With The Phoenix Suns on a hiatus during the NBA All-Star Break, and the trade deadline fast approaching in less than a week away (February 19th, 3pm EST), the trade winds are blowing, and the rumor mill is working overdrive.
Here is a look at some of the most obvious players the Suns could look to move, along with some potential targets that have been rumored to be on the market and why they could be a fit in Phoenix.
Who Could Be Leaving:
Green is having a frustrating season thus far, or at least, a bad couple of months. I see Gerald Green as the most likely player to be traded at the moment, based on the fact that he is a free agent at the end of the season, and that he is already being squeezed out of the rotation at a position that is already incredibly deep.
It has been considered a "no-brainer" that Gerald Green would not be re-signed after this season, because of the current depth in the rotation at the position, and eventually needing to give minutes to Archie Goodwin, T.J. Warren, Tyler Ennis, and even Reggie Bullock. However, McDonough has also said that he would like to re-sign Green after the season. Now that could just be a smoke-screen to ensure that other GM's in the league believe that Phoenix values Green, and won't just give him away for next to nothing. But still, it's worth bringing up.
Miles Plumlee played so well in training camp last year, and in pre-season, that the Suns felt comfortable trading away Marcin Gortat, and moving Miles into the starting line-up. But, ever since Miles had a breakout start to last season, he has seemingly been on the decline...at least offensively.
This has also coincided with the rise of rookie center, Alex Len, who has replaced Miles in the starting line-up. In addition, the Suns recently acquired Brandan Wright, another back-up center. With all of this, Plumlee's minutes began decreasing dramatically. This all led to reports surfacing of Plumlee requesting a trade, and who could blame him?
Up until just recently, I would have considered him the most likely player to be traded. However, Alex Len sprained his ankle a few games back, and the Suns found themselves needing Miles not only as depth, but as their starter. Brandan Wright has yet to fully adjust to Phoenix's system, and for now, it seems that Miles is still valuable to this team as a defensive center who can guard some of the better big men in the league. It's still very possible that Miles could be involved in a trade, but on a cheap contract for at least the next year, and providing valuable depth at the center position, I don't think the Suns are in any hurry to push him out the door.
You would be hard pressed to find a reason for the Suns to want to get rid of Dragic, but his status as a free agent (after he inevitably opts out) this off-season, and the question of whether or not he will agree to stay in Phoenix, has many considering if moving him for value is the right thing to do.
Goran is not only one of the best players on the Suns, he is the current face of the franchise. As the former heir-apparent to the legendary Steve Nash, Dragic has already been traded once in a disaster of a deal that sent Goran and a first round pick to Houston in exchange for Aaron Brooks...ugh. But since Goran always had an affinity for Phoenix and the Suns organization, he agreed to return as a free agent, even with the Rockets pursuing him as well.
However, with his contract once again nearing the end, many are worried that with the Suns' new three-man point-guard rotation, Dragic is unhappy with both his overall usage, and having to play off the ball in this system. What once seemed like an almost sure bet of Goran quickly re-signing in Phoenix this off-season, now seems more likely than ever to be in serious question.
Rumors have recently circulated that Dragic is on the trade block for a first round pick, and that the Houston Rockets could once again be potential suitors. While I believe that the Suns will ask for more than just a late lottery pick for Goran, it is possible that they could take the opportunity to trade away the Dragon to improve their team in other areas, as well as acquire even more assets for the future.
Suns' General Manager, Ryan McDonough, recently admitted that the Suns were too unbalanced at the moment, with a prolific back-court rotation and a front-court in need of more talent. With a fierce back-court duo of Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic last season, the Suns acquired Isaiah Thomas this summer hoping to turn a two point-guard rotation into a threesome, Not only making the guard rotation more dynamic, but also ensuring that the Suns would suffer no drop off in the event of an injury to the position, as had happened in the prior year.
This seemed like another clear win for Phoenix, getting another starting-quality point-guard on an extremely reasonable contract for the next four years. And while the stats would back up the fact that so far, Isaiah Thomas has been everything the Suns could have hoped for coming off the bench, the success for the team overall still leaves something to be desired.
While there have been no substantial rumors or reports of the Suns trading Thomas, one has to wonder if the team would rather part ways with Isaiah than risk losing Dragic this summer. Of course, there's no guarantee that trading away Isaiah for (hopefully) some additional front-court help would ensure that Goran stays either.
The only way I see Phoenix trading Thomas is if they find themselves with the opportunity to improve their team at a different position, or acquire another draft pick or two that they could potentially use to acquire another big name player or free-agent, via a sign-and-trade, in the near future.
Other possible players: Well, almost everyone. The only players who can't be traded at the moment are Brandan Wright and Reggie Bullock. Almost everyone else is likely fair game to be traded, including talented youngsters such as Archie Goodwin, T.J. Warren, and Tyler Ennis, who despite their ability, have not been able to crack the rotation because of the team's depth. However, the Suns likely have at least a couple of semi-untouchable players, like Eric Bledsoe and Alex Len. But still, if the right deal came across Ryan McDonough's desk, he'd probably trade his own mother...and I mean that as a compliment, believe it or not.
Who Could Be Joining:
The Chicago Bulls have reportedly made Taj Gibson available for the right deal, and he could very well be a player the Suns could look at to help fortify their front-court, and especially their defense and rebounding.
Like the Suns and their back-court, the Bulls have a crowded front-court with Taj Gibson competing for minutes with both Pau Gasol, and newcomer Nikola Mirotic, who has been playing extremely well for the Bulls. It has been reported that Gibson is unhappy with continuing to be passed over for these other players, and that he is looking to go somewhere else where he could make more of an impact.
