happening.
Am I playing psychologist, again, assuming I know what's going on in Dirk's head? Sure. But just think of all the stuff that would have to fall into place.
Amar'e Stoudemire leaves. It's not a gimmie. He says he's hurt, that Phoenix hasn't treated him right. We say he can make more money in Arizona than anywhere else.
Stoudemire leaves, and the team he wants to leave for doesn't have any sign-and-trade options worth considering. Not that the Suns want to do Amar'e a favor by giving him a bigger contract than he'd earn just signing outright with another team, but they might want to grab something back. The "something back" would stick to the cap, and take away from of that space.
Mark Cuban doesn't go full boat with Nowitzki's extension. That's not happening. Mark knows that no bit of wrangling is going to help his situation. The Mavs are paying through the teeth for that team, so you might as well go big with the best thing this franchise has seen in its 30 years.
Someone would take Barbosa's contract. That's going to be tough, and it has to be Barbosa. Jason Richardson(notes) is too important, and there's no real trading for a Richardson-type at 60 percent of the price. And nobody beyond that makes enough money to make a big enough dent to try and sign Dirk outright.
Louis Amundson(notes) would need to go away. Whether the potential for Dirk is there or not, don't laugh. The Suns can't afford to lose Amundson. They need him to sop up minutes the way he did in 2009-10. He's an unrestricted free agent, and assuming he returns, he'll cut into that cap space. Really, getting him for half the money Barbosa will cost Phoenix next season will be a bargain, because he's tall, and other teams will drive up the price.
Armchair psychologist. It's not the, "can you imagine Dirk in another uniform?" It's, "does Dirk want to leave the only team he's known." I can't suitably answer that, but I think we all have an idea. That's a tough sell, even given the money, and Nash's presence.
So, now that we've spent over 600 words telling you something you already know, what's next for the Suns?
Well, something you already know.
They're going to run, make quick decisions off of screen and roll play no matter who is setting the screen for Nash, and they're going to attempt to compete defensively. Attempt to get back to that middle-of-the-pack standing on D that Mike D'Antoni had them at for years, something people who take their paychecks from TV stations still seem incapable of understanding.
It's just another go at the ring, with the same setup, hoping Robin Lopez's(notes) ascension (and it was quite the ascension) continues, hoping that Grant Hill manages to hang on, and hoping that Nash keeps it up. No gimmies, those three, but that's the reality of the team's situation.
July will probably prove me wrong, but I see Stoudemire as a slight favorite to stick in Phoenix as opposed to the other options, but even if he splits, there's just not a whole lot there. The team will have to try the sign-and-trade route, because with Barbosa's contract and Amundson's free agency, this team will be hurting for depth with Stoudemire gone that eight or nine million (again, before Amundson's possible extension) just won't help with. There has to be another star there.
The team isn't completely bereft of trading options. Richardson stands to make over $14 million in the final year of his contract this summer, and though expiring deals don't hold as much sway in the year before a new union/ownership agreement is hammered out, it could be worth exploring. Maybe even to a team already featuring cap space, a squad that struck out in dealing with free agents. Swing something with him, and perhaps you could grab a David Lee(notes) or Carlos Boozer(notes), along with some guard depth from somewhere else.
But by and large, as it is with most teams that end up two games away from making the NBA Finals, don't expect forced change. Don't fear it, or act shocked if it happens, but don't expect things to get too nutty.
Just roll with it, while Amar'e preens, talks, and Steve Kerr waits, reacts, and moves.