Did Nash, Suns make the right calls?
Re-evaluating Nash's offseason move to Los Angeles, impact on Phoenix Suns
The Steve Nash experiment has been a disappointment so far in Los Angeles. Was it the right landing spot for the two-time MVP? Will he ever reach the NBA Finals? Our panel revisits the deal ahead of Nash's return to Phoenix (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).
1. Fact or Fiction: Letting Steve Nash go was the right call for Phoenix.
Amin Elhassan, ESPN Insider: Fact. If anything, the Suns probably should have moved him sooner. One has to wonder what took the Suns so long to figure out that Nash wasn't a part of their future, and what kind of haul they could have brought in had they acted earlier. As it is, they lucked out that the Lakers presented themselves as a trade partner. There are some who would argue against trading the two-time MVP and face of the franchise to a bitter division rival, but it's hard to see any team giving the Suns a comparable package of draft picks, including the shrewdly negotiated potential lottery pick (should the Lakers miss the playoffs).
Andrew Han, ClipperBlog: Fact. Nash was a free agent and wanted another opportunity to compete for a title, which wasn't going to happen with the Suns. Even if this is about facilitating a trade for the Lakers, it was still the right choice. The future health of a franchise should always be its chief concern, and the two first-round and two second-round picks Phoenix got in return are looking pretty smart now.
Michael Schwartz, Valley of the Suns: Fact. The Suns desperately needed to commence the rebuilding process, and that was impossible with Nash on the roster. In fact, Phoenix should have traded him at least a year and a half earlier, when he probably would have fetched a better return, rather than contend for the eighth seed the past two seasons.
Darius Soriano, Forum Blue and Gold: Fiction. If a franchise legend is willing to stick around and finish his career with you, especially if the cost is reasonable, you keep him and don't trade him to a division rival. Not to mention Nash could've been a good mentor for rookie Kendall Marshall while transitioning to more of a part-time player.
Amin Vafa, Hardwood Paroxysm: Fact. Parting with Nash was the right call, and netting four future draft picks is the perfect haul for a rebuilding franchise. I know some people hate that he went to the Lakers, but the organization worked with him so that he could stay close to his kids. I like that.
2. Fact or Fiction: The Lakers were the right team for Nash.
Elhassan: Fact. The Lakers have underachieved so far and have had more than their fair share of turmoil and distractions, but this is still a no-brainer. No other destination offered the combination of opportunity to compete, financial reward and proximity to his children, who still live in the Phoenix area. Toronto would have been nice for nostalgia's sake, except Nash is from Vancouver, and New York probably would have been a stronger destination had Mike D'Antoni still been coaching there. But at the end of the day, the ability to catch an hour flight to see his kids was a benefit that only the Lakers could have provided.
Han: Fact. It's easy to say, in retrospect, that Nash should have gone to New York. But the Lakers are a core still only two years removed from a championship. Add the Howard deal shortly after Nash's signing and the proximity to his family, and Los Angeles was an ideal situation.
Schwartz: Fact. Considering the Lakers' glaring hole at the point guard spot and the opportunity to play with a trio of elite talents, they were the right team, especially because Nash can take the playmaking load off Kobe and complement Dwight Howard in the pick-and-roll game. That's not to mention Nash's family considerations that played an important role in his decision.
Soriano: Fact. Professionally, the Lakers still offer him a chance to win the title while playing in a marquee market at a salary that would have been impossible for any other contender to pay. Personally, he's still close enough to his kids to see them semi-regularly. Sounds as though it was a win-win for Nash.
Vafa: Fiction. Geographically, the Lakers were the right team. However, the gift of hindsight has shown us this situation in Lakerland has been nothing but a disaster. Watching him play on that cohesive Knicks roster would have been something special.
3. Fact or Fiction: Nash is the greatest Suns player of all time.
Elhassan: Fact. Alvan Adams, the forerunner to "small ball" mobile bigs, still has his name all over the franchise record book. Charles Barkley probably had the greatest individual season in franchise history, both in terms of personal and team success. Paul Westphal was not only a great player, but also went on to be a highly successful coach. Kevin Johnson, Walter Davis -- they all have rightful claims -- but no other player has had the impact that Nash has had, both on the franchise and game itself. He made everyone who played with him better and ushered in the Golden Age of the Point Guard that we are currently experiencing. While he never brought Phoenix the ultimate prize, years from now people will still think of Nash as the signature face of the Suns.
