Suns Pull Off Blockbuster Trade With Magic

by Jeramie McPeek
VP, Digital
By Stefan Swiat,
Posted: Dec. 18, 2010

At 12-13 and tied for eighth in the Western Conference, the Suns front office decided the team needed a much-needed boost, executing a six-player trade with the Orlando Magic on Saturday.

Phoenix acquired eight-time All-Star Vince Carter, center Marcin Gortat, swingman Mickael Pietrus, a first-round pick in this year’s draft and cash considerations in exchange for Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark.

“We’re very excited about this transaction, both now and for the future,” Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby said. “Carter and Pietrus give us great defensive presence on the perimeter, while also being extremely dynamic offensively.

“We also recognize the need here for increased interior presence, size and rebounding and Gortat is someone we’ve had our eye on since we got here and was sought after by many, many teams in the league. We think he’s going to be a great addition here and having a first-round draft choice gives us some more opportunities in this year’s draft, as well.”

After evaluating what it had over the first 25 games, the Suns front office believed that it needed to add some defense, rebounding, toughness and size to the roster. Babby, as well as Suns General Manager Lance Blanks, were excited about this acquisition because they were able to obtain those qualities in the trade without giving up any size in return.

Obviously, the premier name in the deal is the 6-6, 220-pound Carter. The 12-year veteran is an eight-time All-Star, including seven selections as a starter.

The 1998-99 NBA Rookie of the Year earned All-NBA honors in 2000-01 (Second Team) and 2001-02 (Third Team), while also taking home gold at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. The 33-year-old shooting guard, who currently ranks eighth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list among active players, is just 169 points shy of 20,000 for his career.

Up until this point in the season, "Half-Man Half-Amazing" was Orlando's second-leading scorer (15.1 points) and was ranked third-highest on the team in assists. Carter is currently shooting 47 percent from the floor and 35 percent from behind the arc.

Hampered by some pesky injuries this year, many critics have doubted Carter's ability to be the prolific offensive weapon he once was. Blanks doesn't mind that at all.

"I think that he’s a little undervalued from a perception standpoint," the Suns GM said. "We believe that he has a lot more left than one would think with the naked eye because of his ability to shoot the ball and now to play with a point guard like Steve Nash. I think we’ll see him in a much different light than we’ve seen him over the first 25 games of this season."

Although Carter may be the most-recognized name in the trade, the player most-coveted may have been Gortat. The 6-11, 240-pound center was brought in to provide a much-needed dose of defense, rebounding and toughness to the Suns.

Ironically, he was originally selected by Phoenix with the 57th overall pick of the 2005 NBA Draft before he was dealt to the Magic for cash considerations in 2005. Babby said that he knew acquiring Gortat was a good move because even though the center hasn't even arrived in Phoenix yet, “our phone hasn’t stopped ringing with teams looking to get him from us.”

Through 25 games this season, "The Polish Hammer" is averaging a career-high 4.0 points and a career-high 4.7 rebounds in only 15.9 minutes. Currently possessing the worst total rebounding percentage in the league, the Suns may just found their best rebounder.

“From the 50-foot level, we’re seeing that he’s been sparring with the best big man in the NBA in Dwight Howard for several years now,” Blanks said. “There’s got to be a lot of rub-off from that and he’s openly spoken about embracing and wanting a bigger role, minutes, touches and expectations on a team. Also he’s been competing with a team for a world championship and he’s one of the bigger stronger centers in the league that can also run, is mobile, can play the pick-and-roll and isn’t shy about doing the dirty work.”

As it stands, his 4.7 rebounds a game would tie him for third-best on the Suns right now. He's also shooting 54 percent from the floor.

The last player the Suns received in the trade also adds some elements to the team that its been lacking. Pietrus, a versatile, 6-6, 215-pound swingman out of France, will be counted on as a dogged perimeter defender and as a steady outside shooter. His ability to space the floor is something that Blanks remembers well from his time as a member of Cleveland's front office.

"Unfortunately, I watched him hurt us pretty badly a couple years ago in our series (Eastern Conference Finals) when I was in Cleveland," Blanks recalled. "He was like a sniper from the wing and the corner, knocking down big shots. I can’t emphasize enough the level of grit and toughness that he’s going to bring."

"Air France" is a seven-year veteran that owns career averages of 8.6 points and 3.2 rebounds. The 28-year-old, who is expected to play both the 2 and the 3, is shooting a career-high 39.1 percent from three-point range through 19 games in 2010-11.

After losing Amar'e Stoudemire this past offseason, Phoenix attempted to fill its void at the power forward spot with Turkoglu, a life-long small forward. However, it became clear that Turkoglu was too undersized for the position.

“I think the Hedo Turkoglu acquisition was a noble experiment,” Babby said. “I think Hedo and our team really tried to make it work, but I think it became obvious that we weren’t going to be able to succeed with him as our 4. And that’s through no fault of his.”

The trade will add a little more clarity to a frontcourt rotation that now features Robin Lopez, Channing Frye, Gortat, Hakim Warrick and possibly Earl Barron. Now it will just be a matter of Gentry integrating his new players into the Suns' system.

The newest members of the Suns, who are expected to clear their physicals in the next few days, will give Gentry his crack at coaching them when the Suns play host to the Heat on Thursday on TNT. Once arriving in Phoenix and receiving their uniforms, Carter will wear No. 25, Pietrus will sport No. 12 and Gortat will don No. 4.

Any questions or comments for Stefan Swiat? Click here to send him your comments by e-mail.


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