On the day the Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns orchestrated a six-player deal that sent Marcin Gortat to the Suns in December 2010, I remember immediately texting a friend in the Phoenix area for his take. "A win for the Magic or a win for the Suns?" I wrote.
After a few rounds of texts, we came to the same conclusion: this trade (which also brought Vince Carter and Mickael Pietrus to Phoenix in exchange for Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark) was a toss-up, too hard to determine or even predict a winner.
Fast-forward nearly two years, and Gortat -- once a little-used backup who spelled Dwight Howard for 15 minutes a night in Orlando -- is an everyday reminder why neither of us are making a living as an NBA scout.
Today, the 28-year-old Polish big man is one of the premier centers in the league, a massive 6-foot-11 interior presence that can change games on both ends of the court. And he has the numbers to back it up.
Synergy Stats Technology indicates that Gortat's offensive points per play ranked among the best in the league in both 2010-11 (1.08 PPP ranked No. 28) and 2011-12 (1.047 PPP ranked No. 37). Consider his rebounding numbers (9.73 per game since joining Phoenix) and improving defensive skills (3.2 blocked shots per game this season ranks No. 2 behind Serge Ibaka), and Gortat's value becomes even clearer.
The Suns' predicament
Before the season started, ESPN's own John Hollinger pegged Phoenix to finish No. 15 in the Western Conference in 2012-13. That's dead last to you and me.
So it doesn't take a team of experts to tell you that this Suns' team simply don't have the look of a contender. Thus, we have to believe the Suns' brass might have to decide whether dealing Gortat, whose value is at an all-time high, could be the only way this team improves.
It's not that simple, though. Gortat is one of the team's best players, he plays a premium position, and he's one of the league's best bargains -- owed $7,258,960 this season and $7,727,280 in 2013-14.
The Suns certainly don't have to trade him, but if they keep him they'll have to do so with the idea that they'll be able to re-sign him to a long-term deal, however expensive it might be. Keep in mind what Roy Hibbert (four-years, $58 million) and JaVale McGee (four-years, $44 million) signed for as restricted free agents this past offseason.
That said, here are five possible trade partners with Phoenix for Gortat: