Just days before the NBA trade deadline, the Phoenix Suns have plummeted all the way to a 14-40 record and are tied with Brooklyn for the third-worst mark in the league, with only the Sixers and Lakers currently spotted below. Theoretically, there shouldn't be a single player on the roster with the possible exception of Devin Booker that is unavailable for trade, but since a lot of the current Suns come with some pretty hefty caveats, the deadline fireworks might be significantly dampened.
A year ago, the Suns' team bus famously idled before heading to the airport, waiting until the deadline was officially over before taking off and starting the road trip. Before that could happen, Goran Dragic, Zoran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas, Miles Plumlee and Tyler Ennis (plus the Lakers pick) had all been traded -- to three different teams, no less.
Who will be called off the bus, so to speak, in 2016? Read on for one reporter's opinion.
Halfway Out The Door
While Tucker has been the closest thing to a clubhouse leader during the last 3 1/2 seasons for the Suns, his modest contract and tenacious play on the court might make him a necessary throw-in for a prospective trading partner. Unfortunately, just like the rest of the organization, Tuck is starting to bottom out. His 8.4 points per 36 minutes on .405 shooting from the field are career worsts, and his steals and rebounds per 36 are the lowest since 2012/13.
Still, he's only owed one more year on his contract at $5.4 million, and could be a sneaky pickup for a contender looking to add some teeth to their defense.
Potential suitor(s): Atlanta has stagnated following their 60-win campaign last season, and reportedly are taking phone calls regarding "everybody" on their roster. They've been a bit thin on the wings since losing DeMarre Carroll to free agency, and Tucker would fit nicely with their 5th ranked defense (102.4 DRtg).
Likelihood of departure: Probably as high as anyone on the team -- his performance is actually on par with his contract, but he's also likely done improving.
The Bosnian forward has enjoyed a resurgent year amidst the carnage in Phoenix, posting career highs of 19.8 points per 36 on .405 shooting from three. While he isn't exactly what one might consider an all-around power forward (5.8 rebounds per 36 is pretty bloody awful), his ridiculous range is sure to draw interest during the next few days.
However, he'll enter free agency again this summer, so don't expect teams to give up much for what would only be a late-season rental.
Potential suitor(s): The Celtics are unexpectedly sitting at third in the East despite shooting only 33.7% from three. If the C's can find a way to hide him in their 3rd-ranked defense, Teletovic would be a demon in their up-tempo system (3rd in pace at 98.6). Just like he's a demon in Phoenix's system, except in Boston it would, well, matter.
Likelihood of departure: There will probably be an offer for a second-rounder or two for Mirza's services, and the Suns can finish out the season with Jon Leuer (more on him in a bit) just as easily. Mirza's fate might be dependent on what becomes of the rest of the team's frontline between now and Thursday.
Speaking of which...
The fact that Kieff is still a Phoenix Sun in February of 2016 is all the indication you should need about where his market value lies -- or perhaps it means that the biggest Markieff Morris fan outside of #TeamFOE is actually Ryan McDonough.
Morris has been ... better ... since his breakout performance against Toronto after Jeff Hornacek was fired, but is still frightfully inconsistent. After going a combined 10-34 from the field versus Utah and Houston last week, he dropped 23 on the Thunder while attempting 13 freethrows (his previous season high was 6) before closing out the homestand with a more Kieffy line of 19 points on 19 field goal attempts versus the Warriors.
If I may be permitted to play junior psychologist for a moment, my guess is that Morris will get along just fine with his new team, whenever it is that he finally gets there. By all accounts, he is well-liked by his teammates and prior to the 2014/15 season, had a wholly unremarkable reputation. His attitude will probably be kept well in check with a change of scenery.
The problem is, he has only put up one season of consistently above-average play (2013/14) in his five-year career, and he'll already be 27 years old by the start of the 2016/17 season. He might have one more career year left in him, but it's not like other teams will be taking a gamble for an All-Star caliber player. Throw in his pending trial for felony assault, and it makes sense for GM's to look somewhere, anywhere else for a potential high-reward trade.
Potential suitor(s): Toronto has been mentioned, but the Raptors thrive on chemistry over talent. Plus, they're currently second in the East, and a trade for the ball-dominant Morris would be the type of move that comes with an adjustment period. Best guess, he ends up somewhere more of the Philadelphia or New York variety.
Likelihood of departure: The Suns wouldn't trade away their leader, would they??
Throw-Ins and Pot-Sweeteners
The Mongoose (in case he's traded this week, this is my last chance to get that nickname out of my system) has had a career year, which speaks more to how unremarkable the first two years of his career were. He still struggles mightily with his shooting and decision-making, but has shown that he can produce at the NBA level. In the 11 games Archie has started in Brandon Knight's absence, he has averaged 16.8 PPG on 42.8% from the field, and shooting 5.1 freethrows a game. His freethrow rate for the season is a ridiculous .512, which means that he shoots over one freethrow for every two attempts from the field.
