Deterred from north of Russia
Sometimes I worry that Chad Ford is a scouting genius; once that madness passes, I wonder if anyone who has largely invented his own universe could ever seem stupid in it. I did, however, stand up and salute at two point he made today in his Sea of Summer League Judgement Calls (Insider, but who among you doesn't hold that totally inexpensive honor?).
-I argued a few weeks back that it's the truly multi-dimensional summer league performances that shed the most light on those mysterious goings-on. Ford, however, might have the most savvy take of all: only outright incompetence by highly-touted prospects means much of anything. I was unaware that M-Will was doing it up so well, but I can't say it startled me, whereas Sheldon WIlliams's utter stench of a Revue contradicts all the resigned approval of him we heard all June. Incidentally, this was the same paragraph in which he called Marvin "a better prospect than Al Harrington," which may or may not actively contradict all that I wrote yesterday about Baby Al's strange signifiance. It's like the world is still waiting for Harrington to mature, but he no longer gets evaluated in terms of Potential. Even Tim Thomas was spared this fate.
-Adam Morrison, white gunner?
-Ford's take on the Suns' draft performance as of late:
So after three drafts, what do the Suns have to show for it all? A broken down Kurt Thomas (with $16 million left on his contract), an overpaid/undersized back-up guard in Banks and the Cavs' first-round pick next season.
Would you trade those assets for a combination of Deng (or Iguodala), Robinson and Rondo? On talent, there's no way. And when you factor in how cheap rookies are compared to free-agent vets, you wouldn't do it for the money, either.
The bottom line is: Part of the reason the Suns are having cap problems is that they aren't totally taking advantage of cheaper rookie contracts. When Leandro Barbosa and Boris Diaw sign their extensions (Barbosa is closer than Diaw right now to inking a deal), the team won't have any young players in the pipe earning cheaper contracts.
It's hard to take issue with this gloomy version of things, but I think Ford's forgetting something key here: no team GM's perfect. Once upon a time, I went back and reconstructed the hypothetical Bulls squad that could've existed if they'd never made the Brand and Jalen deals. Good exercise, though it assumed that the world's greatest front office would've been the alternative. If we look not at all the things that the Suns have done right in the D'Antoni era, these sins became collateral, the price of aggressively doing business as a team with a vision at hand. Compare these with the repercussions of the Darko disaster, which happened at the hands of the NBA's foremost front office. Deng or Iguodala might've helped, but neither has the range so desperately required of a wing player in that system. Yes, Robinson would've been a funny, funny guy, but I can't imagine him running that offense and he too is not a gobbler of three-pointers. Rondo, again, zero range, and totally unproven at the professional level (for the record, that's my dude).
I don't think that any of them would've meant more to Phoenix than Diaw or Barbosa, who are both in line for money—some of that money that these first-round picks would've sopped up. Thomas is not so old that he's "breaking down," and he's hardly bad as bench size goes; he was brough in to complement Amare, not stand in for him. And with Barbosa switching over to the two, Banks is a useful commodity, more of a solid one than Robinson or Rondo (as of now). Not sure how a 6'2", 200 lbs. BIG POINT GUARD who averaged 12/5 last season in an unstable platoon is "undersized," and for four mill a year they're landing someone who can defend on Raja's wavelength and competently spell Nash (remember, someone has to get the ball to Amare next year).
Ford is basically proposing that the Suns should continue stockpiling young gems they might not be able to afford to keep, rather than build a solid nucleus around what they've got. The Joe Johnson trade set the tone in this department: unlike Diaw, and kind of Barbosa, he was both inessential and could be functionally replaced by something cheaper. The fate of Tim Thomas, too, shows what happens when this kind of Suns player commands excess attention. Yes, he was initially brought in temporarily on the cheap, as I suppose they could've done with first-rounders. The difference between Thomas and all these guys Ford rattles off, though is that he was a late season flyer and a perfect fit, not a three-year committment who may or may not have clicked.
-Speaking of Joey Johnson, here's some shit straight from the LOS files that confirms everything about why this league kicks the shit out of all the other ones. THIS IS A LEAGUE OF COMMUNITY, EQUALITY, AND GOODWILL.