|James Harden could have been a Phoenix Sun. (Getty Images)|
Remember the madness surrounding the James Harden trade? It was a whirlwind of names being thrown out, assets being included and draft picks to sweeten the pot. By the time the dust settled, Linsanity was being joined by Beardsanity and the Thunder fans were left in a state of bewilderment.
Lon Babby and the Phoenix Suns spent some time in Oklahoma City just eight days before the mega-trade that sent star guard and former Arizona State great James Harden to the Houston Rockets. The team had a reservation with the Thunder in Tulsa that night for the entree course, a pre-season tilt, but that was then parlayed into desert with Sam Presti to discuss the pieces in a potential Harden trade.
Over the course of the next week Babby had numerous conversations with Presti over the phone gauging interest in what the Suns had to offer to get the star guard. The demand was appropriately steep.
When it came down to it the Suns were not willing to part with the pieces required to get Harden at this time.
What weren't the Suns willing to part with? According to the post, it had to do with a " 'substantial player,' another asset and two first-round picks."
It's safe to say I'm not a big fan of the roster the Suns have put together, considering I picked them to tie with the Kings for last in the Western Conference. And trying to figure out what they have to fit the criteria of that bounty is a little confusing.
I would imagine the substantial player and another asset would have to be some combination of Marcin Gortat, Markieff Morris and Jared Dudley. They couldn't trade Michael Beasley yet, and I'm fairly certain that wouldn't have pushed the Thunder to take the offer, anyway.
Let's say the Suns did agree to Morris and Dudley for Harden. That's a pretty nice haul in terms of grabbing role players. Even if they have to give up Cole Aldrich in the process (like they did with Houston), you've added depth. Would the two draft picks have been worth it?
If you're in a position to offer one of your own first-round picks, lottery protect it for the next two years, and then throw in the first-round pick received in the Steve Nash deal, I really don't see how that's giving up too much for James Harden. You just tried to acquire Eric Gordon through restricted free agency in the summer, and a lot of people have Harden above Gordon on the shooting guard hierarchy.
It's hard for me to believe the Suns' draft-day decisions would be a reason they didn't want to part with future draft picks. Looking at the last five drafts for the Suns in which they've had a first-round pick, Morris is easily the best pick that they've acquired. They've also drafted Robin Lopez, Alando Tucker, Rudy Fernandez (traded), Earl Clark and Kendall Marshall.
This isn't exactly an influx of talent. And while it's easy to blame past management for those mistakes, Robert Sarver still owns the team and has a history of making the draft an arduous night for Suns fans.
Rebuilding teams are supposed to acquire assets to be able to develop them into the stars that they need or flip them down the road for the stars that they can't develop. And yet we consistently see instances of teams failing to part with assets when given the opportunity.
Is Markieff Morris going to be better than James Harden? Probably not. Is Jared Dudley going to be better than James Harden? All signs point to no.
Who knows what ultimately was the bounty the Thunder were asking for? But if the assumption was the draft picks were the deal breaker for Phoenix, you have to wonder when they're finally going to get their star player.
"Maybe we already have our star player," said Babby with a wink and smile as Goran Dragic practiced his free-throws, Michael Beasley rifled up more catch-and-shoot threes, and Morris took a quick water break. Maybe they do.
Trust me; you don't.