FanPost

Gordon or Bust(ed)?

There has been much lusting after Eric Gordon and Nic Batum on this site - young, athletic, volume scoring SG's who are Restricted Free Agents this year. Portland made a large number of drastic moves at the trade deadline to attempt to do a quick rebuild, leaving them with an all-star PF, and not much else - except a huge amount of cap room, and a lot of flexibility. The recent sale of the Hornets to Saints owner Tom Benson has confused the issue of Gordon's availability further, but for the sake of argument, we will assume that both of these players will be available - at a price.

The Suns will also go into the off-season with a lot of cap room. For the sake of this argument, I am going to assume that they make every effort to keep Nash and Hill here, at roughly the same to slightly less money than they made this year. Nash has made improvement one of the criteria for returning, specifically mentioning a 20 point scorer as one of the things we don't have and need.

In this case, we are very unlikely to improve on the PG, C, or SF position in the off season. That leaves the 2 and the 4 as areas where we could possibly improve. In this post, I will focus on the SG position currently occupied by Jared Dudley.

The free agent class in the summer of 2012 is thin. Here is the list of SG's that are available according to HoopsWorld (listed in order of rough value):

Shooting Guard
(name, team – 2011-12 salary – status)

Eric Gordon, New Orleans Hornets – $3.8 million – Restricted ($5.1 million Qualifying Offer)
O.J. Mayo, Memphis Grizzlies – $5.6 million – Restricted ($7.4 million Qualifying Offer)
Ray Allen, Boston Celtics – $10.0 million – Unrestricted
Landry Fields, New York Knicks – $0.8 million – Unrestricted*
Carlos Delfino, Milwaukee Bucks – $3.5 million – Unrestricted
Nick Young, L.A. Clippers – $3.7 million – Unrestricted
Jamal Crawford, Portland Trail Blazers – $5.0 million – Player Option ($5.2 million)
Louis Williams, Philadelphia 76ers – $5.2 million – Early Termination Option ($5.4 million)
J.R Smith, New York Knicks – $1.4 million – Player Option ($2.6 million)
Mickael Pietrus, Boston Celtics – $1.2 million – Unrestricted
Courtney Lee, Houston Rockets – $2.2 million – Restricted ($3.2 million Qualifying Offer)
Rudy Fernandez, Denver Nuggets – $2.2 million – Restricted ($3.2 million Qualifying Offer)
DeShawn Stevenson, New Jersey Nets – $2.5 million – Unrestricted
Damion James, New Jersey Nets – $1.2 million – Unrestricted*
C.J. Miles, Utah Jazz – $3.7 million – Unrestricted
Shannon Brown, Phoenix Suns – $3.5 million – Unrestricted
Josh Howard, Utah Jazz – $2.2 million – Unrestricted
Gerald Green, New Jersey Nets – $0.4 million – Unrestricted
Terrence Williams, Sacramento Kings – $2.4 million – Unrestricted*
Jodie Meeks, Philadelphia 76ers – $0.9 million – Unrestricted*
Marco Belinelli, New Orleans Hornets – $3.4 million – Unrestricted
James Anderson, San Antonio Spurs – $1.5 million – Unrestricted*
Matt Carroll, Charlotte Bobcats – $3.9 million – Early Termination Option ($3.5 million)
Brandon Rush, Golden State Warriors – $3.0 million – Restricted ($4.1 million Qualifying Offer)
Alonzo Gee, Cleveland Cavaliers – $0.9 million – Unrestricted*
Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs – $0.9 million – Unrestricted*
Tracy McGrady, Atlanta Hawks – $1.3 million – Unrestricted
Jerry Stackhouse, Atlanta Hawks – $1.3 million – Unrestricted
Willie Green, Atlanta Hawks – $1.2 million – Unrestricted
Jason Kapono, Cleveland Cavaliers – $1.2 million – Unrestricted
Marquis Daniels, Boston Celtics – $1.2 million – Unrestricted
Sasha Pavlovic, Boston Celtics – $1.2 million – Unrestricted
Cory Higgins, Charlotte Bobcats – $0.5 million – Unrestricted*
Anthony Parker, Cleveland Cavaliers – $2.3 million – Unrestricted
Travis Leslie, L.A. Clippers – $0.5 million – Unrestricted*
Keith Bogans, New Jersey Nets – $0.8 million – Unrestricted
Michael Redd, Phoenix Suns – $1.3 million – Unrestricted
Mo Evans, Washington Wizards – $1.2 million – Unrestricted
Kelenna Azubuike, Dallas Mavericks – $0.4 million – Unrestricted
Bobby Simmons, L.A. Clippers – $0.5 million – Unrestricted

In a recent post by brian13, we began this discussion with the question of whether Dudley or Brown should be the starting 2 guard this year. Brown has performed very well in 11 or so games while Grant Hill was hurt. Dudley took over Grant's spot, and Redd became the second team SG, and it was effective. In this time, in discussion with MMotherwell, I became aware of some different ways of looking at things, so I thought that I'd take a stab at applying some different perspectives to the argument.

