Just how likely are the Phoenix Suns to execute a few trades of their current players this month to re-balance their roster? Well that's a question to be answered by the 29 other NBA teams, not the Suns.
While nearly all NBA teams are allowed to consummate trades at this time, you almost never hear of trades until draft night.
You know about the mid-season trade deadline. From the All-Star break in late February until the end of the NBA season, trades are prohibited between teams. However, the minute the season ends for each NBA team they are allowed to make trades as long as the player is already under contract for next season.
Right now, 28 of the 30 NBA teams are allowed to trade anyone on their roster, as long as a few rules are followed:
- the player MUST be under contract for the 2016-17 season (except for "draft rights", like the Suns have with Bogdan Bogdanovic)
- the salary cap rules for trades are in effect, using 2015-16 season salaries
With nearly half the league becoming free agents each summer, these rules do tend to tamp down trade talks. By limiting trade talk to those players NOT about to become a free agent, teams like the Suns have a limited roster available for trade. Even those players becoming restricted free agents, like the Warriors' Harrison Barnes, cannot be traded by their teams.
Suns who cannot be traded
For example, the Suns can no longer trade the following players. All of them are becoming unrestricted free agents, meaning that the Suns can retain some form of "Bird Rights" on them as long as they keep their 'cap hold' on the books.
- Mirza Teletovic (cap hold after July 1 unless renounced = $6.6 million)
- Jon Leuer (cap hold = $1.97 million)
- Ronnie Price (cap hold = $0.98 million)
- Chase Budinger (cap hold = doesn't matter)
"Bird Rights" allow a team to exceed the salary cap to re-sign a player, as long as they've kept the cap hold. While each of them might earn more in a new contract this summer, given the $2 billion dollars available across the league in free agent money starting in July, the Suns are unlikely to spend close enough to the cap to need to exceed it with a "Bird Rights" re-signing.
But hey, you never know. It's possible the Suns will find a way to spend their $28 million in the opening days of July. And if the signings make the Suns believe they will be competitive next year, maybe you do exceed the cap to keep Teletovic coming off the bench to set another three-point shooting record.
Anyway, that's a story for another day. This here article is geared toward trade assets THIS MONTH, and none of these guys can be traded.
Suns who CAN be traded this month
Just about everyone else on the team can be traded right now, but likely there won't be any real trades executed until at least draft night.
I'll present the players in terms of a depth chart
- Point guard: Eric Bledsoe ($13.5 million)
- Shooting guard: Devin Booker ($2.12), Brandon Knight ($13.5), Archie Goodwin ($1.16), John Jenkins ($0.98)
- Small forward: P.J. Tucker ($5.5), T.J. Warren ($2.04)
- Power forward: none
- Center: Tyson Chandler ($13.0), Alex Len ($3.81)
I don't have any. Not on this kind of stuff.
But what I do have are "GMs" of the other SB Nation NBA blogs. Every summer, we get together and run a mock draft, replete with trades and picks and the like. Since we're working via email and around our life/work schedules, each team gets up to 6 hours to make their pick or a trade.
I cannot reveal results yet, but I can tell you that I've talked with most every "GM" out there and gotten a real good feel for which Suns players have value and which ones don't.
Of course, this is NOT the real thing. Most of these SB Nation "GMs" have spent 90% of their NBA lives following one team, and the other 10% hearing about the other 29 teams. So, the information is limited to say the least. On the plus side, they're all NBA lifers. They've scouted every draft for the past decade, and seen probably half the league wear their team's colors over that same time. They are more informed than the average die-hard, and also more objective since writing about the NBA tends to tamp down some of the crazy.
What these guys may lack in information they more than make up for in gusto. We've traded more than half the picks so far, and exchanged 20+ players across the league in legal trades (ie. salary cap rules).
What's always most fascinating to me is the perspective I gain on Suns players from guys who are decidedly NOT Suns fans. You might be surprised to learn that no one's getting fooled on Tyson Chandler having "value", or that every team has their own Devin Booker-like love child or two that cannot be touched.
