Picture this scenario. Your team has been doing great the past few seasons. They even had a disappointing loss in the conference finals just two years ago. Your team is having contract negotiations with its star forward. Finally things break down, the team trades the player for pennies on the dollar and your once great franchise goes into a tailspin.
We’re not talking the Nuggets, which of course you know! However, this exact story did play out just a few seasons ago. In 2008 the Phoenix Suns decided to trade Shawn Marion to Miami for Shaq. This move was bad in so many ways. Let’s do a quick rundown.
Marion was a much better player than Shaq
At least that was true in 2008 (Totally checking to see if you read the articles as opposed to skim!)
In 2006 Shaq was still a decent big but was clearly second fiddle to Wade. By 2007 and 2008 Shaq was pretty much done. In his remaining life as an NBA player he only had one decent season left in 2009. Going into 2008 Marion was at the top of his game. In 07 the Suns were arguably a bad ref call (or stupid play by Amare) away from a third consecutive trip to the conference finals. There’s really no way to slice trading a top player in the league for a washed up former great.
It didn’t help money wise
I’ll throw Phoenix a bone here (and promptly snatch it back). Marion allegedly was asking for a three year $60 million extension. In 2009 Marion was turning 30 and this is right around the time players start to degrade. In fact, if we look at Marion’s numbers above, we see that’s what happened. However, had the Suns just ignored Marion’s demands then the following would have happened. They would have kept Marion’s services for 08 and kept a core of greats together that had recently made it far in the playoffs. Marion would probably have signed his 09 extension. The Suns would have kept Marion for another season and a half of greatness. At the end of that they’d have first rights to bargain for him or let him walk and free up cap flexibility.
What’s more, if the Suns complaint was money and age then Shaq was a confusing trade choice. Understand that the Suns got no picks or money from the Shaq trade. Shaq also had two years remaining on his contract taking him into 2010 whereas Marion’s contract would have expired in 09 (and that’s if he had taken the extension) Finally Shaq’s contract was more expensive than Marion’s ($20-$21 Million as opposed to $16-$17 million) So to avoid giving a great player they feared would degrade with age an expensive contract they traded for a former great player that had degraded with age an expensive contract! That’s some dramatic irony right there!
2010 would have been the same
I do feel I should put this out there. In 2010 the Suns surged back to prominence. A lot of this was by getting Jared Dudley and Jason Richardson from Charlotte. This of course a familiar story as Charlotte enjoys improving other teams. At the same time Marion had his worst season and was about as good as Grant Hill was in 2010. As such 2010 would have been a similar season if Marion was around instead of Hill (and the Suns still made the Richardson/Dudley deal).
The Suns could use Marion now
This season the Suns have Nash, Gortat and Dudley playing well. Childress is also a very good player that if given more playing time would help. As we can see this clears four out of five positions. Where the Suns are weak is at their forward spot. Channing Frye and Hakim Warrick are simply not good players. Clearly the Suns could use Marion this season. The Suns can be content that they were fine off in 2010 (a season where they traded Shaq for Ben Wallace and then paid Ben Wallace $10 million to go away to be just as good as they would have been with Marion). However they gave up the 08 season where Amare was playing at his highest level. They missed the playoffs in 09 and are currently sporting a losing record. Trading Marion is a perfect example of how losing a star player can impact a team. I hope all of the current people calling Melo a star will look back and take note. Of course I find it more likely that Melo will continue to be overrated the rest of his career and Marion will end his career underrated.