Thanks to the NBAGeek, I compiled a list of SG's for comparison, and included some stars, journeymen, and fringe stars as a basis of comparison. Since Eric Gordon is the object of many's desire, I will include some data from last year as well as this year.

The premise is that we will go into free agency with quite a few players under contract, including Dudley and Childress, I would assume that we would have an edge in signing Redd, Brown, and Price, should we want to - they have found roles here, seem to be well liked, and have performed decently. I will factor in Brown's performance as a starter and his 32 point game (sure to attract the attention of some other teams), as well as Redd's slow but steady comeback. They will both almost certainly command more money than we paid them this year.

Also, I have included Dragic in this list, even though he's a pg, because several people have floated the idea of playing him as the starting 2 guard, but having him available as a pg should Nash get hurt. Not a bad idea, IMO. Some of these guys are combo guards, and of course, Dudley plays the 2 and the 3 position, so his numbers may be a bit skewed compared to a pure SG. There are averages listed for each position, so you can compare for yourself.

So here's the list, and here's the link. You can go there and add or subtract players, sort by any of the data, look at different years, or whatever you'd like to do. It's called NBAGeek for a reason. All Stats are based on 48 minutes.

Raw Stats

Min

WP48

Wins

PTS

DRB

ORB

REB

AST

TO

BLK

STL

PF

Ginobili

649

.287

3.9

25.7

6.1

0.8

6.9

8.9

3.8

0.9

1.4

3.6

Harden

1805

.256

9.6

25.3

5.4

0.8

6.2

5.7

3.4

0.4

1.4

3.7

Wade

1552

.245

7.9

32.0

4.8

2.2

7.0

6.7

3.8

1.9

2.4

3.2

Childress

384

.231

1.9

10.0

5.9

3.4

9.2

3.5

0.9

0.8

1.2

3.8

Allen

1565

.188

6.1

20.1

3.9

0.4

4.4

3.3

2.1

0.2

1.5

2.5

Fields

1726

.183

6.6

14.8

5.5

1.5

7.0

4.3

2.7

0.5

2.1

2.4

Batum

1739

.176

6.4

22.1

5.1

2.2

7.3

2.2

2.4

1.6

1.5

2.8

Dudley

1805

.165

6.2

19.4

5.0

2.3

7.3

2.8

1.8

0.5

1.2

2.6

Dragic

1506

.162

5.1

20.9

3.2

1.4

4.5

9.4

4.1

0.3

2.4

4.4

Lee

1493

.108

3.4

18.0

3.6

0.7

4.3

2.5

1.8

0.6

1.9

2.7

Delfino

1484

.105

3.3

15.2

6.0

0.6

6.7

3.8

2.1

0.3

2.5

3.2

Afflalo

1828

.101

3.9

21.5

3.6

0.9

4.5

3.4

1.8

0.3

0.8

3.2

Terry

1822

.099

3.7

22.7

3.2

0.4

3.6

5.5

3.2

0.3

1.8

1.6

Richardson

1406

.084

2.5

18.4

4.4

1.0

5.4

3.2

1.9

0.7

1.6

2.7

Martin

1264

.079

2.1

25.9

3.5

0.5

4.0

4.2

2.7

0.1

1.1

2.7

Mayo

1552

.074

2.4

22.6

4.9

0.8

5.7

4.5

3.2

0.6

1.9

3.8

Gordon

206

.060

0.3

28.7

4.0

0.5

4.4

4.4

3.5

0.7

2.3

2.8

Bryant

2153

.055

2.5

35.0

5.4

1.4

6.8

5.7

4.5

0.4

1.5

2.3

Price

485

.050

0.5

12.1

3.5

1.6

5.0

6.5

4.3

0.3

3.2

6.1

Belinelli

1780

.047

1.8

18.8

3.7

0.5

4.2

2.4

1.8

0.1

1.1

2.8

Gibson

916

.026

0.5

13.8

4.7

0.6

5.3

4.0

2.4

0.8

1.4

3.6

Brown

1191

.019

0.5

22.2

4.2

1.4

5.5

2.3

2.3

0.5

1.3

2.4

Crawford

1545

.018

0.6

24.7

3.0

0.4

3.4

5.7