Han: Fact. Sir Charles of 1992-93 might have a bone to pick, but if you consider who spent more of his peak seasons with the Suns, Steve Nash ultimately goes down as the best to have played in Phoenix.
Schwartz: Fact. Charles Barkley is a close second, but Nash won two MVPs, guided the Suns to the brink of the Finals several times and spearheaded an up-tempo attack that led the league in offensive efficiency six years in a row. The Suns have played a fast-paced style throughout their history, and nobody exemplifies that quite like Nash.
Soriano: Fact. I have a hard time choosing between Nash, Charles Barkley and Kevin Johnson, but keep going back to Nash. Though he didn't reach the Finals, Nash did lead two wholly separate Suns teams to the conference finals and won two league MVPs in a Suns uniform. His full body of work puts him at the top, though it is close.
Vafa: Fiction. I think he's tied with Kevin Johnson. Even with Nash's two MVPs, you can't forget the impact KJ had on the Suns in the '80s and '90s. Had Charles Barkley played 10 or more seasons with Phoenix, as Nash and KJ did (Barkley played only four), he'd be in this conversation, too.
4. Fact or Fiction: Nash will make an NBA Finals before he retires.
Elhassan: Faction. Theoretically, this was the year the Lakers should have had the best chance to make it to the Finals. However, between injuries, coaching changes and chemistry issues, it looks doubtful they'll achieve that goal. If Dwight Howard re-signs this offseason (a big "if") and can regain a reasonable facsimile of his former self pre-back injury, it's not out of the realm of imagination that with a full training camp, a year's worth of experience together and the addition of an athletic, 3-point shooting wing, the Lakers could help Nash achieve his first trip to the Finals.
Han: Fiction. Maybe not this season, but the Lakers will find a way to contend for a title with Nash still running the show; they're just too talented at the top of the roster not to. But this becomes a question of choosing the Lakers versus a Western Conference already fielding the top teams in the league and new, intriguing teams that could become powerhouses. Odds would dictate the field is the safe bet.
Schwartz: Fiction. The Lakers have a 0.6 percent chance of making that happen this year, according to the Hollinger Playoff Odds. Based on the current strength of the West, the Lakers'’ aging core and the fact they can'’t add much to their roster because of luxury tax issues, it's unlikely to happen in future seasons either.
Soriano: Fact. Though it's not likely this year, Nash should have a contending-level team surrounding him in Los Angeles for the remainder of his contract. And while the Thunder will remain the favorite to continue to represent the West, the Lakers need only health and a bit of luck to break through once. I think it happens for Nash.
Vafa: Fiction. This isn't just a knock on the quality of this Lakers team -- although I don't think they're Finals-bound anytime soon. OK, it kind of is. I don't foresee Nash getting traded from the Lakers before the end of his contract, so unless the team fixes its issues, Nash will retire Finals-less.
5. Fact or Fiction: The Suns have the bleakest future in the NBA.
Elhassan: Fiction. The Suns have a lot of flexibility moving forward: cap space, no "toxic" long-term deals on the books and multiple draft picks. Of course, they still have to make the right moves with those assets, which isn't guaranteed given their recent track record of decision-making and lack of direction. Still, the title of "bleakest future" is reserved for teams with low ceilings for success, bogged down with overpaid deals and outgoing draft picks owed, like the Celtics and Kings.
Han: Fiction, but purely on a technicality. Until a new ownership group officially takes over the Kings, that franchise has the bleakest future. The Suns aren't far behind, though. With an owner historically reluctant to spend and a front office that hasn't had the best record with trades and drafts, Phoenix's future isn't terribly bright. But nothing a few Lakers lottery picks can't amend.
Schwartz: Fiction. The Suns have less impact talent than anyone in the NBA, but that doesn't mean they have the bleakest future. The Suns own six first-round picks in the next three drafts, many of which probably will be lottery selections, plus plenty of financial flexibility and a desirable location. They are at Stage 1, but some franchises are below that.
Soriano: Fact, though that can all change with the bouncing of some pingpong balls. But without a huge hit in the draft, it doesn't look good. The Suns have set themselves up with a bad mix of players, don't have very clean salary books for multiple seasons and have had mixed free-agency results historically. Hard to see a quick turnaround.
Vafa: Fiction. I'm not saying the next few years won't be bad in Phoenix, but by shedding contracts and acquiring multiple draft picks, they're already starting to rebuild. Phoenix might not have a rookie superstar around whom to build just yet, but struggling teams such as Washington and Charlotte are worse off and have no contingency plans.