Last week, the Phoenix Suns waived forward Michael Beasley after just one tumultuous year in the desert. Beasley arrived in Phoenix last summer with a fairly long, loose leash. Countless missed shots, defensive breakdowns, and fan face-palms later, his leash was much shorter and tighter. After Beasley's latest trouble with the law last month, the writing on the wall was clear. The new front office had no reason to continue their relationship with him and ultimately decided to cut the leash and end their dismal relationship with the troubled forward.
Although the Suns had been expected to waive Michael Beasley for quite some time now, the method in which they cut him surprised many. Instead of waiving him outright or using the stretch provision on the the remaining $9 million on Beasley's contract, the Suns managed to actually save some money after both parties agreed to a buyout of $7 million. Let's take a look at how this move affects the Suns' salary situation moving forward.
The above GIF illustrates perfectly encapsulates Suns fans' feelings about Beasley's stay in Phoenix and illustrates one of the few times we were on the same page as Lindsey Hunter.
Looking back on Michael Beasley's career in Phoenix will prove to be a depressing affair. There were few highlights - his performance against the Lakers in Steve Nash's return to Phoenix was a remarkable feat - and countless disappointments. Unfortunately, there were more memorable hairstyles than actual basketball performances in Beasley's Suns career and it could be argued that the most defense he played all year was while defending his "brother" Goran Dragic against Ryan Hollins. However, Beasley does leave the Suns with one parting gift: his buyout saves the team $2 million and adds to their cap space in both this year and next.
Had the Suns waived Beasley outright they would have had to absorb his $6 million 2013-14 salary and would most likely have stretched his $3 million guaranteed 2014-15 salary over the following three years, resulting in cap hits of $1 million each in 2014-15, 2015-16, and 2016-17. If the Suns waived Beasley before September 1st, they would have spread the $9 million over five years, paying him $1.8 million a year through 2017-18.
Instead, the Suns managed to save some money and decrease these cap hits by shaving $2 million off his remaining $9 million. They now owe Beasley $7 million and will pay that amount through yearly installments.The Suns will pay Beasley $4.67 million this year (down from $6 million) and will spread the remaining $2.33 million over the next three years, resulting in cap hits of approximately $767,000 annually through 2016-17 (instead of $1 million per season).
This begs the question of why Beasley even agreed to leave the $2 million on the table that he was otherwise guaranteed to make. The only reasonable explanation is that the Suns used some sort of leverage to persuade him to agree to a buyout so he could leave the team and try to earn another contract elsewhere. Maybe the team insinuated that they would be willing to keep Beasley on the roster and force him to stay home during this season. Maybe Lon Babby somehow convinced him to forego those extra $2 million so he could get more money upfront ($4.67 million this year) than if they waived him in August (just $1.8 million this year and each of the next four years). Or maybe Beasley just felt bad?
In any case, the Suns managed put some sort of positive spin in even a bad scenario, increasing their immediate and future cap flexibility through a buyout that no one saw coming. A quick look at the team's salary status reveals they're in fantastic shape heading forward.
Phoenix Suns Capology
In last week's capology update, I described the Suns' salary standing after the Caron Butler trade and outlined what the cap situation might look like after Beasley is waived and stretched in my attempt to cover all scenarios. However, the Suns front office is fortunately more creative (and probably more persuasive) than me and introduced a new scenario with the Beasley buyout.
By waiving Beasley in this manner, the Suns increased their 2013-14 cap space by $1.33 million and their salary total now sits at $52.107 million. This leaves the team with $6.572 under the salary cap this year. Moreover, Beasley's lingering salary of approximately $7776,667 per year for the next three years is a mostly negligible figure - it's about as much as a minimum contract for a player with exactly one year of NBA experience.
It should be noted that the Suns have done a remarkable job of maintaining their salary cap flexibility while increasing their asset base and (future) talent collection. This is a highly accomplishment that will be sure to help progress the franchise's rebuilding process. In my first "capology" piece in July, I stated that the Suns should trade Luis Scola ahead of any other player on the roster. Check. In last week's cap update, I (not very boldly) predicted that Michael Beasley would be waived. Check.
The Suns still have 16 guaranteed contracts on the roster so I look for them to cut at least one other player (Malcolm Lee and Ish Smith might be the most likely candidates). Such a move is likely to be made after training camp next month. The other objective I have for the team is much further down the road: trade Marcin Gortat. I don't expect much movement on this platform in the next couple months but I fully expect Gortat to be on another team by February's trade deadline. Although with GM Ryan McDonough at the helm, we should probably expect the unexpected.
The future is bright (side of the sun). And it all starts with flexibility.
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