More than 50 years after first entering the league, the Phoenix Suns are still searching for their first NBA title. Unsurprisingly, a team with such a record hasn't always set the world on fire at the trade table, but equally they've had plenty of periods of relative success during which they've made some really crafty moves. Below, we take a look at some of the best trades in Suns history.
6. 2001. Suns acquire Bo Outlaw and first-round pick from the Orlando Magic for Vinny Del Negro and Jud Buechler
Hindsight is a beautiful thing, and with the benefit of it this one was a bit of a no-brainer. Neither Vinny Del Negro or Jud Buechler, both aging veterans, would go on to do much more in the NBA. Bo Outlaw was a popular member of the Suns team for a couple of seasons, though realistically he didn't exactly move the needle for the team.
The first-round pick did. The 9th pick in the ensuing NBA draft turned out to be Amar'e Stoudemire, who would of course go on to become one of the franchise's greats. During his time there he was Rookie of the Year, a 5x All-Star, a 4x member of the All-NBA First or Second Team, and played a key role for the Suns during a very successful era in their history.
5. 1996. Suns acquire Jason Kidd, Tony Dumas and Loren Meyer from the Dallas Mavericks for Michael Finley, Sam Cassell, and A.C. Green
The 1996-97 season didn't start particularly well for the Suns, with 13 consecutive losses and a resignation from head coach Cotton Fitzsimmons. With something clearly needing to change, the franchise flipped their roster on its head just before the New Year in a move which saw them lose All-Star Michael Finley, and a couple of decent players in Sam Cassell and A.C. Green.
Jason Kidd, however, three years into his illustrious career, had already shown the potential which would see him become one of the league's best ever facilitators. By the end of that season he'd helped lead them into the playoffs after their disastrous start, while in his second season they won 40 games and the next 56. He was a multiple time All-Star and All-NBA First Team member during his four-and-a-half seasons in Phoenix, and though they never got past the First Round with him at the wheel, given how they were tracking before this trade was done it's an easy one to justify.
4. 1998. Suns acquire Pat Garrity, Bubba Wells, Martin Muursep and a first-round pick from the Dallas Mavericks for Steve Nash
On the face of it, this trade looks like a bit of a disaster, and it very easily could have been. Steve Nash, as we all know, just two seasons into his career at the time of this trade, would go on to have one of the great NBA careers – a 2x MVP, 8x All-Star and the list goes on. Garrity, Wells and Muursepp, meanwhile, didn't contribute anything for the Suns. But a whole lot of what Nash went on to do happened at Phoenix anyway (as discussed in the next trade), and the reality was he was their third-string point guard at the time behind Jason Kidd and Kevin Johnson at the time.
And, with that first-round pick, which turned out to be number 9, the Suns picked up Shawn Marion, who would of course go on to become one of the greatest players in franchise history. Marion ultimately played over eight seasons in Phoenix in what was the best phase of his career, one in which he was a 4x All-Star and 2x All-NBA Third Team member. Steve Nash for, essentially, Shawn Marion might not sound like a good trade on the surface, but given Nash's situation prior to the trade this made plenty of sense – particularly given the trade to come a few years later – as seen below.
3. 2004. Suns acquire Antonio McDyess, Howard Eisley, Charlie Ward, Maciej Lampe, Milos Vujanic (draft rights), and two first-round picks from the New York Knicks for Stephon Marbury, Anfernee Hardaway, and Cezary Trybanski
There's a bit to digest above, but ultimately all you need to know about this trade is that it opened up a lot of salary space for the Suns – space they used to bring Steve Nash back to Phoenix. By that stage Nash was a 2x All-Star and had developed into one of the best point guards in the league, so the six-year, $63 million deal looked well and truly worth it.
And so it proved. In his first full season back in Phoenix, Nash was the NBA MVP – and then again in his second full season back. The eight subsequent years he spent with the Suns saw the team finish in the top two in the West in seven consecutive years – and third in the eighth – and it was this trade that paved the way for one of the best eras in the franchise's history.
2. 1988. Suns acquire Kevin Johnson, Mark West, Tyrone Corbin, a first-round pick and a second-round pick from the Cleveland Cavaliers for Larry Nance, Mike Sanders, and a first-round pick
There was a bit going on in this trade, and a whole lot of risk for the Suns. Larry Nance was at this time an excellent player and a big loss for Phoenix, but after a host of disappointing seasons in a row something had to give. None of the players coming in could guarantee a whole lot – Mark West had been waived by two teams previously, while Kevin Johnson had been moved on by the Suns just a few months earlier only 28 games after they drafted him.
But we all know what happened from there. Johnson would go on to become one of the Suns' greatest ever players, winning the Most Improved Player Award in his first season back there and going on to be a 3x All-Star during his more than ten-year career with the team. Mark West, too, had a solid career with the Suns, playing there for over six seasons. It was Johnson, however, whose career really made this trade such a success.
1. 1992. Suns acquire Charles Barkley from 76ers in exchange for Jeff Hornacek, Tim Perry and Andrew Lang
Entering the 1992-93 season, the Suns had won over 50 games in four consecutive season, but had failed to advance out of the Western Conference in each of them. So in an effort to take the next step, what did they do? Went and added one of the best players in the league, of course – a man who had been an All-NBA First or Second Team member for each of the past seven seasons. Charles Barkley's production had dropped off a little in Philadelphia during the 1991-92 season, and an opportunity to poach the disgruntled superstar emerged as a result.
It cost a fan-favorite and All-Star caliber guard in Jeff Hornacek, along with Tim Perry and Andrew Lang, but it didn't take long for Barkley to endear himself to his new fanbase. He wasted no time showing his wares in Phoenix, enjoying a career-best season en route to earning MVP honors in his first year with the team. He helped lead them out of the West, at long last, and though they did unfortunately run into Michael Jordan and the Bulls in the NBA Finals, Barkley would go on to enjoy four elite seasons with the Suns.