Getting Amar'e to D.C. Without Breaking Up the 'Big Three'
Washington GM Ernie Grunfeld famously has little interest in keeping No. 5. Phoenix needs to do two things in short order: get younger, and get rid of its (spiritual) question marks up front (Stoudemire and Shaquille O'Neal), one way or the other. So can the Wizards and Suns arrange a deal without involving Butler, Gilbert Arenas or Antawn Jamison?
I think there's something there, for this reason: Washington's No. 5 pick is about to see a huge upsurge in perceived value. Why? The draft makes people crazy! Teams will give up the monster they know for the shining light they pray for without a whole lot of dissent. If a GM wins with an established player, good on him. But if he wins with a surprise star he navigated toward, that's reputation. That's cash. That's respect. There's a built-in bias of risk tilted toward youth in this league. In other words, Kevin Pritchard isn't a rock star because he signed Steve Blake and Joel Przybilla (two starters), but because he wheeled for LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy.
Even in a poor draft, the No. 5 pick holds weight. With the chance Ricky Rubio could actually slip to No. 5, it becomes even more valuable ... especially to a team like Phoenix, which needs to replace Steve Nash one of these summers. Instead of Butler as centerpiece of an Amar'e deal, couldn't we see draft fever get so hot the No. 5 pick replaces Washington's two-time All Star as the central asset coming back to Phoenix?
Brendan Haywood is a fine defender who can rebound -- you'd think he'd work best next to an offensive-minded juggernaut like Stoudemire. But Phoenix won't be taking on Jamison's long-term contract, so perhaps (with the sentiment Shaq gets dealt before the season begins) the Suns take Haywood, promising youngster Nick Young and the rotting corpse of Mike James along with that No. 5 pick. (You assume this would be contingent on Rubio's availability, unless Steve Kerr is hard for Tyreke Evans or Stephen Curry.)
It doesn't seem like a fair package. But anything involving high draft picks this week will not seem like a fair package. And keep in mind that Phoenix has done nothing but destroy Stoudemire's trade value over the last six months. Blame Robert Sarver and Kerr if all offers for Amar'e come back underwhelming.
(Lord, would Arenas-Butler-Jamison-Stoudemire-McGee be sick on offense, or what? The idea of Rubio learning at the teat of Nash for a season also arouses me in ways that surely cannot be condoned.)