There's no doubt that Gibson would be a very good fit for the Suns. He is an athletic power forward who can run the floor but also play stout defense against the opposing players. He is also a very good, if not great rebounder at his position, and could provide great depth at the four. In addition, Gibson is on a very reasonable contract at between $8-9 million per year for the next two seasons. If the Suns can find the right package, and the price is right, I see Taj as a very good fit for the Suns.
The Utah big man recently requested a trade after the emergence of the freakishly long Rudy Gobert, who has begun taking more of his minutes, as well as Derrick Favors who can not only play the four, but slide over to the five as well. Kanter's frustrations are equivalent in a way to Plumlee's, but with a major difference being that Enex has already proven to be a very capable scorer and inside presence on both ends of the court for Utah, while Miles is still trying to develop into a more well-rounded player here in Phoenix.
Enes would not only help solidify the center position for the Suns right now on a very reasonable $6 million this year, he is a restricted free agent after the season, and the Suns would have the ability to sign him, or match any other offers he may receive.
Kanter is averaging nearly 14 points and 8 rebounds as a starter in Utah, and although his defense has been less than desirable, he's a big body in the post who has the size to match-up with other bigs, and has at least shown improvement in that respect. Again, I think he would be a good fit for Phoenix, and could continue to develop as well, since he is only 22 years old. If the Suns can figure out the right deal, I think he could be an outstanding addition to a Suns team in need of more size and skill down low.
Although there is almost no possibility that the Suns trade for Amare, there is talk that Stoudemire and the New York Knicks will soon part ways via a buy-out, and if that does happen, the Suns have been identified as possible front-runners to acquire him on a new, and much cheaper contract. Of course, for this to happen the Suns would have to make another move first, as they already have 15 players on the current roster, and none of them being completely expendable.
This certainly complicates things, but with the Suns likely to make a move of some sort before the deadline, and Stoudemire's history here in Phoenix, it could happen. Of course, it not only depends on the Knicks buying him out, and the Suns opening up a roster spot, but whether Amare would be okay with playing for much less money and in a significantly reduced role off the bench.
Alright, time to put on your tin-foil hats...Let's say that the Suns actually trade Goran Dragic. What better way to appease a loyal and heart-broken fan-base, than by bringing back one of Phoenix's all-time greats? Heck, they may even decide to bring back Steve Nash along with him. I'm joking, of course...Or am I?
Monroe turned down Detroit's qualifying offer last summer, so he will become an unrestricted free agent after this season. Another caveat to that, is that he can not be traded without his permission, giving him veto power over any trade. However, Monroe may welcome a trade out of Detroit to compete for an up-and-coming Western Conference team like the Suns, who could use his prolific rebounding and post scoring to help them compete in the post season.
At first glance, Monroe doesn't seem to fit the Suns' style of play very well, as he is not a fast, mobile center who runs the floor and scores in transition. Instead, he is a skilled post player with moves around the basket who prefers the half-court offense. But the Suns can't, or shouldn't be one-dimensional either. Besides, he's averaging a double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds...Something that no other player on the Suns is doing.
The problem is, of course, that the Suns would have to trade something of value for Monroe, and he could simply walk away as a free agent this summer. But if Phoenix can make a trade without giving up too much, and possibly gauge his interest in staying long term (for less than the max), he may be a very worthwhile pick-up.
Lopez is a long shot, because of not only his huge contract, but also because of his biggest weakness being rebounding, something the Suns are looking to improve upon, not move laterally with. But still, he's a very skilled big man who can score in the post and make 15-foot jump shots, and would give the Suns some better post defense as well.
Brook is a very good player for the Nets, averaging 15 points and 7 rebounds. Even though his rebounding leaves a lot to be desired, it is still better than anyone who is currently on the Suns' roster is averaging at the moment. The problem is, Lopez is making over $15 million this year, and he will have an option to either pick up next year's contract of $16.7 million, or test free agency where he could potentially earn even more.
So either way, Brook would be an expensive rental for this season, or an expensive player on the books for next season as well which would limit the Suns ability to make additional moves. The Suns would also have to trade away significant contracts they already have to make this deal work, so I don't see Lopez as a great fit for this reason, but it's still a possibility, I suppose.
Other possible players: Andrew Nicholson, Arron Afflalo, and...who knows?
Most Likely Trade: Ryan McDonough Sneak Attack
Think about it, when has any trade that the Suns have made under the McDonough regime ever been reported before hand? Did you see the Jared Dudley and a second round pick for Eric Bledsoe trade coming? Did you foresee Luis Scola and a second round pick turning into Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee, and a first round pick? What about the two-second round picks for Brandan Wright? Or, how about Shavlik Randolph for Reggie Bullock?
The one pattern in all of these trades, besides being relative surprises, is that they were all opportunistic in nature. If you want to figure out how Ryan McDonough operates, start there. That's not to say that any of the current trade rumors surrounding the Suns don't have some truth to them, but I still think the most likely scenario will be one in which the Suns can either act as a third party to facilitate a trade, like they did for both Bledsoe and Bullock, or taking advantage of another team's over-zealous pursuit for the post-season.
The Suns have said on numerous occasions that what they won't do, is sacrifice the future for short-term goals. If that means missing the playoffs this year to continue building a team who can legitimately contend for the playoffs in the near future, then so be it. Any of the players listed above, and many others, could be involved in a trade before the deadline, but you can bet that whatever move ends up being made, of any, will be based more on the future of this team than any immediate aspirations.
You can take that to the bank.