Friday, July 27, 2012

Suns Acquire Wesley Johnson in Three-Team Deal

A three-team trade in the NBA was made official today that involves the Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Timberwolves, and New Orleans Hornets.  While many would argue that Robin Lopez is the most important player involved in the trade, I believe that Wesley Johnson will be considered the steal in this deal by the end of the 2012-2013 season.  Furthermore, the trade is made more significant because of its impact on a couple of players whose names were not even directly involved.
Here’s the breakdown of the trade:

Phoenix Acquires: Wesley Johnson (from MIN), first-round pick (from MIN)

New Orleans Acquires: Robin Lopez (from PHX), Hakim Warrick (from PHX)

Minnesota Acquires: Jerome Dyson (from NOH), the $5.1 million contract of retiring Brad Miller (from NOH), cash considerations (from NOH), and two second-round picks (one from PHX, one from NOH)

This deal seems to be in the best interest of all three teams.  Phoenix continues rebuilding in their post-Steve Nash era, Minnesota continues to look towards the future, and New Orleans gains a pair of experienced tenacious big men, therefore alleviating some of the pressure on their 2012 #1 overall draft pick Anthony Davis.   We can absolutely expect Davis to be a starter for the Hornets this season, but he will be learning on-the-fly how to compete at the NBA-level.  

The addition of a couple experienced big men to aid Davis in the paint is crucial to his development, and will also complement his stellar blocking ability and defensive presence.  The 19-year-old Davis will not be forced to directly guard opposing centers in his rookie year, but instead will be able to swoop in and pick up blocks on help-defense the same way Serge Ibaka always does for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Unfortunately neither Lopez nor Warrick have nearly as much promise or athleticism as Davis, who will be fresh off leading his Kentucky Wildcats to an NCAA Championship, and gaining many valuable lessons as the 12th man for Team USA in the 2012 Summer Olympics.  The Suns however do acquire an athletic former first-round pick in Johnson, as well as a first-round pick in next year’s draft.

Phoenix has made a bunch of moves this offseason after the departure of Nash, and now have acquired two former T-Wolves’ forwards that have not lived up to their expectations.  While Johnson does not have quite as much potential as Michael Beasley does, both players will likely benefit from the change of scenery and the fast paced Run-and-Gun offense that is run in Phoenix.  

While I do not believe that Beasley and Johnson will lead Phoenix to a successful playoff run this season, I would argue that their less-than-stellar careers had become stagnant in Minnesota, and the move to Phoenix will help revive them while increasing their averages.  That will not be too difficult for Johnson, who has only averaged 7.7 points per game in his two NBA seasons.

The main thing that Minnesota has acquired through this trade is enough cap space to sign forward Andrei Kirilenko, the former Utah Jazz block-specialist who was scared away by last year’s lockout and played a full season in Russia.  The 31-year-old Kirilenko has played 10 seasons with the Jazz, and his career averages of 12.4 points per game, 2 blocks, and .470 field goal percentage will fit him in nicely with Minnesota stars Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio.  

This is a good three-team trade that benefits all teams involved.  The mediocre big men acquired by the Hornets will make their star rookie’s transition to the NBA much smoother, Minnesota gains the cap space to sign their desired free agent forward, and the Suns acquire another promising athlete who could easily benefit from playing in the Run-and-Gun Phoenix offense. If Johnson can adjust quickly, he will have an opportunity to become a central part of the rebuilding Suns, who are entrusting their season within the hands of Nash’s former apprentice, 26-year-old point guard Goran Dragic.  

As for the Hornets, the two additional big men acquired from Phoenix will allow the young Davis to excel in his role as a help defender, so expect the blocks he picks up on help defense to be frequent guests on Sportscenter's Top Ten this season.

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