3.3

0.4

1.6

2.3

Hamilton

517

-.005

-0.0

21.4

3.2

1.6

4.8

5.8

3.7

0.1

0.9

3.6

Redd

645

-.012

-0.2

26.4

3.9

1.0

4.9

2.2

2.5

0.0

0.7

1.6

Bogans

94

-.030

-0.1

10.7

3.1

2.6

5.6

1.5

1.5

0.0

1.0

7.7

Miles

1145

-.039

-0.9

21.3

3.7

1.1

4.9

2.9

2.2

0.8

1.9

5.1

Young

1613

-.077

-2.6

24.6

2.9

0.9

3.8

1.6

2.4

0.5

1.2

3.9

Average SG

1171

.099

2.4

20.3

4.4

1.1

5.5

4.2

2.7

0.4

1.5

3.1

Average PG

1192

.099

2.5

19.5

3.9

0.9

4.8

8.2

3.6

0.4

1.9

3.3

Average SF

1235

.099

2.5

19.3

5.7

1.7

7.4

3.4

2.5

0.8

1.6

3.5

Shooting Efficiency

FG%

2FG%

3FG%

FT%

eFG%

TS%

FGA

3FGA

PPS

FTA

Ginobili

51.3%

60.0%

41.7%

88.3%

61.2%

66.3%

16.9

8.0

1.52

5.7

Harden

49.1%

57.4%

39.3%

83.7%

58.1%

65.8%

15.2

7.0

1.66

9.1

Wade

49.7%

51.3%

27.8%

78.8%

50.6%

55.8%

24.8

1.7

1.29

8.8

Childress

48.7%

59.6%

19.0%

0.0%

51.3%

50.7%

9.8

2.6

1.03

0.2

Allen

45.8%

46.3%

45.3%

91.5%

56.6%

60.7%

15.1

7.2

1.33

3.3

Fields

46.4%

53.1%

25.2%

57.3%

49.5%

51.2%

12.8

3.1

1.15

3.6

Batum

45.2%

49.7%

39.2%

83.6%

53.6%

57.8%

17.2

7.4

1.29

4.4

Dudley

47.9%

52.7%

38.0%

75.0%

54.1%

57.3%

15.2

5.0

1.28

3.9

Dragic

46.4%

52.2%

34.5%

81.0%

52.1%

57.1%

16.1

5.3

1.30

5.2

Lee

43.8%

46.8%

38.6%

85.5%

50.8%

53.8%

15.6

5.7

1.15

2.4

Delfino

39.8%

44.2%

35.9%

78.3%

49.3%

51.1%

14.2

7.6

1.07

1.5

Afflalo

45.7%

48.9%

39.4%

79.3%

52.3%

57.6%

16.0

5.3

1.34

6.0

Terry

42.9%

47.2%

37.3%

88.1%

51.1%

53.8%

20.0

8.7

1.14

2.7

Richardson

40.5%

44.9%

35.5%

58.1%

48.8%

49.7%

17.5

8.3

1.05

2.1

Martin

41.3%

46.2%

34.7%

89.4%

48.6%

55.4%

20.4

8.5

1.27

6.8

Mayo

40.8%

43.0%

37.1%

76.3%

47.7%

51.3%

19.9

7.3

1.13

4.7

Gordon

45.0%

52.9%

26.7%

71.4%

49.0%

53.3%

23.3

7.0

1.23

8.2

Bryant

43.0%

46.6%

29.9%

84.5%

46.2%

52.7%

28.9

6.3

1.21

9.8

Price

38.1%

41.6%

31.7%

79.2%

43.6%

47.4%

11.7

4.1

1.03

2.4

Belinelli

42.1%

44.8%

38.3%

77.6%

50.1%

53.0%

16.3

6.8

1.15

3.1

Gibson

35.1%

29.4%

39.6%

79.1%

46.2%

49.3%

13.0

7.3

1.06

2.3

Brown

41.5%

44.6%

34.4%

80.0%

46.8%

50.1%

20.5

6.3

1.08

3.8

Crawford

38.3%

42.1%

31.2%

93.5%

43.8%

50.3%

22.0

7.8

1.12

5.8

Hamilton

44.4%

45.9%

34.5%

75.9%

46.6%

48.8%

20.7

2.7

1.03

2.7

Redd

40.5%

46.3%

31.0%

79.3%

46.4%

51.5%

22.6

8.6

1.17

6.8

Bogans

38.1%

55.6%

25.0%

40.0%

45.2%

45.3%

10.7

6.1

1.00

2.6

Miles

38.1%

41.6%

30.7%

79.4%

43.0%

48.4%

19.5

6.3

1.09

5.7

Young

39.6%

42.2%

34.8%

85.5%

45.8%

50.3%

22.3

7.9

1.10

4.9

Average SG

42.7%

46.2%

35.6%

79.7%

48.6%

52.6%

17.4

5.7

1.16

4.2

Average PG

42.9%

46.1%

34.7%

81.1%

47.9%

52.5%

16.6

4.8

1.17

4.4

Average SF

43.2%

46.8%

35.4%

78.4%

48.8%

52.8%

16.5

5.1

1.18

4.2

This particular list is sorted by WP48 - a complex formula described in Wages of Wins, which factors in all of the data that's available, assigns coefficients, and gives a single number that is designed to show that players' value to the team. The list above is for 2011-12, and since Gordon has played very few games this year, he will not fare well, so we'll look at some of his other years later.

