The Suns and the Washington Wizards were determined to strike a deal, even after an embarrassing reported miscommunication between Phoenix and the Grizzlies over which player Memphis would send west scuttled a proposed three-team swap Friday.
Here is what the Suns and Wizards reportedly agreed to Saturday:
Let's give out some grades!
The reasoning behind dealing Ariza for a serviceable point guard and an up-and-coming replacement on the wing is understandable.
Phoenix badly needs a warm body to run the point so Devin Booker can return to his natural position of shooting guard, and Ariza's departure leaves 34 minutes per game to be filled at the forward position. On paper, this trade satisfies both goals.
But it's not that simple. First, Rivers is hardly a solution to anything. He's been a starting-caliber point guard in one of his seven seasons, and the Los Angeles Clippers immediately cashed in on that breakout year for whatever remains of Marcin Gortat. Rivers struggled in a sixth-man role with the Wizards, scoring seven points per game while shooting under 40 percent from the field for one of the worst bench units in the league.
It's also strange that the Suns targeted Rivers when their biggest need is playmaking. He's a shoot-first combo guard who's only averaged more than three assists once in his career despite playing with talented scorers such as Anthony Davis, Chris Paul, and Blake Griffin. Rivers is also in a contract year on a team destined for the lottery, so his priority will probably be putting up individual numbers.
Oubre is the better asset, even though he wasn't in the Suns' initial plans. Though he's notoriously streaky, he's come on strong over the last two weeks, averaging 17.7 points per game. It's not unreasonable to project Oubre as a starting-caliber wing in the near future - he's got both the outside shot and the athleticism necessary to thrive in a 3-and-D role.
However, the Suns already had a jumble of wings with similar profiles. Phoenix surrendered an unprotected 2021 first-round pick to move up six spots in the 2018 draft for Mikal Bridges, hoping he'll be their small forward of the future. That was after the Suns spent the No. 4 pick on Josh Jackson in 2017, who was hailed as the small forward of the future before Bridges. Jackson had a promising rookie campaign, but now appears to be headed down the same path as lottery flameout Dragan Bender - another skinny small forward Phoenix drafted fourth overall, but in 2016.
So where does Oubre fit? He won't cut it as a small-ball power forward, and Booker is locked into a maximum deal to play shooting guard, leaving Oubre to fight Jackson and Bridges for scraps. How is that productive?
This is yet another Band-Aid solution by Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld, who dealt away a prospect when he should be looking to rebuild.
Ariza will provide a temporary boost. A steady vet who can fill the leadership void, he's already familiar with the personnel. Ariza had the best season of his career in 2014 as a catch-and-shoot target for John Wall, and he should fit seamlessly with either the first or second unit.
But he won't magically turn the Wizards into a legitimate playoff contender. Washington needs a steady backup point guard to lighten the load for Wall and Bradley Beal, and a dependable center who can control the defensive glass and contest shots at the basket. Ariza doesn't address either weakness, and after acquiring him, the team's out of trade chips.
The Wizards are 11-18 with the second-worst defense in the league, and they're capped out for the foreseeable future. They should be rebuilding, not trading yet another former first-round pick for a veteran who will walk next summer.