When the Suns dealt Shaq to Cleveland for ultimately two expiring contracts and a future second-round pick, it seemed as if a re-building process was imminent in the Desert. There were even rumors that Amare Stoudemire was going to be traded to Golden State. But instead of tearing apart the nucleus that helped Phoenix rise to one of the best and most exciting teams in the Western Conference, they ensured that the squad would continue to shine brightly.
The rise of the Suns directly coincided with the signing of Steve Nash in 2004. Nash took the reigns of the offense and earned back-to-back MVP honors. Entering the final year of his contract in Phoenix, the Suns and Nash agreed to a 2-year contract extension worth $22 million, further proving that Phoenix is not ready to blow up their roster.
Nash is getting up their in age, but he is still a very valuable player who knows how to run an offense, is a solid three-point threat, and happens to be automatic from the free-throw line. Eleven million is a reasonable price to pay for Nash, assuming he still has gas in the tank to play at a high level for another three seasons.
It is a little surprising that Nash decided to re-sign now rather than wait until the 2010 offseason and see what the market for an established veteran point guard would be. But since he is turning 36 this season, Nash may have been wise in taking the guaranteed money now in case this was the year that his age caught up to him.
The Suns also retained another veteran player earlier this offseason when they brought back small forward Grant Hill with a 2-year deal. Hill, who turns 37 in October, was being courted by Boston and former head coach Mike D'Antoni in New York, but chose to return to Phoenix. Phoenix also added some depth up front by bringing in unrestricted free agent Channing Frye for a 2-year deal. Add in the selection of Earl Clark with the 14th-overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, and Phoenix has had a busy offseason.
There is still a matter of business regarding Stoudemire, who has a player option on the final year of his contract next offseason. Stoudemire missed the final 29 games of last season due to an eye injury that Suns GM Steve Kerr has said is more serious than initially believed. Kerr recently said Phoenix will not talk contract extension with Amare until he shows he is 100-percent healthy and that his eye will not be a nagging concern. Even if an extension is offered, Stoudemire may be better off testing the market and trying to pair himself with a younger big-name star than re-signing with Phoenix.
Unfortunately, even if Stoudemire is healthy and wearing a Suns jersey for the entire season, all the moves Phoenix has made has done nothing to vault the Suns back into the best of the West. They still lack a physical presence inside and don't have a reliable backup to the aging Nash. This past season, Phoenix failed to make the postseason for just the third time since 1988 and may be on the outside looking in for a second straight year.