A Breakdown of the Suns-Bobcats Trade

December 11, 2008

The Phoenix Suns officially closed the book on an era, as they traded Raja Bell, Boris Diaw, and Sean Singletary to the Charlotte Bobcats, in exchange for Jason Richardson, Jared Dudley, and a 2010 second round pick.

In the last two years, GM Steve Kerr has tried to mold the team's playing style into more of a half-court game. First, he got rid of Shawn Marion for center Shaquille O’Neal. Then Terry Porter was brought in to replace coach Mike D’Antoni. Now, the departure of Bell and Diaw signals a further shift away from the nucleus that brought the league its “7 seconds or less” offense.

The Suns recently have been a team without an identity. On some days, they run the offense through Shaq. On those days when he rests, they try to go more uptempo. While star point guard Steve Nash’s adjustment to these changes has been less than smooth, Bell and Diaw particularly struggled to adapt.

Meanwhile, nobody knows what Michael Jordan’s plans are in Charlotte. One of the worst GM’s in the game, Jordan’s talent evaluations are below average, as seen by draft selections Kwame Brown and Adam Morrison, among others.

His free agent decisions haven’t been too great either, as he charitably gave excessive contract years to a mere complementary player in Emeka Okafor. But Jordan’s worst sin is that he does not seem fully committed to the job, as he has preferred to work on golf courses outside the state of North Carolina.

Still, there is some hope. Hiring Larry Brown was a positive step. Drafting rookie D.J. Augustin (at Brown’s insistence) was another good move. And if Diaw helps out the Bobcat frontcourt as planned, then it will be another step in the right direction.


Phoenix takes a step back defensively in their backcourt, since Bell is one of the league’s best defenders at the 2.

Offensively, however, Richardson is an upgrade, as Bell is merely a one-dimensional, spot-up three-point shooter.

Richardson, on the other hand, has three-point range and can athletically slash and finish at the rim. Occasionally, he will post up smaller guards, using his superior leaping ability to get off a shot.

Most important, however, he can create his own shot. This ability will be vital come playoff time, as Phoenix will now have another go to option deep in the shot clock besides Nash and Grant Hill should their half-court offense break down.

Meanwhile, Jared Dudley is a young forward with a good motor. His game is similar to the Suns’ Matt Barnes, only without the three-point range. In other words, he will crash the glass, defend, and fill the lane on the break. He should become a part of the Suns’ rotation in a backup role.

Boris Diaw served a limited backup role for Coach Porter. Because he was not fully utilized by Porter, his loss will not be too drastic. More important, he was owed approximately $9 million per season over the next three years, so Kerr will be glad to get his contract off the books.

Singletary’s loss has little impact, as Leandro Barbosa already is Nash’s primary backup at the point.

The second rounder is an added bonus.

Nevertheless, one cannot overlook the trade’s effect on team chemistry. Nash’s best friend was Bell, so this trade will not make him happy. At the same time, Bell’s grumbling about the Porter offense could have become a distraction down the road. Then there is the question of whether Richardson can function as a possible fourth option behind Shaq, Amare Stoudamire, and Nash. This chemistry issue will remain an open question throughout the year.


Bell gives Charlotte a legitimate starter to fill Richardson’s void. Bell’s presence will improve the Bobcats’ defense immediately. However, unless Diaw, D.J. Augustin, or Gerald Wallace create some open looks for him, there will be a large dropoff on the offensive end.

The key to this trade for Charlotte really is Diaw. The Bobcats’ frontcourt is in disarray, as Sean May has had trouble staying healthy and in shape. Meanwhile, Okafor is a good player, but no star at the 4. And youngster Alex Ajinca seems years away from being a consistent contributor at the 5.

Diaw is versatile enough to play at the 3 or 4. His best asset is his sound decision-making, as an offense can be run through him from either the low or high post. He has a decent face-up jumper, and can score on the block as well. His athleticism is average by NBA standards.

For this trade to work, Diaw must get his touches. Coach Larry Brown could run effective high-low sets with Diaw and Okafor, or simply put Diaw on the block to utilize his good kick-out passing skills. Those passing skills would also be beneficial in a motion offense.

If Diaw is used as an offensive facilitator, then this trade will be useful to Charlotte. If not, then Charlotte will be swallowing 3 years of salary for nothing.

Throw-in Sean Singletary will be third on the point guard depth chart behind Ray Felton and promising rookie D.J. Augustin. He does not figure to see many minutes.

By Mike Elliott
Staff Editor for TheDailySportsHerald

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