His ceiling is just as high now as when he was a fresh-faced 11-year-old rookie from Kentucky, and he technically could qualify for that "young, talented player" that teams are so often looking to secure in trades -- even if he still looks like a baby giraffe on rollerskates at times.
Potential suitor(s): It wouldn't make sense to trade Archie outright -- he's still only 21 and has a year remaining on his rookie contract. But a player of his talent could be the key to getting a much larger deal done. I'll leave it to you, the reader, to fill in the details.
Likelihood of departure: Low, only because the Suns will probably be sellers and sellers normally don't sell 21-year-old kids on rookie deals.
Johnny Badger is probably the only trade that Ryan McDonough has outright won since the summer of 2014, but he has fallen out of favor since the Jeff Hornacek hiring and subsequent anointment of Markieff Morris as the team leader (I hate my fingers for typing that). Leuer does nothing spectacularly, but is a smart player that can fill a hole in the frontline and knock down open jumpers.
Like Mirza, he's also shooting over 40% from 3. Unlike Mirza, he actually has a conscience, only attempting 3.4 per 36 minutes to Mirza's 10. But he's the best rebounder on the team outside of Tyson Chandler and Alex Len, and he might generate some interest this week -- in a Shavlik Randolph for Reggie Bullock kind of way.
Potential suitor(s): The Pacers might need a little bolstering up front, and have a few mildly intriguing young guys that don't play much.
Likelihood of departure: There's a good chance that both Morris and Teletovic find themselves playing elsewhere this time next week. Leuer would be the perfect choice at PF to close out this miserable season. Quiet, hard-working, won't cause any additional embarrassment ... keep Johnny Badger.
The free-agent signee from Moscow racked up a mountain of DNP-CD's during the early part of the season, as he showed very little ability on the basketball court other than running from one end of it to the other. Since receiving time after the tank was officially rolled out, Weems has proven to be a sort of guard-version of Leuer -- able to do a number of things, unable to excel at anything.
But since salaries have to be matched, who knows. The Sonny Weems Era might already be over.
Potential suitor(s): Any team who might need $2.8 million in salary and someone to show up for practice.
Likelihood of departure: No idea.
Get Used To Them
I'm a firm believer that Knight has the ability to be a big contributor on a good team one day -- in the right role. I'm also a firm believer that tasking him with running an NBA offense is not the right role.
In the meantime, it's difficult to envision anyone knocking down the Suns' door to make an offer for Brandon Knight. His $70 million contract might not seem so big this time next year, but when he's basically a point guard that lacks point guard skills in a league full of quality point guards, the Suns might have a really tough time moving him if they so choose to go that route.
Finding a role for him would be less of a headache, and hopefully when his career as a Sun is over, he won't simply be known as "Lakers Pick."
Potential suitors: None
Likelihood of departure: None
The big guy probably still can be a borderline-elite center in the right system. This is not the right system.
Chandler thrived next to Carmelo Anthony in the small-ball lineups in New York and alongside Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas. Markieff Morris and Jon Leuer, surprisingly, haven't produced the same effect. He might be a good fit in Oklahoma City, or perhaps Orlando, who are reportedly itching to make a move.
Like Knight, his contract will be the biggest deterrent. He can still rebound and defend well when engaged, and despite the hilarity of his Suns' teammates inability to connect with him on lob passes, he can still be a rim-rolling threat on offense. But he'll be collecting $13 million a year until he's 37 years old, and there aren't many contending teams that would appear to be in need of a center.
Potential suitor(s): He actually would fit nicely in OKC, but Kendrick Perkins might have scarred them for life.
Likelihood of departure: Possible, but low.
Out With Injuries
Despite the career year he was enjoying before going down with another meniscus tear, nobody will give a thought to rolling the dice on Bledsoe's health. He now has more meniscus tears than he has knees, and even when healthy he still isn't quite equipped to be the best player on an NBA team.
Potential suitors: None
Likelihood of departure: None
It's a damn shame that Warren missed out on the rest of this tankalicious season, when he probably would've gotten every minute he could handle over the last two months of the season. Before he broke his foot, the sophomore had managed to improve his shooting while increasing his usage, hitting over 40% of his threes and bumping his PER up to 16.1.
He needs to figure out how to get to the freethrow line eventually (2.2 FTA per 36), but were it not for the injury, there might be some considerable interest in the unorthodox scoring forward.
But he's injured, so back off.
Potential Suitor(s): Oh man, can you imagine him in the Warriors' system? I know it won't happen, but ... woah.
Likelihood of departure: None.
The youngest player in the league has been far and away the best story the 2015/16 Phoenix Suns have to offer. His perfect shooting mechanics, innate feel for the game, all-around scoring ability and smart team play all hint at Devin Booker being a legitimate star player.
But ... the Suns once had to trade Michael Finley -- a player of similar talent and potential -- in order to nab a Hall Of Fame caliber player in Jason Kidd. So nobody is really untouchable on a team like the Suns, but Booker is a close as it gets.
Potential suitor(s): Hell, who wouldn't want this kid?
Likelihood of departure: Only if the Suns hit a homerun this week. (They won't)