Moving the Matrix

By Pedro Souza

This was not really intended to be a post or anything, just something that I can’t keep off my mind: the Shawn Marion trade demand.

While Marion is the perfect fit for the Suns and they’ll never get what they need because he’s also possibly one of the most untradeable players in the league since he’s essentially an All-Star role player. Who else can clean the boards, defend several positions and hit threes?

The Suns could get seriously screwed over by dealing Marion.

Despite all the positives he brings to a team you wouldn’t want to build your franchise around him because he’s got a massive contract and he’s only really suitable for teams that are already contenders.

That being said, Steve Nash is nearing the tail-end of his prime and their Championship window is closing on them but there’s no way they can win the whole enchilada with such chemistry issues as posed by Marion’s complaining.

So, what should the Suns do?

On the one hand, the Suns are in a dire need of big men or any kind of roster depth. Pundits dismiss the Celtics’ chances on account of their thin bench, but Phoenix only has seven NBA-worthy players (and very good ones at that). Considering that one of them is the notoriously injury-prone Grant Hill, Steve Nash has chronic back problems, Amare came back from microfracture surgery just one year ago and Boris Diaw dipped into mediocrity last season I’d say they need some insurance. Trading Marion for a couple of reliable, dependable guys could be one way out.

Where does that lead them? Well, I cranked up the ESPN Trade Machine and played with a few trade scenarios.

The High Risk Tickin’ Time Bomb Scenario
PHOENIX sends Shawn Marion ($16.4m) and Eric Piatkowski ($1.2m) to SACRAMENTO
SACRAMENTO sends Ron Artest ($7.4m), Shareef Abdur-Rahim ($5.8m) and John Salmons ($4.7m) to PHOENIX

For Phoenix: It all boils down to Artest. He’s a loony, but he can play ball. He’s a top defender, a good rebounder (6.5 rebounds per game last season) and can play above the rim and shoot threes (last season he had a better three point percentage than Marion). Maybe playing alongside Steve Nash will keep Artest sane and happy for a while. Perhaps Amare’s alpha dog personality will intimidate him a bit. Who knows? But it could work: Artest’s a lot like Marion in several aspects and earns a lot less. That’d make room for John Salmons and Shareef Abdur-Rahim to bolster the Suns’ bench. Shareef has a big body and can come off the bench, nab a couple of rebounds and score a bit. Salmons is a decent three-point shooter and can bring some defense to the mix. The downside of this deal is that all three have contracts with at least three years left. But the Suns are looking to win now, right? They can’t keep selling draft picks and giving away their big men for free.

For Sacramento: Artest and Mike Bibby have an on-going feud and it’s getting increasingly difficult to move Bibby. Also, they need to make room for the emergence of Kevin Martin so adding a selfless player like Marion will help. With Brad Miller on the downswing of his career, they desperately need a rebounder. Besides, Marion is young enough to stay around for a few more years and lead the team in their post-Bibby and post-Miller era. Piatkowski is a throw-in who’s in the last year of his contract.

The Obvious Choice
PHOENIX sends Marion ($16.4m) to UTAH
UTAH sends Kirilenko ($13.7m) to PHOENIX

For Phoenix: Kirilenko saves them money this season (but costs more in the long run) and has similar traits to Marion. He’s a tenacious defender, good rebounder, knows how to score, can steal and dish some important assists. As Bill Simmons points out, he could very well thrive on a free-flowing Phoenix offense.

For Utah: Kirilenko wants out because he’s firmly in Sloan’s doghouse. Millsap-Marion-Boozer would dominate the boards. The only downside I see in this is the following: Marion was tired of being the third banana in the Suns, but a move to the Jazz would mean he’d become the team’s fourth scoring option. He doesn’t shoot as well as Okur, doesn’t slash as well as Williams and has no post moves like Boozer. Could he be happy in such a setting?

