Charlotte Hornets

A draft-day tale: Phoenix Suns’ burning desire for Stephen Curry was rebuffed

Would former Davidson star Stephen Curry still have won two championships had a proposed draft-day trade to the Phoenix Suns gone through?
Would former Davidson star Stephen Curry still have won two championships had a proposed draft-day trade to the Phoenix Suns gone through? TNS

Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr must be awfully grateful Phoenix Suns general manager Steve Kerr failed that NBA draft day back in 2009.

It’s easy to forget how those close draft-day decisions can be history-changing years later. The Suns thought they were on the verge of acquiring the draft rights to Curry, who grew up in Charlotte and starred for Davidson.

Eight years later, Curry is a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player and just celebrated the Warriors’ second NBA championship with him as point guard. Yet Curry was so close to being a Sun, instead. He might well have been had veteran forward-center Amare Stoudemire had healthier knees.

When Steve Kerr (right) was general manager of the Phoenix Suns, he was close to a trade to acquire the draft rights to Stephen Curry (left). Now Kerr coaches Curry at Golden State. ANDA CHU TNS

Kerr, who has coached both recent Warriors title runs, has talked publicly about those negotiations between Phoenix and Golden State. They were far more than preliminary talks.

“It was close,” Kerr told San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami. “There was not a deal done, but it was tricky because of Amare’s physical situation. Because he had bad knees, any deal that we were going to make would’ve been subject to a physical.”

Curry wasn’t selected until the seventh pick of that draft. The fifth and sixth selections – both by the Minnesota Timberwolves - were back-to-back point guards, Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn.

While there were future stars chosen ahead of Curry in James Harden and Blake Griffin, two of the top six players in that draft were busts: Flynn and No. 2 overall pick Hasheem Thabeet.

The Suns were offering their first-round pick, 14th overall, and 6-foot-10 Stoudemire, who in 2009 had already played in four All-Star Games.

Amare Stoudemire, who played professionally in Israel after his NBA career ended, was offered to the Golden State Warriors in 2009 by the Phoenix Suns, looking to acquire Stephen Curry. Sebastian Scheiner AP

The Warriors were receptive to the Suns’ proposal on draft night, but wanted more time to assess options.

With all of Golden State’s recent success, it’s easy to forget that when Curry was drafted, the Warriors were a mess. They had reached the playoffs just twice in the previous 17 seasons. There was good reason for Curry and his family to have misgivings about what he’d be getting into out in Northern California.

According to one source, the Suns even considered suggesting Curry skip an introductory news conference in Oakland, perhaps to nudge the Warriors to making that trade.

Stoudemire did fine after that, making two more All-Star appearances and extending his NBA career with the New York Knicks. The Suns advanced to the Western Conference final in 2010 before losing to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Phoenix missed out on Curry. Kerr didn’t.

And historic events ensued.

Bonnell: 704-358-5129: @rick_bonnell