By Jason Wojciechowski on December 11, 2008 at 3:54 AM
The tear-down of the Suns continues, I found out from ESPN. Raja Bell and Boris Diaw have been sent to Charlotte for Jason Richardson. I'm not the only one who thinks this deal is crazy for the Suns, am I? Richardson can score the basketball, with an 18.8 point average for his career. He shoots the three at a very good rate, including 40% last year and 46% so far this year. But think about all the things he doesn't do: he doesn't pass the ball, he doesn't rebound, he's not known as a defensive player, and even at the thing he does best, scoring, he's only moderately efficient. He's a ball-stopper. Obviously the old Suns would never use this guy. But does he fit the new Suns any better? Is there problem really that they don't have enough ball-stopping shooters who don't play defense. Is that any team's problem? The Suns, more and more, look like a team without a plan. They decide that they're going to blow up their entire philosophy under Mike D'Antoni and run with a Steve Kerr-Terry Porter-Shaq tradition-fest. So why on earth do you trade your best wing defender and a guy who's established that, if you give him the minutes, he'll give you 12/6/6 and be utterly unselfish?
So now you've got Jason Richardson. You've already got Steve Nash, Shaq, and Amare Stoudemire. Richardson's the fourth guy here, right? Nash is Nash, and Amare is still immensely talented, a great offensive player. Shaq showed that he's still got some pop the other night when he scored 35, and, maybe more importantly, he doesn't have the personality to take a relegation to fourth option well. He's had enough difficulty adjusting to being the third-best player on the team. So ok, Richardson is the fourth option. He's not getting the one-on-one opportunities to break down his man. He'll be a spot-up shooter most of the time, working to spots to get the ball from Nash or Shaq. Is Richardson really that much better at that job than Raja Bell that you're willing to sacrifice Bell's defense, his leadership on the team, his beloved status in Phoenix, and the all-around play of Boris Diaw to get him? (Spoiler: I wouldn't ask the question if I thought the answer was "yes".)
Now, the deal doesn't make Charlotte a good team right now, but when you can get back two good players at reasonable prices for one guy who's always been overrated because teams overvalue individual points at the expense of all the other things it takes to win a basketball game, I think you've won the deal.
Best of all? Phoenix will be very shorthanded against the Lakers tonight, with L.A. coming off a bad loss to a bad Sacramento team. They will of course be missing Bell and Diaw, but also Shaq, who will unfortunately be in New Jersey for a family funeral, and Sean Singletary, who was a throw-in in the deal.
(Interestingly, John Hollinger likes the deal for the Suns. However, he makes the assumption that the trade is a sign that the Suns are going back to running and gunning. I think he's off base. They can certainly try to do that, but the architect of that style, the man who can fix it when it's off-kilter and keep on his guys to keep running, is running the Knicks. And remember, Richardson is a ball-stopper. Yes, he's a finisher in transition, but the Suns aren't always in transition. When they're not running, they still need to move the ball.)