The first thing that jumps out on this list is that Dudley and Batum have very similar numbers across the board. The other surprising thing is that Childress ranks so high - we know he doesn't have as many minutes as the other guys. Chalk this up to small sample size - but give him some credit, too. He can play. Also, Ginobili, Harden, and Wade are pretty good players. Generally speaking, a WP48 of over .200 is considered a star, above .150 is considered a "good player", and .100 is considered average. Using this criteria, we can see that Childress is a star! (just kidding). Obviously, sample size is kind of important here.

But, since we're looking for a 20 point scorer, let's look at them ranked by points per 48 minutes. Keep in mind, a starting SG will average 75% of this number in a typical game.

Min

PTS

Min PTS

Bryant

2153

35.0

Hamilton

517

21.4

Wade

1552

32.0

Miles

1145

21.3

Gordon

206

28.7

Dragic

1506

20.9

Redd

645

26.4

Allen

1565

20.1

Martin

1264

25.9

Dudley

1805

19.4

Ginobili

649

25.7

Belinelli

1780

18.8

Harden

1805

25.3

Richardson

1406

18.4

Crawford

1545

24.7

Lee

1493

18.0

Young

1613

24.6

Delfino

1484

15.2

Terry

1822

22.7

Fields

1726

14.8

Mayo

1552

22.6


Brown

1191

22.2

Price

485

12.1

Batum

1739

22.1

Bogans

94

10.7

Afflalo

1828

21.5

Childress

384

10.0

Average SG

1171

20.3

Average PG

1192

19.5

Average SF

1235

19.3

Gordon shines here, as does Michael Redd. Of course, it's a smaller sample size, but it is spread across a lot of games early where he didn't do very well - but one thing Redd has proven is that he can get the ball in the basket, one way or another. Gentry said after the SA game that he thinks that Redd has another whole level of improvement left to go through, which is intriguing.

If you look at Gordon's numbers for 2010-11, his pts/48 remains consistent at 28.3, but his WP48 jumps to a more respectable .110 - slightly above average. Still, he does look like a legit 20 point scorer,

Condensing the list down to realistic options (we probably aren't going to get Kobe or Wade), let's do a profile of each player of interest.

JARED DUDLEY

We love us some Junkyard Dog here at BSotS - so why are we even discussing this? Duds is under contract to us through the 2015-16 year (he has a player option that year) for a meager $4.2 million a year. No progressive raises - (I understand there are a few small incentive clauses). Jared is not athletic - but his hands are. He's been remarkably consistent from year to year, although his 3 point % is down this year to 38.3%, compared to his 41.0% career average and his 45.8% of 2009-10. Still, his overall FG% is above his career average at 48% (career of 47.3%). He's shooting 2 more attempts (2 pointers) per game, and making half of them. He's grabbing 4.7 rebounds a game, up from 3.9 last year, and against a 3.8 career average. Almost all of his numbers have gone up each year, with the exception of steals, which are down slightly.

