In his postseason review of the Suns, Yahoo's Kelly Dwyer goes to great lengths to debunk the idea that Dirk could come to Phoenix as a replacement. In the process, Dwyer gets some key details wrong and misses on a main point - trade exceptions.
First, in theory, I totally agree with Dwyer that Dirk won't end up in Phoenix mostly for the reason he also cites - Mark Cuban will overpay Dirk and max him out if he thinks there's a chance that Nash and Dirk could reunite in Phoenix. Cuban is not going to let that happen.
That said, there's a few important details to clarify because they apply to the Suns overall cap situation and other options for the summer.
1) Grant Hill and Channing Frye both have player options for next season and it is pretty darn clear at this point that Hill is staying (he already told Kerr that) and Frye is going to test free agency.
That gives the Suns a salary of $42.8m for 8 players assuming no Amare, no Frye, no Amundson and also no Jones or Griffin who both have non-guaranteed contracts for next season. With the salary cap at $56.1m, that gives the Suns $13.3m (again w/ no Frye, Lou, Dwayne or Taylor or new 2nd round picks).
2) Dwyer thinks that LB is not tradeable. I totally disagree. There will be a LOT of teams with cap space burning a hole in their pockets and Barbosa is a proven scorer that a few of those teams could add without having to take on a long term commitment. Two years isn't much and especially if you consider that in his final year, he becomes a valuable expiring contract. That's another $7.1m off the cap if he gets moved, so now we are talking about $20.4m in cap space, although there would have to be cap holds for those open roster spots and any 1st round draft picks the Suns got back. So figure about $16m in available space.
3) If the Suns were to trade LB to a team under the cap and only take back draft picks, they also get a trade exception which can be used to acquire other players without having to match salary. In the Amare situation, it is highly likely that the Suns would do a sign-and-trade with a team that wants him and entices him out of Phoenix with a max offer. That could give the Suns significant flexibility if they got back $15m to even $20m in trade exception.
So while I DON'T think it is likely, it is certainly possible that the Suns could get Dirk using these trade exceptions, although it would require the Mavs to in turn do a sign-and-trade with Dirk because trade exceptions can't be used to sign free agents.
The key thing to remember is that the Suns could use these trade exceptions to go over the cap and take back players and fill the space between the salary cap and the luxury tax with some talent. As we've seen over the past few years, teams with cap space and the ability to spend without going over the luxury tax have a lot of flexibility when it comes to making deals.