The Let’s Hope He Doesn’t Get Injured Again Scenario
PHOENIX sends Marion ($16.4m) and Eric Piatkowski ($1.2m) to LAKERS
LAKERS sends Lamar Odom ($13.2m) and Vladimir Radmanovic ($5.6m) to PHOENIX

For Phoenix: Odom is very similar to Marion, except not as durable and not as good a long-range shooter (and probably an inferior defender too, but, hey, you can’t have it all). Alas, bring in V-Rad, who fell out of favor with Phil Jackson and was even called a ‘space cadet’. Phoenix would be able to keep their playing style and would increase their roster’s depth. Playing alongside Nash I feel both Odom and V-Rad could post big numbers. Besides, Phoenix’s second unit would feature Barbosa, Boris Diaw and Radmanovic, which would make it pretty strong. Sure, both Odom’s and Radmanovic’s health would be a concern…

For Lakers: Maybe this is the kind of deal that would appease Kobe. Also, Marion would bring some hustle and some much needed defense. Besides, with Luke Walton looking good and Andrew Bynum progressing along, they don’t really need Radmanovic.

The Let’s Try it Differently This Time Scenario
PHOENIX sends Marion ($16.4m) to MIAMI
MIAMI sends Udonis Haslem ($6m) and Jason Williams ($8.9m) to PHOENIX

For Phoenix: They’d have to change their playing style a bit, I guess, since Udonis Haslem is hardly a multi-task three-point-shooting kind of guy, but he’s a hard-nosed player with a knack for playing tough defense and snagging rebounds which would help hide Amare Stoudemire when Tim Duncan struts towards Phoenix’s paint. He’s not the great defender and smart player that Marion is but he is big and could be of enormous help. Also, Jason Williams’ flamboyant playing style just reeks of Phoenix, dosen’t it? He has a fat expiring deal so if they’re unhappy with him they could use that as a trade-bait later on. Phoenix would save some money this season too. He could be the back-up point guard Phoenix so desperately needs to give Nash a good rest during the season, though his health and durability is dubious to say the best.

For Miami: Marion could mean giving less minutes to Antoine Walker and that would be a good thing. With Udonis out, they’d need Shaq to actually put in some effort during the regular season but I think that might be possible. A trio of Wade-Marion-Shaq could be pretty damn good on both ends of the court. They don’t need a PG too badly either since Wade commands most of offensive possessions. It’d increase their pay roll, even though Pat Riley wouldn’t mind it too much as he tries to erase last year’s humiliating blunder from the fans’ memories.

The Possible Heist
PHOENIX sends Marion ($ 16.4m) to NEW JERSEY
NEW JERSEY sends Richard Jefferson ($12.2m) and Nenad Krstic ($1.8m) to PHOENIX

For Phoenix: They’d get two possible starters for one. Both Jefferson and Krstic have looming injury concerns but Jefferson is a talented scorer who can hit threes and would thrive under Mike D’Antoni. Nenad Krstic is a young, still-developing center who’d significantly improve their front court. Defense would obviously be a problem as neither guy is much of a rebounder though. Considering that Krstic is in a contract year and was coming along nicely last season, it could work out marvelously for the Suns if both remain healthy, especially if Amare improves on D.

For New Jersey: They re-signed Vince Carter and kept Jason Kidd which means they’re looking to win now. Jefferson duplicates to a certain extent Carter’s playing style, hanging on the perimeter and nailing jump shots so they could use someone completely different. What about playing Marion at the 4 and enjoying his defense and rebounds? With former All-Star Jamal Magloire as center to make up for Marion’s lack of height, that would be a very interesting frontcourt, at least when it comes to D and rebounds.

Well, that’s it. I thought about other possibilities (Marion for Caron Butler and Antonio Daniels, for instance) and I was really bummed that I couldn’t envision a scenario that’d put Rasheed Wallace in Phoenix where he belongs (he’d really add some toughness to the Suns and his out-of-control personality could fit well with their style), but all in all I think all the above scenarios are realistic to a certain extent.

I was afraid of being biased towards the Suns but I think it’s fairly balanced. If it were up to me I’d try the Ron Artest option, after all who cares if it implodes after a couple of seasons if they win the Larry O’Brien in the process? Nash’s career is nearing its end and Phoenix will probably struggle mightily after he goes so a break-the-bank all-or-nothing approach could be their best move. Besides, it would also bolster their roster significantly and that shouldn’t be overlooked.

It’s also a shame that the Warriors dealt Jason Richardson recently. I assume a Jason Richardson and Matt Barnes combo could be somewhat enticing to the Suns. Barnes is the poor man’s Marion and Richardson is the kind of high-flying uber-athletic swingman that would look wonderful alongside Nash.

Oh well…

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