Duds played about 64% of available minutes this year. The 5 man unit of Nash, Dudley, Hill, Frye, and Gortat have played 744 minutes together - by far the most of any 5 man unit Dudley is part of. He's been our SG 41% of the time (out of all available minutes) and the SF 22% of the time, so his numbers are skewed to the SG spot 2-1. That starting unit ranked #1 in +/- for much of the year, ranking second to Indiana right now, so it was a very efficient unit. When he's on the court, we score 109.5 points per 100 possessions, when he's off the court, we score 100.6. When he's on the court, the opponent scores 106.5/100 possessions, when he's off it's 108.1. So, he's an asset on both offense and defense, more so on offense.

Jared is among the most efficient SG's in the game. On the list above, he is 5th in WP48, 3rd in wins, 2nd in rebounds, 4th in FG%, 4th in 2FG%, 4th in eFG%, and 4th in TS%. Considering that Josh Childress is above him in many of these categories (as is Ginobili and Harden), that's pretty damn good for 4.2 mil a year. Jared is middle (to low) of the pack in assists, steals, and blocks, while turning the ball over less than just about anybody on the list. He draws fouls on 12.5% of his shots. (14.7% last year).

Duds in not a great free throw shooter at about 75%, and this is an area he could improve. But the real area of concern this year has been his clutch statistics. He was quite clutch last year, and I think the small sample size has skewed it a bit (I'm not sure the data is up to date at 82 games) - but I think we all know that Dudley is clutch. If anything, he is too deferential, especially with Brown on the floor, taking quite a few shots less. I believe that is due to the fact that Brown has been hot, and Jared was focusing on replacing the things Grant gives us, like defense, rebounds, and assists. Obviously, Duds is not as good defensively as Hill (very few are), but he's above average, and he can cover a variety of players.

Duds is very smart, crafty, and a great team-mate. I would rate his BBIQ in the Mensa range.

Eric Gordon

I will admit, I haven't seen Eric play much. His numbers, to me, are rather unimpressive,, and he's had knee problems as well as back problems that have kept him out of most of the season. This is a big concern for a young player, and given the fact that he's a restricted free agent, and the star on a team that has played very well since his return, I really doubt that he will be available. The NBA, as owners, didn't want to extend him when they had a chance, because it would have put them over the cap, so they deferred the decision until the off-season. Recently, Tom Benson, the owner of the NO Saints, completed the purchase of the Hornets. They will make the Qualifying Offer of $5,137,616, then Eric and his agent will entertain offers from around the league. There are reports that the Suns, Portland, Indiana, and Dallas will be strong suitors for Gordon's services, so his price could go pretty high. Gordon is coming off of his rookie contract, and is looking for the big money - projections range from 9 million to 14.5 million dollars per year. That's for the first year - the allowable raise (NO can offer 7.5%, we can offer 4.5% per year) could balloon the contract to $18 mil or so by year 4. This will be the last year a team can offer a 5 year contract to a player who is not on their roster - it drops to 4 years after next year. (I believe that teams will still be able to offer their own players 5 years). Once the bidding is done, the Hornets have the option to match any offer, and if they do, Gordon stays. The only other option is that Gordon could decide he doesn't want to take the offer, at which point he could accept the QO, play for one year for 5.7 mil, and become an unrestricted free agent in 2013. Not likely, unless the offers are very low. I would highly suggest reading this SB Nation article, written at the time that a contract extension was being discussed in January - there are some very good thoughts and links in there regarding his worth - too many to enumerate here.

Letting Gordon go would essentially mean that the Hornets traded Chris Paul for about 14 games of Gordon, 55 games from Kaman (with his $14.5 mil contract), Aminu, and a first round draft choice. The Hornets have plenty of cap room, but they will have to make decisions on re-signing Gordon, Carl Landry, Kaman, and Marco Belinelli this year, and Ariza and Jarrett Jack the next year. I'd say the odds are not good that we get him, even if we are the high bidder.

Would we even want to? Max money for Gordon would probably be required to even get him, and likely for 4 years. Our competition has the money to do this, as well - Portland is sitting on a lot of cap space and some good picks, and they also have Nic Batum, who may become expendable should they land Gordon, although Batum is a G/F. They need help at center and at PG as well, and have been rumored to be in the hunt for Goran Dragic, whose recent strong performance has probably put him in the position to land some pretty decent money. Centers aren't cheap, so I'm not sure we'll see Portland follow us all the way to a max contract for Gordon. Indiana has Dahntay Jones on a player option, and quite a bit of cap space, but they have to re-sign or replace Roy Hibbert (RFA). That will probably be a pretty expensive transaction with the scarcity of quality centers in the league. Dallas will have a lot of needs, too, but Cuban has deep, deep pockets, and probably won't mind going into the punitive luxury tax for a year (Nowitzki drops off the books after 2013/14, and they have only Brendan Hayward under contract after that). Dallas will be our biggest competition for the services of Gordon, and I would expect them to go to the max. Cleveland is another team with the cap space to pursue him.

