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Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Phoenix Suns Are Going All In

Perhaps in honor of the recently completed World Series of Poker, the Phoenix Suns have decided to go "all in" to try to capture this year's NBA title. Phoenix' trade of Kurt Thomas and two first round picks (2008 and 2010) to Seattle for a conditional second round draft pick and an $8 million trade exception signifies two things: the Suns are desperate to avoid paying the luxury tax and they believe (hope?) that their remaining nucleus can win a championship. They previously traded away the rights to their first round pick this year--guard Rudy Fernandez--and guard James Jones to Portland for $3 million. Technically, I suppose the Suns are not going all in from a monetary standpoint because they are actually trying to curb payroll--but, philosophically, they are taking an all or nothing stance by getting rid of so many first round picks. If they don't win a title soon, the rebuilding process could get ugly.

Jones and Thomas were the seventh and eighth men respectively in Phoenix' rotation last year. Free agent Grant Hill is the only significant player who Phoenix has signed this offseason, so a team that was not very deep last year is even thinner now. Injuries to one or two guys could really wreak havoc on the team. I can understand letting Jones go and replacing him with Hill at a lower cost but trading Thomas does not fit in with a win now philosophy. Thomas' statistics don't blow you away but he was the team's best low post defender last year, even doing a credible job against Tim Duncan. Frankly, the Suns' duel objectives of winning now and avoiding paying the luxury tax are not complementary goals. I see no reason to believe that the Suns will get by the Spurs this year after not being able to do so the past several seasons. It is not at all certain that Phoenix would beat Dallas in a playoff series, either, and Utah could pose a challenge to the Suns as well. I don't think that Suns' fans should be thrilled at how the team seems to be paying at least as much attention to the financial bottom line as to the product that is being put on the court. It is understandable why the Suns want to cut costs but it just leaves a bad taste when a team that is one of the legitimate title contenders gets rid of a solid veteran like Thomas just to save some money. He can be a good mentor to Seattle's young players but the Sonics will likely miss the playoffs this year and by the time their young core matures Thomas will probably be retired. Meanwhile, to paraphrase a lament offered by one coach in the 1970s, when Duncan is torching the Suns in next summer's playoffs, Phoenix Coach Mike D'Antoni will find that throwing that $8 million trade exception on the court is not a very useful defensive strategy.

posted by David Friedman @ 2:28 AM

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