Posted Nov 9 2010 2:46PM
Steve Nash is a different guy. He's one of the all-time great shooters who might be a better passer. He was raised in Canada and chose hockey over basketball. He plays in perhaps the most conservative state in the country, yet wears his liberal colors proudly and sometimes loudly.
One more thing: His championship window in Phoenix is all but slammed shut, but he hasn't asked to be traded to a contender.
Lots of players in his position would entertain the thought of spending their final years elsewhere, hoping for the elusive bling. Nash turns 37 this season and has done everything except win a championship. But we just told you Nash is different. Ask him about his future with the Suns and he'll say he's just looking to win the next game. The Suns opened with a tough schedule; five of their first seven games were against teams with 50 wins last season and Phoenix went 2-3 in those games.
"We need time to find out who we are," Nash said. "I like what I see. Cohesion and understanding is getting inch by inch better."
And yet: The Suns are in transition, trying to move in a younger direction, and the landscape around Nash has changed somewhat gradually -- if not drastically -- the last few seasons. Gone are Mike D'Antoni, Amar'e Stoudemire, Leandro Barbosa, Joe Johnson, Shawn Marion and very likely an era where the Suns could count on going deep into the playoffs every season.
Sure, they reached the Western Conference finals last spring -- their third appearance in the last seven postseasons -- in somewhat of a surprise. They also lost Stoudemire over the summer and no longer stack up, talent-wise, with the Lakers, Spurs, Mavericks or maybe even the Thunder.
They still have coach Alvin Gentry, who took the Suns as far in the playoffs as D'Antoni did. Jason Richardson, who can rip a big scoring night occasionally, is still around. Grant Hill is still looking fresh. And of course Nash, a dangerous shooter with range and a playmaker with enviable quickness for someone his age, is there. But raise your hand if you think the Suns, with several new faces, none of them stars, are a threat to win it all. Yeah, thought so.
For a franchise that doesn't seem willing (or able?) to spend money on big-ticket free agents, the only way to rebuild is through the Draft or with promising young players. The only way to do that is to trade an asset. Do the Suns keep Nash around for sentimental reasons and to win 45-50 games (which takes them out of the Draft lottery) and play a round or two in the playoffs? Or do they trade him and get something in return before it's too late?
With Goran Dragic as a capable replacement for Nash, at least until they get somebody better, the Suns owe it to themselves to study the situation between now and the trade deadline. Here's a few possible destinations that might work for everybody involved:
Hawks: They have one of the least-productive starting point guards in the league in Mike Bibby. And too often, Joe Johnson assumes the point guard role and dribbles precious seconds off the clock. Nash would make the Hawks a major player in the East, and for those who cite his defense, is Bibby any better? They could package Jamal Crawford's expiring contract and any combination of Jeff Teague, Marvin Williams and rookie Jordan Crawford, all young players.
Magic: Put Nash with Dwight Howard and you'd see a clinic on the pick-and-roll. Howard would instantly become a legit MVP candidate and Orlando would be more than just a 3-point shooting team that occasionally goes inside to Howard. This trade would vault Orlando near the top of the heap in the East (although Celtics fans would love to see Nash defend Rajon Rondo). Besides, the Magic don't appear to have supreme confidence in Jameer Nelson, whom they tried to trade this summer to New Orleans for Chris Paul. Orlando could package Nelson with Brandon Bass, who'd give the Suns some badly-needed size.
Heat: This would be a case of the rich getting richer, and more precisely, the rich getting something they don't already have. Miami needs a point guard who can relieve the playmaking burden from LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, and to awaken Chris Bosh, who's off to a poor start. Can you imagine Nash running pick-and-rolls with all of the above? That would be insane. Problem: Miami doesn't have much to offer, unless the Suns want Mike Miller and maybe 3-point shooter James Jones (who, oddly enough, played with Nash in Phoenix from 2005-07). That's not enough, and besides, nobody seems to want to hand the hated Heat a title, anyway.
Knicks: Nash would be reunited with D'Antoni and Stoudemire, and the New York lifestyle would definitely agree with him. The Knicks wouldn't be ready to win right away, but if they add Carmelo Anthony to the mix next summer as expected, the Knicks would be in the championship mix. They can offer Raymond Felton and Wilson Chandler, a pair of productive young starters, plus throw-ins.
Thunder: Not that the Suns would want to send Nash to a team in the West. But the Thunder could offer young players; James Harden and Jeff Green come to mind. Because Nash and Russell Westbrook both play well off the ball, they could share the playmaking duties (think Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars in Detroit) and make Oklahoma City even more dangerous offensively. Rather than waiting for their team to grow up, the Thunder could try and win now, since tomorrow (and a title) isn't promised.
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