Max, for Gordon, looks like this: approximately $14.5 million for the first year, with raises of 4.5% for each year after that, for a max of 4 years. Eric is in his 4th year in the league, and has missed 56 games this year with knee and back issues. Is it chronic? Can Aaron Nelson keep him on the floor for 4 years? Because a 4 year max contract has the potential to cripple our team for the foreseeable future, should he suffer a major injury. I would have to assume that the FO and medical staff would do their due diligence, and make an informed decision.

Here are some salary projections for the next 4 years. I've made some arbitrary assumptions that may be high, but should put us in the ballpark. One assumption is that Nash will play for 3 more years at 10 mil per year. Grant Hill will go for one more year. We will match the offer for Lopez and keep him here. We will stick with Telfair as the backup, let Brown go, and not amnesty anyone. Any one of these things being different will yield radically different results, of course, but I think those are reasonable assumptions.

For the year 2012/13, with 12 players under contract, we would be very close to the luxury tax line at $69,412,000. Without getting into the weeds of Bird rights, MLE's, bi-annual exceptions, and the like, I think that's do-able. It would give us the same backups to Nash that we have now, which is a concern should Nash suffer an injury, and wouldn't include Redd, who we might be able to sneak in there as a backup for Gordon. This is essentially the same team we had this year, with Gordon replacing Dudley as the starting 2, moving Duds to a backup position at the 2 or 3, something that we should discuss. Duds is a team player, and I'm sure that he will accept any role, but he definitely has the right to feel that he earned a starting position. I don't see it as a problem that Gentry can't handle.


On the face of it, this would make us a competitive team right off the bat. With no upgrade at the PF position, we would either start Frye or Morris, either of which could be expected to at least match the performance at that position that we got this year. I would expect Dudley to back up Hill, and for Hill to play less minutes. We should be able to expect increased offensive production with Gordon at the 2 to the tune of about 6 points per game while he's in, and also increased offensive production while Duds is manning the 3 (or 2) on the second team. There might be a slight falloff in defense with the first team, however. The biggest improvement should be in crunch time, having a legit closer who can stretch the floor, drive to the basket, and get fouled. Should we be able to retain Redd, we would have Lopez, Morris/Frye, Dudley, Redd, and Telfair as our second team, with Warrick, Chilly, and Price as deep backups.

Player 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15 2015/16
Steve Nash $11,689,062 $9,000,000 $9,000,000 $9,000,000 $0
Marcin Gortat $6,790,640 $7,258,960 $7,727,280 $0 $0
Grant Hill $6,500,000 $5,000,000 $0 $0 $0
Josh Childress $6,000,000 $6,500,000 $7,182,500 $7,317,500 $0
Channing Frye $5,600,000 $6,000,000 $6,400,000 $6,800,000 $0
Hakim Warrick $4,320,000 $4,640,000 $4,960,000 $0 $0
Jared Dudley $4,250,000 $4,250,000 $4,250,000 $4,250,000 $4,250,000
Shannon Brown $3,500,000 $0 $0 $0 $0
Robin Lopez $2,866,336 $7,000,000 $7,525,000 $8,089,375 $8,696,078
Markieff Morris $1,919,160 $2,063,040 $2,207,040 $3,153,860 $4,361,788
Sebastian Telfair $1,146,337 $1,200,000 $0 $0 $0
Michael Redd $1,050,000 $0 $0 $0 $0
Eric Gordon $14,500,000 $15,152,500 $15,834,362 $16,546,910
Ronnie Price $1,000,000 $0 $0 $0
TOTALS: $55,631,535 $68,412,000 $64,404,320 $54,445,097 $33,854,776

As you can see, this will put us well over the cap at $68.4 mil. So, you start shaving a buck here, a buck there - dump Price, amnesty Chilly, and we're still over the cap, at 61 mil. No Grant Hill, No Brown, Redd, or any other color, no Childress - just 9 players, 10 with the draft pick, which will cost us around 2 mil. So, a lot of you say, get rid of Lopez. Ironically, I find that these are usually the same people who only want draft picks, and would burn the whole team down. But renouncing Lopez totally throws a draft pick out the window, and I believe he will have some good value - both to us as a player, and as a trade chip.