So with that HUGE grain of salt, I present to you the Suns Tradability Index.
But how tradable are these guys? It's one thing to say you're willing to trade Player X, but it's quite another to know that someone else even wants Player X.
For example, you might want to trade Tyson Chandler "for value", but finding another team to take on a 35 year old center for three more years of $12+ million salary
might will be difficult to do.
On the other hand, if the Suns wanted to trade Devin Booker, they'd likely find 25+ teams willing to deal. I'm not suggesting teams would throw the baby AND the bath water at the Suns to get Booker. I'm merely suggesting that most teams would willingly trade a good young player, a good old player or a good draft pick for him. He's a shiny new penny that might just turn out to be made of gold.
If you purely rank the Suns roster in terms of how quickly someone else would say "yes" to acquire them, the list might look something like this:
Suns Tradability Index - from other teams' perspective
- Devin Booker
- Eric Bledsoe
- T.J. Warren
- #4 draft pick
- Brandon Knight
- #13 draft pick
- Any of P.J. Tucker, Alex Len, Archie Goodwin, rights to Bogdan Bogdanovic or future first round picks
- John Jenkins, Alan Williams
- Tyson Chandler
Again, this is a list that I think the 29 other teams would use to assess tradability of the Suns roster. Anything after that #13 pick this year would be a throw in to sweeten a pot rather than a centerpiece that returns the Suns some real value. I ranked John Jenkins and Alan Williams below them because they can't be any more than salary-matching fill-ins. And, I ranked Tyson Chandler last of all because he'd likely be a negative value in trades.
Who WON'T the Suns trade?
On this roster, I think the only guy who fits this description is Devin Booker. But then again, this front office is relatively disloyal to players so you can't take anything off the table.
However, Booker should be treated as a future All-Star in terms of trade talks at this point. I'm not saying he will be an All-Star, but you just can't trade him for anything else than a player of that value. And that player would have to be young, like Booker. And cheap for the next three years, like Booker. And face-of-the-franchise lovable.
So basically, while it won't be out of loyalty that he stays in Phoenix, there's almost no chance Booker gets traded this summer.
Who WOULD the Suns trade?
Everyone and anyone else.
It is my opinion - not sourced - that the Suns are least likely to part with Booker, Warren or Len this month. You just can't get equal value for any of them right now.
We've already discussed Booker. With T.J. Warren and Alex Len, given they are both still just 22, you can't possibly trade them this month for anything less than an under-25 starting caliber player.
For example, would you trade Len for John Henson of Milwaukee? Neither would I. But would you trade Warren for someone like Dennis Shroder of Atlanta? Let's pretend the Suns were able to trade Bledsoe and Knight, and needed a PG above all else. Shroder is likely better than anyone not named Dunn or Conley that's available this summer.
But even then, the Suns might not trade Warren or Len for another player of the same caliber. The Suns would have to believe that they need a change, but really those two are not the problem in Phoenix. While they might never be full-fledged NBA starters, they were drafted by the current GM and likely have a longer leash than most anyone else.
Two other players unlikely to be traded are Eric Bledsoe and Tyson Chandler, but for very different reasons.
Contrary to popular belief, Bledsoe's recent injuries are unlikely to impact his trade value at all. Sure, that might give another pause, and take him off a couple teams' lists entirely, but for a team interested in acquiring Bledsoe the knee injuries are not likely to lower the offering price. You're either interested or you're not.
The reason the Suns are unlikely to trade Bledsoe is their probable asking price for him, and the dearth of available, comparable replacements. I think we all know that Brandon Knight is not the future at PG. He's just not enough of a distributor. He'd be a great sixth man for some team, including the Suns. Just not a starting point.
From the outside, there simply isn't a comparable, available replacement for Bledsoe out there. You might recall that Bledsoe is one of only a handful of players in the league who can put up 20/6/4 on average AND plays stifling defense.
