It's not very often you see a team trade for four players. then waive three of them three days later. Indeed, the most obvious thing to say about the trade of Marcin Gortat to Washington was its novelty.
Phoenix have been fire-selling with some conviction, aggressively trying to get rid of every player over the age of 27. The only players older than this that they now have on their roster are P.J. Tucker (who is nevertheless still very young) and Channing Frye. At the minimum salary, Tucker is so cheap that he is of great value even to a rebuilding team, whereas Frye, if he proves his health and a return to his usual averageness over the first few months of the season, is an extremely logical candidate for a deadline day trade. (And Tucker could well be used to facilitate this.) Phoenix has plenty of young players meriting development minutes, and the protected first round pick Washington also handed over in the deal further cements their new ideology. There is no better way to get younger than with draft picks.
The sole player Phoenix returned in this trade, Emeka Okafor, is now their oldest. The 31-year-old Okafor never developed offensively, and is now on the downside of his career - this, combined with his high cost and status as being out indefinitely due to a neck injury, had largely killed his market. His age of course rather defies the idea of the Suns getting younger, yet Okafor is in the deal mostly to facilitate it financially - the real lure for Phoenix is the first round pick Washington gave up for what may only be a one season rental of Gortat. But if it is only a one year rental, it is still likely worth it for Washington, such is the quality of Gortat. His finishing ability inside and out, his pick and roll offense, and sufficient shot blocking and rebounding add much to a team defiant and determined in their 2014 playoff push. This deal is of young for old, of the future for the now, two teams in contrary positions and opposite directions with very different shopping lists, helping each other fill them.
This is the NBA's equivalent of the timeless baseball classic, the August time trade of a veteran reliever with a 3.96 ERA in exchange for a 'player to be named later' deal that sees both teams in theory get what they want. Washington gets the best player in the deal. and by quite a margin - all it cost was a non-lottery first round pick, and the eating of $6 million in salary on the waived players. They were eating this money anyway due to Okafor's injury, and the deal even saved them a couple of hundred thousand dollars in the process. Meanwhile, Phoenix gains a future basketball asset for a player who, be it by trade or free agency, was leaving some day soon anyway. This is most logical for a rebuilding team, and also opens up more minutes in the frontcourt for both Frye's impending showcase and the development of Miles Plumlee, Alex Len and the Morris twins.
It is the kind of deal so steeped in obvious yet accurate logic that it gives analysts problems, as there is so little to analyze. So whilst the novelty of the timing is perhaps the most obvious thing to say, perhaps the most important thing to say about it is that it stands to be a win-win deal.
(Which, incidentally, is novel.)
This deal figures to benefit both teams. It might also work out well for the players, and in particular Okafor when he recovers from injury. Expiring at the end of the season, wanted by Phoenix purely for his contract, and with no one craving a $14,487,500 expiring contract deal more than the Suns, Okafor is not likely to be traded again and therefore must be considered a likely candidate for a buyout at some point between now and February. He cannot by rule return to Washington, yet everything else is fair game, and competitors in need of an extra big man such as Chicago, the Clippers and Oklahoma City should be on high alert. This is contingent upon his health, of course, yet his quality is proven.
Fresh from the waiving, Shannon Brown is expected to land back with his former team, the Lakers, where he'll get more minutes, more opportunity, more spotlight, and an extra salary. Malcolm Lee would likely have been cut by Phoenix anyway to meet the roster limit of 15, despite his guaranteed contract, so he loses nothing.
And as for Gortat, he has yet to ever have the greatest exposure in his NBA career. In Orlando, he was stuck behind the then-blindingly bright star of Dwight Howard, and whilst given the opportunity to break through in Phoenix, he did so mostly on bad teams where no one noticed. He now starts at centre for a probable mid to late seed playoff team, one who should win some style points along the way. His time is now.
However, for poor Kendall Marshall, it's the polar opposite. Marshall now joins the NBA unemployment line after only one season. Regardless of an inconsistent rookie season in which the enormity of his flaws was most apparent, he's better than this. But in a trade with so many winners, he stands alone.