Maybe Nash will take less than 9 mil. Maybe Lopez goes for less than 7 mil. Maybe we can finagle a way to keep Hill for another year, and maybe sign Price and Redd to the veterans minimum to fill out our roster. According to ShamSports, we only have a Bi-annual exception available to use. No MLE, and no miniMLE. We used the MLE to sign Brown ($3.5 mil) and Telfair ($1.5 mil). Letting Brown go might get us part of that back to use on Hill - I defer to the experts on that one.

If I understand it correctly, we could use some accounting tricks to defer the impact of new contracts over more years to lower the cap hit, but that just sounds like big problems in the future. Barring any trades or changes, we still have to come up with around 2 mil for our draft pick, as well. There is likely to be good talent for us to pick from at our 13th spot - one of Perry Jones, Kendall Marshall, Terrence Jones, Austin Rivers, Myers Leonard, Marquis Teague, Lillard (At least a couple of these guys will be available, or else somebody has dropped out of the top ten, for some reason). Using that pick strategically could fill a position of need, maybe we wouldn't need Price or even Lopez, if we took Myers Leonard. But I'll repeat - losing Lopez hurts us down the road.

Nash/Telfair/ Pick?

Gordon/Dudley/ Pick?

Hill/Dudley/Warrick/ pick?

Morris/Frye/Warrick

Gortat/Lopez/Frye

Assuming that the FO could actually solve the cap situation and put this team on the floor: Does this put us over the top?

It will depend on a lot of things, mostly centered around the summer. I would expect Dudley, Frye, Morris, Telfair, and our pick to work their ass off and show up ready to play. We would need Hill, Nash, and Redd rested and tuned up. We would need to come out of the gate strong, and keep getting better, avoid injuries, and hope that we figure out, with Gordon and a pick, to deal with the younger, faster, more athletic teams.

In our division, could we reasonably expect to continue our dominance over the Cliippers? Will we be able to pass the Lakers? Possibly. If this team were to gel like this year's team, I would say it was possible, even likely. So, our reward should be a top 3 seed, and a legit playoff run. But it's not a given. We have a rather big problem in 2014/15 when Gortat will be looking for an extension. I know that a lot of people consider him expendable - mostly the ones who don't remember what it was like without a quality big here in Phoenix. We have to, at some time, deal with the "PG of the future" question. Is that best addressed through the draft or free agency?

Let's consider some other options. We could let Lopez go, and move Frye to the backup center position, and draft a PF prospect in a very deep draft. That would drop our overall salary by about 5 mil next year, but make us significantly weaker on the second team inside. And what if Gortat gets hurt? Is this team strong enough to survive a 2 or 4 week stint with no Gortat and Lopez? If Gordon gets hurt, and we still have Redd, we should be able to handle that, but if Nash gets hurt for any significant length of time, we're pretty screwed. I am almost assuming that Grant gets hurt at some point, but Chilly and even Warrick provides us with some depth there, and we've done well this year without Grant. But three starters with injury histories is a scary proposition. Our second team of Telfair/ Redd/ Dudley / Frye/ Lopez would be very strong, but without Lopez, Warrick becomes more important. (Incidentally, Warrick is an expiring contract next year.)

It's a dangerous situation. Saving a mil or two on Gordon would help a lot. A mil or two saved on Lopez would also help a lot. Will Hill take less? Possibly. Will Nash take a little less? Possibly. What will Redd command on the open market? What will our draft pick cost us? The punitive nature of the luxury tax doesn't kick in until the year after, so it might be okay to go into it for one year, but definitely not for two. So, at the end of next season, we have to start making some tough decisions.

