The NBA trade rumors are starting to swirl like snow in December and not even the desert heat can keep the Phoenix Suns out of the chatter. In this case, reports are flying that the Orlando Magic are looking to shake up their under-performing, overpaid roster by moving overpaid and under-performing forward Rashard Lewis. Lewis would be going to the Washington Wizards for Gilbert Arenas, who has another one of the league's worst contracts. Now it seems the Suns have involved themselves, as well, with the discussions reportedly centering on Hedo Turkoglu returning to Orlando where he had the best years of his career.
Evan Dunlap from SB Nation's Orlando Magic blog first reported a potential Arenas to the Magic trade a few weeks ago and updated his report last night. Multiple sources are now reporting similar deals, with the added twist that Dwight Howard is pushing the Magic to shake things up. Howard will be a free agent at the end of the next season and keeping him happy is of course a priority in Orlando.
Specifics on what the Suns would get back in the deal are sketchy at best, but it would seem that Phoenix is trying to secure backup center Marcin Gortat in the deal for Turkoglu. Turkoglu hasn't been a good fit in Phoenix, in large part for reasons that were predictable.
Turkoglu's stock has fallen inside the Suns organization, with questions arising about his fit on the team. He wasn't able to adapt to playing the power forward position, which took him out of the starting lineup and between Steve Nash's propensity to dominate the ball and Turkoglu's freelancing plays with the second unit, he's not been able to find a role. There is also a perception that he doesn't play with enough consistent passion or energy, although at times he's been very impressive on the defensive end, but mostly only late in games.
Following the dollars
Financially there are many questions about how this might all play out for the teams involved.
It would be difficult for the Magic, who already have the league's highest payroll ($94 million), to swap the $62 million owed Arenas for the $31-43 million guaranteed Lewis through the 2012-13 season without making other cost-saving moves.
It may be that the only way they would take on Turkoglu's remaining $28.8 million guaranteed salary (not including this season) in place of the $21.8 million owed Gortat would be to insist on the Suns swapping Jason Richardson for Vince Carter.
Both Carter and Richardson are on expiring contracts, but Vince is owed about 7.1 million more. That means a deal that sends Gortat and Carter to Phoenix for Richardson and Turkoglu would be almost even deal financially.
More likely, the Magic would want to try and get the Suns to take on the $14.2 million owed Chris Duhon, but the Suns could balk at that for a backup point guard. A Gortat and Duhon for Turkoglu deal is about a salary wash this season, but gives the Suns about $8 million more in long term contract obligations that would help offset some of additional Arenas contract for the Magic.
Obviously, these deals are complicated, with multiple parties and players involved and all reports, rumors and speculation at this point are very much subject to change.
What's seems to be clear is the Suns' understanding that they put together an unbalanced roster with the moves Robert Sarver made this summer. We've heard Gentry say as much recently with statements about hard it is to play five guys at two positions. His frustration has led to a variety of rotation tinkering.
Messing with chemistry
At this point, losing Turkoglu probably wouldn't upset too many people in the locker room, as he's not been here that long. Swapping Richardson for Carter, however, could create a potential chemistry crisis that might be the final straw for Steve Nash, who's repeatedly expressed his frustration at the lack of stability on the team over the past several years. For that reason alone, it might be worth it for the Suns to swallow Duhon's contract for the chance to replace Turkoglu with Gortat.
The combination of Gortat and Lopez would suddenly give the Suns much-needed depth at the center position and more versatility in how the team matches up against some of the bigger teams in the West. Gortat is signed through 2013-14 season and has the combination of mobility and size that the Suns covet in their bigs.
Gortat has improved his mid-range game this season and is a guy who has shown the ability to catch and finish on the pick-and-roll, although he doesn't get many touches in the Magic system. Having Gortat on the roster would also take some of the pressure off the 22-year-old Lopez to carry all of the defensive and big man responsibilities alone.
Moving Turkoglu opens up space in the rotation for Josh Childress to play his natural small forward position and could even increase opportunities for Earl Clark, who continues to show signs of improvement.
However, if the Suns give up on Turkoglu too soon they could regret the loss of his clutch shooting and playmaking ability down the road when and if Grant Hill (38) and Steve Nash (36) aren't both able to play big minutes. Hill's contract expires at the end of this season and Nash has one year remaining. Hedo could be a long-term insurance policy for either guy if he and Goran Dragic are able to workout a good court chemistry.
[Note by Justin Burning, 12/18/10 11:59 AM MST ]
ESPN's Chris Broussard has tweeted the following:
Magic & Suns closing in on deal to send Hedo/jRich to Phx for Vince and Gortat. "90 pct" chance of it happening, sources say. Within 24 hrs