In the current generation, Steph Curry is considered one of the best basketball players at this moment. The Warriors point guard has steadily improved his game since he arrived in the NBA back in 2009. Curry has become one of the greatest offensive forces in the game and is now the greatest three-point shooter in league history.
When Curry started, his journey wasn’t easy but it paid off for both him and the Warriors franchise. With five trips to the NBA Finals, three championship rings, and two MVPs, Curry could retire today and make the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.
With that said, the Warriors had their doubts about Curry. They had enough doubt to potentially think about trading him to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for All-Star center Amar’e Stoudemire. It’s a very interesting story that could have changed the careers of some players like Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Kevin Durant. Here’s the blockbuster trade that never happened.
The Trade Details
Phoenix Suns Receive: Rights to the 2009 No. 7 overall pick (Steph Curry)
Golden State Warriors Receive: Amar’e Stoudemire, rights to 2019 No. 14 overall pick (Earl Clark)
The Warriors were one of the teams that were interested in drafting Curry on draft night, but so were the Suns. The Suns wanted to make a deal with the Warriors that would send Stoudemire and an additional player for the pick. Stoudemire was coming off a season that saw him average 21.4 points and 8.2 rebounds. He was also coming off his fourth All-Star appearance in five seasons with the team.
As for Curry, he was coming off a sensational college season with Davidson, having led the program to an Elite 8 appearance. Curry averaged 28.6 points, 5.6 assists, and 2.5 steals. He was the NCAA scoring leader and was named a consensus First-Team All-American after his junior year. Kerr thought that Curry could be the Suns’ point guard of the future.
Blame The Timberwolves
According to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic, the Suns thought they had a deal in place. However, the deal fell apart when the Timberwolves unexpectedly drafted two players ahead of Curry.
“The Suns believed they had negotiated a deal for Golden State’s No. 7 pick and players in exchange for Amar'e Stoudemire. Their draft room exploded in cheers when Minnesota inexplicably went for point guards Ricky Rubio and Johnny Flynn with the Nos. 5 and 6 picks. As it turned out, Golden State nixed the deal once Curry fell to that spot.”
Former Suns GM and current Warriors head coach wanted to get Stephen Curry to the Phoenix Suns and confirmed that the deal was very close.
"We tried to trade up to get Steph Curry. We went really far down the road with the Warriors, and we thought, 'We're gonna get this done. We're gonna make a deal, and this is gonna be the guy who's gonna replace Steve Nash.'
"One of the reasons we loved Steph was we had this great fortune to watch Steve Nash win two MVPs, become this dominant player and this incredible leader. Hero in Phoenix -- the guy whose jersey everybody wore; all the kids wore all over town.
"It wasn't obvious watching Steph in college that he was gonna be a star. He had to grow, he had to get better. But you could see the skill level. We actually thought we had a deal done that night, and it just fell through. The Warriors ended up taking Steph and keeping him.
"And I'm really glad, Pete. Glad that happened [laughter)] I probably wouldn't be doing a coaching podcast with you right now if that trade had gone through [laughing)] Thank God for Steph."
At the end of the day, it boiled down to Curry not wanting to go to Minnesota.
“We told Minnesota that Steph didn’t want to go there,” said Dell Curry, the ex-NBA standout who is Stephen’s father and a Hornets television color commentator. “We had no idea that they had agreed to a trade. Obviously, they couldn’t put that out. I remember (then-Suns general manager and now Curry’s Golden State coach) Steve Kerr calling me (the following morning) and saying, ‘Don’t go to the press conference. We have a trade that they reneged on.’ I’m like, ‘That’s between you guys. We’re going wherever they tell us. We can’t not go.’"
Kerr believed that Curry could overtake the point guard position when Steve Nash ultimately left or retired. However, Kerr also stated that getting a deal done would have been hard because he didn’t fully believe that Stoudemire would have passed the physical.
Suns Projected Lineup If Trade Happened
PG: Steve Nash
SG: Steph Curry
SF: Jason Richardson
PF: Grant Hill
C: Channing Frye
Nash was coming off a season that saw him start 74 games. In the 2009-2010 season, Nash reverted to All-Star form and averaged 16.5 points, and led the league in 11.0 assists. Nash would have likely started at point guard, a position he held until the end of 2011-2012. That would have meant that Curry would have manned the shooting guard spot and potentially have taken over when Nash left for the Lakers.
Having Curry as the second guard would have been fine given his taste for shooting outside. The Suns could have employed a small lineup with Jason Richardson and an older Grant Hill. Channing Frye had experience playing as a center. While this small-ball Suns lineup may have not beaten the Lakers in 2010, it still would have had the potential to be a fast offensive lineup like the Warriors when Kerr took over.
Warriors Projected Lineup If Trade Happened
PG: Monta Ellis
SG: Steven Jackson
SF: Reggie Williams
PF: Corey Maggette
C: Amar’e Stoudemire
The Warriors would have added their third piece to their big three. Monta Ellis and Steven Jackson were a scoring juggernaut as a backcourt together. Ellis scored 25.5 points per game in 2009-2010, while Jackson led the team in 2008-2009 with 20.7. Having Stoudemire, who averaged 23.1 points and 8.9 rebounds, would have given the team a true big three. It might have been enough for the team to contend.
Reggie Williams would have needed to play small forward, while Corey Maggette would have been moved down to power forward to make room. Despite the Warriors winning just 29 games, Don Nelson would have found a way to make this work.
The Suns had a great season in 2009-2010 that featured a 54-28 record and a finish in the Conference Finals. The team would lose to Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in six games and then the team would fall apart. Stoudemire left to join the New York Knicks for a max contract. Nash was getting older but would make one more All-Star appearance at the age of 37. However, the team itself would miss the playoffs 10 straight years before the team lost in the NBA Finals last year.
The draft pick that the Suns used would be on Earl Clark, who would play one full season with the Suns before getting traded the following year. The Suns could have gotten their point guard for the future by drafting either Jrue Holiday or Ty Lawson but went a different route.
As for the Warriors, it would take some time for Curry to develop, but he would put the Warriors on the map for one of the greatest franchises ever. Curry would win the MVP in 2015 and then become the first unanimous MVP in league history in 2016 when the Warriors won a league record of 73 games. The Warriors franchise made the NBA Finals each season from 2015-2019. Last year, Curry finished third in the MVP voting when he led the league in scoring. This year, he passed Ray Allen as the greatest three-pointer shooter in league history.
The combination of Curry and Klay Thompson grew to become the Splash Brothers, while the big three of Curry, Thompson, and Green became a historical trio in their own right. Their play helped convince Kevin Durant to join the team, where helped the Warriors win two championships. Altogether, the Warriors would not be the Warriors if Curry was traded.
Now, here we are with the Warriors owning the best record in the NBA. Fortunately, despite a decade of suffering, the Suns are right up there with the Warriors at the top of the standings. Had this deal gone through, Golden State would have never been the same and Kerr probably would have never been coaching. To some degree, Curry’s rise was paired with Kerr’s coaching, so who knows if Curry would be the same Curry he is today if he had begun his career with the Suns.