Maybe it's just my imagination, but there seems to be a growing consensus here, and perhaps around the league, that the Suns are more than a re-building team. As Dave pointed out, we're running a tight, 8-man, veteran rotation, and we're winning at a level that suggests that we aren't Riggin for Wiggins, or Kamikaze for Jabari, or whatever it is the cool kids say now.
Sure, we've positioned ourselves to be stocked with "assets" in the form of multiple draft picks. But we don't need, probably can't even use, 4 draft picks this next year. 3 is roughly the limit on players a team can develop at the same time, and we will still have (presumably) two other young projects already on roster.
What are those assets for, then? Swinging a trade, that's what. Isn't that the model Boston used under Ainge? Gather assets, trade them for multiple core veteran players. The next move for McDonough and company is to use some of those picks to facilitate a trade to bring another core player here. Throw in $5M in cap room and Okafor's expiring, insured contract, and you have the pieces necessary to bring in a piece.
So, who could the Suns realistically bring in, that would vault them to the next level (which is playoff team)?
With Rose out again, there is real talk that the Bulls will try to re-set this year, keeping only Rose, Butler, and Noah. I'm not sure I buy that, as they still figure to be a playoff team in the Least.
Deng is an expiring contract himself, so he would be a half-year rental, plus bird rights. Bird rights may be significant under the new cap, as there may be less offers in free agency, for less money, than there once were. As long as he enjoyed playing here and feels that we can win, there is good reason to think that a player on an expiring contract could be re-signed. On the other hand, I'm not entirely sold on Luol Deng as a big upgrade over PJ Tucker. Both are defense and grit type players. Luol is better than PJ, but not enough to give up our assets for.
Boozer has 2 years and will get more money than he's worth at his current production level. He's always been known as an offensive player first and a solid rebounder. Under Thibs' tutelage, Boozer's defense has improved from "who cares" levels to something adequate, while his offense has tailed off, presumably because the dude is flat getting old. Boozer also has a history with both Hornacek, and the Suns current halfcourt offense, which is similar in many respects to Jerry Sloan's old system with the Jazz. There is reason to think that Boozer's offense would increase in Phoenix, due to pace and system, but his defense might also decrease back to pathetic levels of suckitude. Boozer is a real option for the Suns. Maybe not the best option, and certainly an overpaid option, but an option that could help fill the PF hole in the current roster and rescue our halfcourt offense, which is currently BAD. Boozer would probably be relatively cheap. A package of cap relief (Okafor's contract), and a rotation forward (presumably with the last name Morris) would probably swing this deal.
Monroe is young, but polished both as a passer at the top of the key and as a low-post scorer. He's on the last year of a rookie-scale contract that pays only about $4M, but he will command max money next year as a restricted free agent. Big men who can score from the pivot get that contract, even more so when you can run part of the offense through them. The downside is that Monroe is somewhat plodding, not a fast breaking type of player, and someone who doesn't guard the pick and roll or face-up isolation particularly well. Also, he will be expensive. To get him back, we would need to give up significant assets - probably one of Bledsoe or Dragic, plus multiple draft picks and maybe a cheap rotation player (one of PJ, Markieff, or Plumlee). Is it worth it? YMMV, but it's very rare to be able to trade for a cornerstone-type big man at all, so I would say yes. You would need to change the offense, and there's a solid chance that the winning wouldn't start this year due to players gone, but Monroe could be the start of a new era of Suns basketball.
Like Deng, Granger would be a rental, with a decent chance of retaining him as a free agent. Granger has been a tough defender, a secondary ballhandler up top, and a shooter with the capability to make an impact greater than just spotting up. After more than a year away, it's uncertain whether he can still do all of those things at a high level, or stay healthy. He should not be expensive to require, as Indiana doesn't have a spot in rotation for him, or the funds to retain him as a free agent next year. This seems to me like a risk worth taking, banking on our legendary training staff to get him in shape and keep him healthy. A lineup featuring Bledsoe, Tucker, and Granger, with Plumlee in back, would be elite defensively. If it comes to nothing, then you probably only gave up a low draft pick to acquire him.
Yes, I think they would. The Knicks are built to win-now, and are floundering at present, and hamstrung for the future in bad obligations (Stoudemire, Bargnani, Felton). If they could get back a player who could contribute now, and relieve themselves of Tyson's $14M this year and next, I believe they would. This trade only makes sense if you believe the Suns can rescue Tyson from the IR, which I believe in. We've had the chance to acquire him twice now, and both times we didn't, it was a mistake. I am not sure it would be worth the price of Dragic or Bledsoe, plus Plumlee, but it's an option.
With Dwight in the fold, Asik has become an incredibly overpriced backup center, and he's requested a trade out of town. His contract has a huge balloon payment next year to take into account. Still, he's an elite rebounder and a plus defender at the most important defensive position on the court. He runs the court well for a big man. Asik would move Plumlee to the backup role he's more suited for, and solve the Suns rebounding issues, without stopping them from running. Given the cap relief Houston would receive by trading him now and his status as a malcontent on their roster, he shouldn't be expensive. Trading Channing Frye, perhaps, would do the trick. But what about Alex Len? Two years from now when Asik's contract ends, hopefully he'll be ready for meaningful minutes.
Anderson fills the stat sheet, on offense at least, and stretches the floor. But he is paid too much to be a backup, and The Brow is already a better player at the same position, in only his 2nd season. Anderson would plug the PF-shaped hole in Phoenix and bolster the frontcourt. I'm not sure the Suns could swing this deal. What the Pellies really need is a center that doesn't suck, but we don't seem to have a spare one of those to send them. They also have the leverage in any negotiation, as they don't have to trade Anderson at all, and he continues to play well, if not enough.
The Best of the Rest