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Phoenix Suns want to use new cap space for big splash, not a small ripple

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Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

After trading Anthony Tolliver, the Phoenix Suns have opened up a bit more cap room to the tune of $6.2 million this season. This allows them more ability to absorb incoming contracts in trade. The Tolliver trade does not make much difference next season, as he was only guaranteed $400,000 in 2015-16, so clearly the trade was to allow the Suns make a move in the near future.

Azcentral.com's Paul Coro caught up with GM Ryan McDonough for the Suns' thought process.

"The thought process is to try to put ourselves in the mix to add a big player via trade," Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough said, referring to stature not size. "We want to be aggressive and active. We want to solidify ourselves as a playoff team. The flexibility would allow us more wiggle room to make a trade."

--McDonough to Coro on December 24

Indeed, the Tolliver trade created another $2 million more in wiggle room. The Suns are expected to waive Tony Mitchell ($849K) after acquiring him for Tolliver, but his salary will remain on the books for the season. Mitchell's 2015-16 was fully non-guaranteed.

What can you get for $6.2 million that you couldn't get for $4 million in space?

On the surface, it seemed that the Tolliver trade was simply a precursor to make the necessary room for an impending acquisition. Two simple trades now available would be to absorb Brandon Wright's $5 million contract from Boston in exchange for, say, the Minny pick which is likely to turn into two second rounders starting in 2016, or to acquire someone like Danilo Gallinari ($10 million) from Denver for Gerald Green and Shavlik Randolph. Wright would provide rim protection and efficient scoring at the rim, while Gallinari would give the Suns that stretch four they've needed all season to replace Frye. Either of those trades can now be executed with the extra space.

But with McDonough's comments above, it appears the Suns are still readying themselves for a swing at the fences. Of course, he said the other day he likes what Anthony Tolliver has brought to the team, too.

The Suns want to make a big splash. They don't want to make a small acquisition at this point that could further disrupt the team. They have recently dropped down to a 9-man rotation and sent their kids to Bakersfield for some seasoning. The three point guards are even finding harmony in the 4-game winning streak, finishing each of the last four games in winning fashion.

Even a simple trade with Houston appears to be off the table as the Suns keep themselves open for bigger and better. Houston is reportedly making Clint Capela available, among other kids on rookie contracts, for a bag of beans to create a roster spot for Josh Smith. Capela could team up with Len, Warren, Goodwin and Ennis as a high-ceiling 21-and-under squad for the future. But alas, it appears the Suns are looking in another direction.

If the Suns make an acquisition, it will be for a clearly better player than the one(s) going out who will move the needle in the right direction for now AND the future.

"We'll stay consistent with our approach and philosophy," McDonough said to Coro. "We have a good core of guys in their early 20s and mid-20s and they have us in the playoff hunt. It'd be something in that range that could help us this year and then grow with us."

Indeed, the Suns now have only two players over age 26 in the regular rotation - Goran Dragic and Gerald Green - and none is signed past 2015 at the moment. Only the New Orleans Pelicans are younger than the Suns among Western Conference playoff-caliber contenders.

By going for the big fish, expect the Suns to troll the waters for the next two months as teams begin to fall out of playoff range.