Suns take up-close look at Iguodala

By Marc Stein

Are the Suns inching closer to a trade with Philadelphia headlined by Amare Stoudemire and Andre Iguodala?

Separate sources close to both teams caution that it’s too soon to answer that question affirmatively.

One source with knowledge of the Suns’ thinking, in particular, insisted that Phoenix was still evaluating several potential trade candidates.

However . . .

You can safely say that the Suns have ramped up their evaluation of Iguodala, whom they’ve liked dating to the 2004 draft when Iguodala turned pro after two years at Arizona.

We know that because the Suns quietly dispatched one of their lead decision-makers – senior vice president of basketball operations David Griffin – to New Orleans on Friday night to watch the Sixers play the Hornets in person.

As discussed in the Weekend Dime, Phoenix has made it known that – in spite of its longstanding aversion to taking on long-term money – it has serious interest in Iguodala (even with four seasons left on his contract after this season worth $56 million) and would also be willing to acquire Samuel Dalembert (due to earn $12.2 million next season) to clinch the deal.

The Suns, though, would undoubtedly want Philly to take back Jason Richardson in such a swap. Even though the Sixers would have to surrender another player to make the salary-cap math work, such as Jason Kapono or Willie Green, they wouldn’t realize any significant savings in this trade configuration until the 2011-2012 season if Stoudemire follows through on this week’s suggestion that he will not become a free agent at season’s end and plays out his contract at $17.7 million in 2010-11.

You can also expect Philly, if these talks go any further, to insist on Leandro Barbosa instead of Richardson to make it a simpler two-for-two trade: Stoudemire and Barbosa for Iguodala and Dalembert.

Phoenix, furthermore, appears to be the team driving these discussions anyway. The Suns, by all accounts, like the idea of trading for Iguodala more than the Sixers like the thought of gambling on Stoudemire, who remains an undeniable force offensively but comes with that well-chronicled injury history in addition to the opt-out conundrum.

The optimistic view in the desert goes so far as to suggest that Dalembert – shopped by Philly without success going back to last season – would be better than ever playing alongside Steve Nash, not only because Dalembert holds a Canadian passport but because Nash brings the best out of mobile centers.

Yet we should also pass along the warning that came from one front-office executive whose team has expressed its interest in Stoudemire. The exec believes that the Suns could well choose not to move Amare before the Feb. 18 trading deadline if they start playing well again … and Phoenix just went 4-0 on a four-game road trip during which Amare averaged nearly 28 points and 12 boards.