It may seem like the smart thing to let Lopez go, but I think the smart thing is to keep him. He has become one of our most tradable assets this year, showing health, mobility, and toughness. He's only 24, and while 7 mil might seem like a lot for a backup, it's not for a starter. MMotherwell has brought up the scenario of trading for Josh Smith - Lopez might be an integral piece in that trade. It would let them replace Smith with a move of Horford to PF, his natural position. We need some salary to offset Smith's high (and likely to go higher ) salary. We could be reasonably expected to include Morris in the deal, which would make it more advisable to draft a PF this year. We could also perhaps entice them to take Warrick's salary expiring contract back, which would give them a bit of insurance at the position, and give us some cap relief. If that trade was made at the deadline, Warrick would have only a half year (with a team option) left on his contract. But I'm not sure we could keep Smith and Gordon. Smith is going to want some big money going into the 2013/14 season, and doesn't strike me as the "loyal" type. So, I guess we should discuss this. Warrick (4.6 mil), Lopez (7 mil) and Morris (2 mil) along with a pick could very easily get us Smith, which would mitigate our depth problems at the center position somewhat. But it leaves us better but thinner overall, and very, very close to the luxury tax line for the foreseeable future. This is a very top-heavy approach, and one that's ripe for discussion. One of our biggest advantages has been depth, and as the top of our lineup improves, the quality depth will be harder and harder to hold on to.

On the other hand, it would feel pretty good going into the post trade deadline with a starting lineup of Nash, Gordon, Hill, Smith, and Gortat, with Telfair, Redd, Dudley, draft pick, and Frye as the second team. I'm not sure we'd be able to play a full five man second team at that point, but you never know.

In my humble opinion, this is very risky. Would we be better served to just wait for trades, and not overpay for Gordon? Is Smith worth risking a half-year rental, or the destruction of team chemistry? I don't have the answers to that - just some hunches. I haven't included Batum or others in this discussion, because I just don't think Batum is enough of a significant upgrade to overpay for, and he will be overpriced at probably 9-12 mil. Is it better to improve the 2 guard position, or to focus on the PF position? A lot could depend on how Atlanta does in the post-season. A lot will depend on who else gets signed, and when, and who does what in the draft. It will, I'm sure, depend on how we end the season, and what we do in the playoffs (should we make it). This scenario could put us in a pretty good, if precarious position for two years, but leave us unable to replace Nash, re-sign Gortat, (leaving Frye as the only big man on our roster). But, for those two years, we would be a pretty good team, certainly capable of winning our division and competing for the title.

Is it better than the "League of Extraordinarily Old Gentlemen" for those two years? Don't know. The argument for Gordon is that it would assure our future, but I would argue that it has more potential to ruin it than assure it. If there were free agents we could overpay for two or 3 years, that would be better for our future. Are there guys out there who might be available before the deadline who could make as much difference without the long term-commitment? Probably. We are still waiting to see what the ramifications of the new CBA will be, and my sense is that the teams that will be poised to take advantage of that will be the strongest teams for the next five years. Overpaying Gordon would take us out of that competition. But,not doing it doesn't assure us of keeping Nash and Hill until the end of their careers.

So many difficult choices. Being a GM is tough, huh? And there are so many more wrinkles to discuss in light of the new CBA. Teams will be penalized heavily for going over the salary cap, especially repeat offenders - but there is also a minimum that must be spent, which means that some teams who just haven't spent much, like SAC, will be forced to increase their payrolls, further depleting the market and enhancing parity. I've read that Tyreke Evans might be on the block, and since they need more salary (and a wing) does that open up an opportunity to trade Childress (and probably a pick) for him? Is HE worth the risk? I plan to write a similar post to this one regarding the PF position, and one with a discussion of how the CBA will create opportunities and pitfalls. It's going to be a busy summer, folks.

This post is not for the casual rosterbator. Please, don't come in here and suggest trading Gortat, dumping Frye, signing Dwight Howard, or any other unrealistic proposition without a detailed explanation of how the salary would work over an extended period of time. I expect to make modifications of the salary structure as our team of experts weigh in on the ramifications of the salary cap and the subsequent options that opens up. But this is a serious post, and I would ask that you treat it seriously.

In conclusion, I don't think we can afford Eric Gordon, and I don't think we could get him if we could. Judging from the stats, we could expect about 6 more points a game than we get out of Dudley, which to me, is well past the point of diminishing returns. And honestly, our problem wasn't scoring points so much as scoring points late - we need a closer. It doesn't have to be a SG - it could be at any position on the floor. And, I will submit, playing better is always an option, at least anywhere but BSotS.

I will refer you to this post by Alex as a guideline on the salary cap and its implications for the Suns. I also hope for a robust discussion on the options that trading offers us to exceed the cap. My understanding is that RFA's (Lopez and possibly Brooks ) couldn't be traded until January 15. But if we pick up Brooks, and his expected 5 mil plus salary, we have to give somebody else up. Sooooooo many decisions.

So, discuss amongst yourselves.

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