The Matrix unloaded
Potential Suns trade targets in a deal for Marion
Posted: Wednesday September 26, 2007 5:40PM; Updated: Wednesday September 26, 2007 6:32PM
Suns All-Star forward Shawn Marion says he is no longer happy in Phoenix and wants a trade. While it sounds loony for a potential title contender such as Phoenix to give up one of its key pieces, new Suns GM Steve Kerr might have to consider it. Marion wants an extension on his present contract, which has $34 million remaining over the next two seasons (he can also opt out of the final season), and the Suns are concerned about their long-term payroll.
The Suns also have an immediate financial incentive to move Marion because their payroll stands at about $70 million -- some $3 million over the luxury-tax threshold. NBA trade rules require the salaries in any deal to match up, but there is an acceptable spread of roughly 25 percent. With Marion due to make $16.4 million this season, the Suns could get back a player making around $12.5 million and still save enough money to avoid paying the tax at the end of the season.
The question for the Suns is whether they can get back the right kind of player for Marion. After all, Phoenix doesn't want to do anything that would set back its quest to win the title. Here's a look at some of the possibilities:
Andrei Kirilenko, Jazz
Like Marion, he is an All-Star-type talent who is disgruntled with his present situation and has asked for a trade. How badly does the 6-9 small forward want to get away from coach Jerry Sloan, whose tough-love approach actually brought Kirilenko to tears during last year's playoffs? Kirilenko said he might even consider walking away from the remaining $63 million on his contract to play in his native Russia rather than return next season to Salt Lake City.
Kirilenko would probably end such talk if he got traded to Phoenix, where he could play for easygoing Mike D'Antoni and run the floor with Steve Nash. The Suns, meanwhile, would get a terrific defender and shot-blocker. Also, Kirilenko's $13.7 million salary would put the Suns close enough to getting under the tax. However, Kirilenko is not a great perimeter shooter and his remaining contract (he's signed through 2010-11) wouldn't solve Phoenix's long-term concerns.
Lamar Odom, Lakers
The 6-10 forward would seem like a good fit in Phoenix's wide-open offense, with his ability to run the floor and pass like a point guard. Though not a three-point shooter, Odom's ability to initiate the offense could help take pressure off Nash. He also has the size to shift over to power forward. With $27.4 million due over the next two years, Odom provides financial relief as well.
Odom hasn't expressed any dissatisfaction in L.A., but he might not mind a chance to get out from under Kobe Bryant's shadow. As for the Lakers, it might seem like something of a lateral move. But Marion at least would give them another defensive wingman to pair with Bryant, something coach Phil Jackson would no doubt like to see.
If you have to give up a popular player like the Matrix, the Suns couldn't do much better than bringing in a former Arizona Wildcat whose ties to the community remain strong. The 6-7 Jefferson is similar to Marion in that he's a stalwart defender and athlete who can shoot the three, run the floor and throw down some highlight-reel jams. With a $12.2 million salary for 2007-08, he also would help solve Phoenix's luxury-tax concerns this season.
Jefferson, however, is not as suited as Marion to defending bigger players. He also has been somewhat injury-prone, missing significant parts of two of the past three seasons. With four years and $54.6 million left on his contract, Jefferson might be a bit too much of an overall risk for Phoenix.
Ron Artest, Kings
The Kings say they aren't looking to trade Artest, but few would be surprised if they moved the volatile swingman. Don't look for him in Phoenix anytime soon, however. Artest's rugged style of play doesn't exactly fit the Suns' up-tempo system, and his salary ($7.8 million in 2007-08) means other Kings players would have to be included in any deal.
Still, it's fun to think about Artest joining Raja Bell on the Suns' perimeter. It would give Phoenix one of the NBA's best defensive perimeters and two hard-nosed competitors with an edge. It certainly would get Kobe's attention.