On Friday night, the Phoenix Suns honored Steve Nash by welcoming him into the franchise’s Ring of Honor. That night would’ve never happened, and who knows how his career would’ve turned out, if the Vancouver Grizzlies pulled the trigger on a proposed trade in 1998.
I talked to a source on Friday at the game who previously held a role with the Vancouver Grizzlies. When asked when he realized that Nash was going to be a special player, he said he was pushing the team to draft Nash in 1996. Instead, the team drafted Shareef Abdur-Rahim third overall. Nash fell to the Suns at No. 15.
But the Suns had a surplus of point guards with Kevin Johnson, Jason Kidd and Nash. Prior to the 1998 draft, a proposed trade was on the table that would send Nash and Cliff Robinson to the Grizzlies in exchange for a package built around Bryant Reeves.
There were talks of adding in the draft pick that turned into Mike Bibby, but the Grizzlies ultimately balked at the trade because they didn’t want to part with Reeves, according to the source.
Reeves was the first draft pick in franchise history, and the team wanted to build him up as their star.
Reeves averaged 16.3 points and 7.9 rebounds in 1997-98, the year before the proposed trade. He fell off starting in the 1998 season, however. Weight and back issues derailed his career and 2000-01 was his last season in the NBA.
Meanwhile, Nash went on to have a first-ballot Hall of Fame career and Robinson played nine more seasons, averaging double-digits in six of them.
What would’ve happened had Vancouver pulled the trigger on the deal? It’s impossible to say, both about Nash’s career and the state of basketball in Vancouver. Nash certainly could’ve made a big impact on basketball in Canada, and perhaps Vancouver would still have a team today.
The Suns eventually traded Nash to the Dallas Mavericks in a deal that ultimately landed Shawn Marion. Nash then re-signed with the Suns in 2004.
A few things from the Suns-Blazers game on Friday, as well as their matchup on Saturday. The Suns won both games.
- The Suns’ offense revolves around Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight, but the guy who fuels the Suns is Tyson Chandler. His impact is already being felt. More on Chandler over at FanRag Sports this week.
- The Suns have to figure out what to do with Markieff Morris. There’s no doubting Morris’s ability. He can be a really good player in this league. But those flashes have been few and far between early on. Morris is disengaged in timeouts and on the bench. During one timeout on Friday, Morris spent the entire time watching the shooting competition on the court. He was so locked into that that he hadn’t moved a muscle after the rest of the team broke to the bench following the timeout. On the court, whenever he has the ball he looks like he’s playing one-on-one and nothing is in rhythm. It’s a small sample size, but it’s not a good start for the disgruntled Morris.
- Jon Leuer will have a spot in the NBA for a long time. He’s not going to cause issues regarding playing time, and when he does play he won’t hurt you. He does the little things, whether it be as a complementary piece with the starting unit or as someone setting up bench scorers and rebounding. He’s a lot like a Nick Collison, but certainly better at this point.
- Don’t give up on Alex Len. The box score didn’t look good on Saturday, but he showed a lot in limited minutes on Friday night. When given the ball on the block, he was able to work for position before getting the ball and then better his position with the ball. He might’ve gotten away with a Shaq-like elbow hook, but as Len continues to improve, he’ll become a solid piece on the block for Phoenix. Learning from Tyson Chandler only helps.
- Moving on to the Trail Blazers, Damian Lillard might lead the league in both scoring and turnovers because it’s him and not much else right now. There are a lot of guys on the team that will get the chance to show they can be a sixth man or vital role player moving forward, but that doesn’t help Lillard right now. Even C.J. McCollum isn’t there yet. He’s a good shooter, but he’s not there yet as far as playmaking goes. It’ll come, but not in 2015-16.
- Meyers Leonard could be the third wheel for Portland, but he has to show consistency. He completely laid an egg on Friday, playing 18 minutes, registering zero points on five shots and just three rebounds. Noah Vonleh played more minutes than Leonard, and Leonard only played garbage time in the fourth quarter. Four of his eight shots on Saturday were threes, and he didn’t make any. He scored nine points, but added just one rebound and one block. He was a full breakout candidate coming into this season, but if he’s to be that player, it starts with more consistency all the way around.