What is in store for us in the next few weeks? What does our future look like? Who will the Suns be next season and into the next decade? Read on after the jump...
So I have been thinking about this issue for a while and it has caused me no small amount of anxiety and restless nights. So I decided to write a bit since it calms me down and because it allows me to interact with all of you about all this craziness so you can point out my flaws and inconsistencies but also so we can come to better understandings. Lets try it out.
We are all aware of the money issues for the team this year and the next but lets briefly go over them.
The Suns are currently 11th in payrolls at about 75 mil (minus Wallace and Pavlovic). This is below the Nuggets, the Jazz, the Mavs, Boston, and virtually every other playoff "power" in both the East and West. The luxury cap currently stands and 69.92 mil. As it is, we will be paying a slight tax which, we know, Sarver isn't happy about doing. Next season the luxury cap is supposed to drop to 61.2 mil (assuming a 5% decrease in Cap restrictions instead of 2.5...going for the extreme) in reponse to the further lowering of the salary cap by about 5mil. (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=4312837)
A few Suns factoids:
~The Suns are currently on the books for 62.8 mil next season without the contracts of Lou Amundson, Collins, or Griffin. This is assuming Amare, Hill, and Frye pick up their player options. This would mean we were about a million over the luxury.
~The four largest contracts on our roster account for 49.4 mil of this years 63.2 mil in active contracts. Next year, those four (assuming Amare) account for 49.5 mil of the 62.8 mil in active contracts (only a 10 man roster, must add 3 more). DO THE MATH: these four players have 78% of our roster this year, and (assuming we add 3 non-vet players at the minimum, 1 mil each) 83% next year.
~Nash's contract goes down 3 million from 13 this seaon to 10 due to his contract extension.
~LB's contract goes up about a 1million (7.1). He is signed through next year with a player option for 2011-12.
~Richardson's contract goes up 1 million(14.4). He has no player options after next year.
~Amare's contract goes up 1.3 million(17.6) if he takes his player option.
So here are the options for Amare and the Suns right now as I see it. Each of these has ramifications andI cannot cover all of them but will put a few options down.
1) We extend Amare to MAX money over 3-4 years. Next year he makes what he would have (17.6) and each year goes up about 1.3-1.6mil.
------>To get under the cap we trade Rich's contract in 2010-11 for expirings, picks and young talent.
-------> We trade LB and rely solely on our picks and youth to win.
PROBABLE RESULTS: we dont get much better. Maintain our talent for the most partand develop youth in the process. Meanwhile, other teams above us are having to cut a ton of salary because of the luxury line and we might be able to pick up some decent FA or a good trade. Overall, if we play our cards right, we come out slightly better because the youth step up and play well.
2) We don't trade Amare and he walks at the end of the seaon to resign with another team. We lose his 17.6 mil contract but cannot sign more than an 8mil FA since you cannot sign over the cap. Top FA this year in our bracket include: Kenyon Martin, Kelenna Azubuike, Marcus Camby, David Lee, Al Harrington, Chris Duhon, Manu Ginobili, Richard Jefferson, Carlos Boozer, Brenden Haywood.
-------> Probably take on one to two FA and resign Lou in an effort to stay under Luxury.
-------> Keep all the talent we have, maybe trade LB if price is right.
PROBABLE RESULTS: We get worse. Without a dominant big man (or really any big man...besides Lopez) and lacking our main source of scoring we cannot play the way we have trained. The Suns might pick up some good defenders but our orientation as a team towards offense will ultiamtely clash with this. Team identity will falter and cohesion will be at a low. Upside is we can still trade JRich for talent and picks but we are likely a lottery team.
3) We don't trade Amare and he realizes that right now he wont get a better deal so opts in for his last year. Our books are fine (see option 1) for the most part and we have several intriguing trade possibilities. With both Amare and Rich huge expiring contracts the Suns would be able to deal heavily to get just about whatever they wanted from the mid-level and lower level teams of the league looking to "blow it up."
PROBABLE RESULTS: Fans become really frustrated with Amare's lack of defense and consistent effort on the boards. The Suns remain a mid-level team having not picked up any good talent from the draft or FA. More or less same result this as this year, but with the promise of a much brighter future in 2011-12 and the rest of the decade. On a sad note, we also realize that Nash only has one year left and that it is no longer the SSOL Suns. The team is "blown up" by the trade deadline and something wholly new is constructed.
4) We trade Amare. This could go one of two ways:
------->a) we trade him for nothing, chump change and, if we are lucky, draft picks. We end up with maybe a few expirings but it doesn't matter becasue we still can't sign a really expensive FA this summer. If we are lucky, we pick up someone who ends up thriving alongside Steve Nash and we hold out for next season when JRich's contract is enticing enough for teams to bite and trade. Still, another year with Nash is wasted.
PROBABLE RESULTS: Nothing different than if Amare had walked (see above). We may get lucky with a young talent.
------->b) we trade him (plus others = Rich, LB) for other expensive contracts (Martin+Thompson/Iggy+Brand,Daly/J. O'Neil) and maybe draft picks. We take on extra money for a few more years but we stay competitive in the West. We have several years of precarious tax issues especially if the cap and tax continue to drop. However we also aquire young talent in the draft. The heavy years are spent developing young players and when the contracts reach "expiring" mode, we trade them off for more youth and picks.
PROBABLE RESULTS: Depending on who you pick up, the Suns could go from lower-level Playoffs to contenders for the next 2 years. After that, when Nash is gone, the team gets rewoven into something different and pieces are rearranged. The Suns stay competitive and continue to do well in the system set out for them because their youth is so energetic and athletic. FA's can be picked up to fill the gaps.