Sure, impending free agent Mike Conley might be considered a comparable player or even an upgrade. But Conley is older than Bledsoe - which doesn't fit Booker's timeline - and more expensive and very unlikely to choose the Suns as a free agent anyway.
You might also believe that draft prospect Kris Dunn can be a better Bledsoe, and at 22 he's closer to Booker's timeline. If the Suns draft him 4th overall, he'd be cheap for the next four years as well. But then you're committing your highest draft pick in 30 years to replace a perfectly good player already on the team.
The other reason to keep Bledsoe this summer is that the Suns would have to hold his trade value at near All-Star status. Would they trade Bledsoe for Kyrie Irving? Likely yes. But would Cleveland? What else would the Suns have to include to pry Kyrie away, and really - if we're being honest - is Kyrie more flash than substance? Couldn't you make the case that Bledsoe is more of a difference-maker than Kyrie? But Kyrie is younger, and the Suns need some flash. So maybe you do the deal anyway.
Would you trade Bledsoe for Paul George? Of course. How about Gordon Hayward? Sure. Probably. There's probably a dozen potential comparable talents at other positions out there. But that's the rub - those players are at other positions. You'd have to have a Bledsoe backup plan in place before making that trade.
So, Bledsoe is not likely to be traded in anything less than a blockbuster deal. And when was the last time the Suns were involved in a blockbuster that sent out a near All-Star AND brought back a near All-Star in the same deal? If February 2015 comes to mind, you might agree that the Suns should not be trigger-happy this month.
Most likely to be traded
This might come as a relief to Suns fans. The Phoenix Suns player who's trade value might just be at the right level to entice a trade is Brandon Knight.
The kid is still just 24 years old. He's able to score 18 points per game, dish 4-5 assists and grab 3-4 rebounds every night. He's not a pure point, and too small to be a pure shooting guard, but he's got a great future as a deadly weapon off the bench and as a fill-in as point guard.
On top of all that is the market. You might think $13 million is a lot to pay Knight, but with the salary cap going up that's not even a big contract any more. Add in the fact that there are few starting caliber point-ish guards on the market this summer, and it's likely that Knight will garner a good price.
Would you take a lottery pick in this draft for him? Or another sixth-man type player for him? Yes and yes. Which is why the Suns are likely to find a good deal for Knight either during the draft or afterward.
Suns Tradability Index - from the Suns' perspective
After negotiating with other SB Nation GMs - and our own BSotS staff - over the last days, here's how I rank the Suns in terms of likelihood to be traded by the Suns.
The value portion of the list stops at #7, with 8+ just being there for salary cap throw-ins at best.
For this list I did NOT consider Booker, Bledsoe, Warren or Len for the reasons listed above. While those players might be traded, they are likely not on any "let's trade these guys" list the Suns front office might have.
- Brandon Knight
- P.J. Tucker
- #28 (the Thomas pick)
- #13 (the Morris pick)
- Rights to Bogdan Bogdanovic
- Archie Goodwin
- John Jenkins
- Alan Williams
- Tyson Chandler
The Suns will likely move around a bit in the draft with their #4, #13, #28 and #34 draft picks. They don't want four rookies. They'd rather package the picks for something better than stash 2-3 players overseas. If they do a quality stash, it would be with the #34 (second round) pick so they could bring the player over in less than three years at market rate.
Don't expect the Suns to acquire any big names for a sudden playoff run. At this time of year, teams are really high on their best players and generally overvalue them.
Don't expect Paul George, Jimmy Butler and Kyrie Irving to be traded for less than 150% of their perceived value outside their team's own front office.
And don't expect good young players to change addresses either. For much the same reason you see stardom in Devin Booker's future, and still hold out hope for Alex Len to become one of the league's best big men, every other team feels the same about their own under-25 starting caliber players.
The biggest name the Suns are likeliest to trade is Brandon Knight. If you see Bledsoe, Chandler or Tucker get traded, it's only if the Suns are in a sell-off and the right trade just came along.