The most important date on the calendar this season for the Phoenix Suns is March 15th, and it has nothing to do with a date in L.A. against Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and the Clippers that night.
No, March 15th is the NBA trade deadline and the biggest question surrounding the Suns is whether Steve Nash will be wearing purple and orange that night in Los Angeles or be on his way to a contender as part of a blockbuster trade.
The Suns have never seriously considered trading Nash before, although there were talks in the past mainly with the Portland Trail Blazers. But nothing ever came of those discussions because nothing serious was offered in return.
The Suns are going nowhere fast this season. Their chances of making the playoffs are slim. The reality is that they just aren't very good, a team surrounded by role players making a lot of money but no stars. Nash is still a premier point guard in the league even at close to 38-years-old, and there will be a few teams that have interest in trading for him -- mainly the Los Angeles Lakers -- but making a deal will be extremely difficult without taking back an undesirable contract or two.
Let's start with the Lakers. They need a point guard in the worst way because neither Derek Fisher nor Steve Blake is very good. Putting Nash with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum makes the Lakers a threat again in the West and allows them to possibly hold off the tidal wave that the Clippers have created with the addition of Chris Paul. The Lakers do have the Mavericks first-round pick this year which is attractive, but that is all they have that Phoenix would want. To make a deal work for teams above the salary cap the money must come within 25% of each other. So trading Nash and his $11.6 million salary means Phoenix must take back at least $9 million in salary. The Lakers would love to rid themselves of Ron Artest (Metta World Peace) and the $15 million he is due over the next two years. Same for Luke Walton and the $6.1 million he is due next season. They do not have an expiring contract that Phoenix can acquire and the Suns can not amnesty a player that they trade for so they would be stuck with those players if they traded for them. So making a trade with the Lakers seems almost impossible without absorbing more bad contracts. The first-round pick is attractive but not at the expense of taking on a player who can't play any longer and is tied up for two more years. A first-round pick in the 20's is valued at around $3 million dollars so taking back $15 million in a contract to get a pick worth around $3 million is not good business.
The other team that we can envision wanting Nash is the Knicks, but chances are New York will just wait until the end of the season and get him for the mid-level as a free agent without giving up any players. The one player the Suns would love to acquire from New York is rookie Iman Shumpert, who Phoenix desperately tried to get in the draft by acquiring a second first-round pick. But the Knicks are unlikely to trade a young, popular player who is having success and doesn't cost much. And ownership and management are unlikely to allow Mike D'Antoni to call the shots on a trade for Nash because there are rumblings he won't be back next year. The Knicks do not have a first- round pick in this draft and besides Shumpert, there is nothing on the roster that Phoenix would want and making the money work would be near impossible with the Knicks' salary structure. The Knicks also have Baron Davis close to playing and feel they can ride out the season with him rather than trade for Nash now.
Miami has come up as a possible destination in the past but again, no they don't have a first-round pick and nothing of value that the Suns would want via trade. There are a lot of quality point guards in the league so not many teams would have interest in Nash if he is available. What those teams have are bad contracts that they would love to dump on the Suns. Phoenix needs to avoid adding a bad contract or two at all costs. It is more important for the Suns to preserve the precious cap space they will have for future years rather than trade for more below average role players who make a lot of money. The Suns have enough of those guys.
So while everyone wants the Suns to trade Nash and get draft picks and young players, that is easier said than done. Chances are that March 15th in Los Angeles, Nash will be suiting up for the Suns and riding out his final season in Phoenix. And it won't be because the Suns didn't try to make a deal, it will be because there are no good deals out there, only bad ones.