Monday, January 07, 2008

Matchmaker: Dickau to the Suns

A few weeks ago, I made a big deal out of the fact that former Vancouver, Washington high school rivals Dan Dickau and Richie Frahm were sharing the court for the Clippers. I remain convinced that this was a banner moment for my former athletic home, the Greater St. Helens League.

The problem is that they're not sharing the court anymore, because Sam Cassell is back in a Clippers uniform and Dickau has been relegated to the third point guard position (read: the bench). This is a bit of a shame, becuase he was giving L.A. some good minutes, but alas, it is the way these things go.

[Update: Hours after I posted this, I saw the announcement come across the ticker that the Clippers had waived Frahm. Now they really won't be sharing the court together.]

That said, there is still a basketball home out there for this well-traveled player. And that home is in the desert - Phoenix, Arizona.

You see, Dickau is a perfect player to use behind Steve Nash in the Suns offense. Like Nash, he is a tremendous ball-handler and passer and an extremely intelligent player. Unlike Nash, he isn't one of the greatest basketball talents on earth. But hey, that's why he'd be the backup.

In all seriousness, I often wonder why teams don't look for a "poor man's version" of a starter when they are struggling to find a suitable backup. Plugging in Dickau for Nash would certainly create a dropoff in talent at the position, but doing so would allow the Suns to continue to play virtually the same exact way. As it currently stands, they must dramatically alter their entire gameplan whenever Nash leaves the floor. Whether it is running the offense through Boris Diaw (quickly becoming a bad option, since he seems to get worse with each game) or using Grant Hill as a point-forward, or simply letting Leandro Barbosa go one-on-five, the Suns don't even resemble the Suns when they play without their two-time MVP. And since Nash is 34 years old, spends his time on the bench swaddled in heat packs laying on his back, and has come out of each of the last three postseasons looking like Christian Bale in Rescue Dawn, I think it is safe to say that they can't roll him out for 40 minutes a night in the regular season. Or even 35 minutes a night.

So what is the solution? If you've read this far, you already know, but in my opinion, the solution is to bring in a guy who plays like Nash in style, if not in substance. It is no knock on Dickau to note that he isn't Steve Nash's equal - that's just the reality. But unlike 90% of backup point guards (certainly Marcus Banks qualifies as part of that 90%), Dickau is actually smart enough to know his limitations and savvy enough to succeed in spite of them. He can run a pick and roll and keep Amare fed near the rim. He can split a double-team and pitch the ball out to Barbosa and Bell for threes. He can take an outlet pass and race it up the court to get Marion an easy dunk. And he can hit open shots. No, he probably won't throw left-handed bounce passes 40 feet across the court or make every lob with pinpoint accuracy or shoot 52% from the field, but again, that's why they pay Nash the big bucks and give him those nice trophies - NO ONE ELSE can do that stuff.

[Update: Thanks, Marcus Banks. On the very day I bash him and suggest a trade to bring in a new backup point guard, he goes for 23 points, hits 7-of-8 from three, and receives a standing ovation from the Phoenix crowd. Perfect. That said, he's been known to have flashes of brilliance in the post, only to revert back to his old ways. I stand by this trade, even if the timing could not possibly have been worse.]

You might ask: What about defense? This has always been the part of the game where Dickau has struggled the most, as he is undersized on the block and lacks lateral quickness to stop dribble penetration. Sound familiar? Those are the same issues that Nash deals with every night on D. So not only would the Suns be able to play the same way on offense (out of preference), they would also just continue to play the same way on defense (out of necessity).

On top of all that, Dickau will absolutely get better by playing against Nash every day in practice, learning little tricks from him about the position, and watching him from the bench. So Dickau will improve as he goes, becoming more reliable and successful as the season marches on.

All told, he could keep Marcus Banks off the floor, keep Barbosa in attack mode as a scoring guard, and give Phoenix 15-18 minutes off the bench every night, while allowing the Suns to play the same way they do when Little Stevie (as Bill Walton calls him) is in the game. Yes, there will be a dropoff (as there is for nearly every team, at every position, when they bring in a reserve), but it won't result in the Suns morphing from a smart, attacking run-and-gun offense into an iso-based, stagnant disaster, which is what is happening now.

And best of all, since Dickau isn't even playing right now in L.A. and falls under the minimum contract exception (he's getting $770,000 this year), the Suns could probably get him for the price of a second round draft pick. And since they never want their draft picks anyway, this is an ideal swap. They can give up a future pick in exchange for a cheap, reliable, smart player that comes off the books at the end of the year.

Best of all, through what I am here and now naming "The Doppleganger Plan," they can finally steal valuable minutes of rest for Nash without disrupting the rhythm and design of their high octane offense.

As for the Clippers, they can get a free draft pick for a guy they obviously have no intention of using.

[Update: Speaking of timing (see the Marcus Banks update above), Brevin Knight is day-to-day with a "stress reaction" in his arm - whatever that is - so maybe the Clippers are going to need Dickau after all. I was really on a roll with this one.]

I see no downside here.

As always when it comes to "Matchmaker," lets make it happen people.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have been thinking the same thing for at least a year. Same thought btw w/ Luke Ridenour in Seattle(sp?).

As a Phx fan, I think Banks is more talented and deserves more minutes then he gets in Phx and could start for a lot of teams. Miami? Denver? Clippers? and at $4m/yr he doesn't break the bank...that was a totally unintentional pun.

My only other hope is that by showcasing Banks recently they can trade him for a big that they clearly need. Some teams like Denver and Seattle are loaded w/ bigs and need a PG. How about a deal there too?