The Phoenix Suns were 12-13 when they pulled the trigger on their third huge mid-season trade in the last four years. In the 17 games since the trade that sent Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark to the Orlando Magic, Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus have helped the Suns go 8-10.
While the records might be similar, let's not forget the incredibly difficult schedule the Suns had at the beginning of the season compared to the relatively light stretch since the deal. Five of the Suns' 10 losses during the Era of Vinsanity have come against teams with sub-.500 records. By contrast, only three out of the Suns' first 13 losses were to sub-par teams.
By that measure alone, the trade (so far) has made the Suns worse this season. But lets look at the numbers and break it all down stats-wise.
- The Suns averaged 108.2 points per game before the trade and are down to 102.4 since. That's 5.8 fewer points per game.
- Shooting percentage is down from 47.6% to 46.9% and surprisingly, three-point shooting has stayed almost exactly the same at 38% although the team is taking .2 fewer three-point shots per game.
- A big drop comes in free throw attempts which has fallen from 27 per game to 22.4.
- Assists are up +.85 and offensive rebounds are down -1.92.
Defense and Rebounding
- Opponents' points per game are down from 109.9 to 104.7.
- Field goal percentage defense is showing a fairly large improvement from a ridiculous 49.1% allowed to a more respectable 46.3% (still below the league average, 45.6%).
- The Suns are giving up 1.9 more free throw attempts per game and generating 1.1 fewer steals and .4 fewer blocks per game.
- Rebounding has suffered as well. Total rebounds per game dropped .74 per game from 39.8 to 39.06 and rebounding differential is .86 per game worse.
- And finally the most important stat of all (outside win/loss) is point differential. Suns were -1.64 before Lon Babby pulled the trigger and -2.33 since.
The reasons given for the trade at the time were to move Hedo Turkoglu's salary and to get better defensively. In those regards, missions accomplished.
Unfortunately, neither of those have made the Suns better this season. Vince Carter is a massive downgrade from Jason Richardson. Marcin Gortat has played well but isn't a game-changing player. And Mickael Pietrus is only slightly more impactful than Earl Clark was.
With 39 games left in the season there's technically still time for a turnaround, but it would take a 26-13 finish to end the season with 46 wins and 46 wins weren't enough to make the playoffs in 2009. Can the Suns play at a .666 winning percentage for the rest of the season? They haven't shown any ability to do that.
The real question now as we approach the Feb. 24 NBA Trade Deadline is what moves can the team make to a) get better right now b) save money c) add assets for the future. I can pretty much guarantee that's what Lon Babby is sitting up in his office thinking about.
Too bad Steve Kerr isn't still in that chair, although if he were the team probably wouldn't be in this jam to begin with.