By the end of the day Monday, Phoenix Suns interim general managers James Jones and Trevor Bukstein will have to make some roster moves.
The Suns have to remove two players from their current roster (not including two-way player George King) to get down to the maximum 15 by the end of business on Oct. 15.
Fifteen of those Suns are under guaranteed contracts for the 2018-19 season and two more with non-guaranteed deals beginning this week. Each player on a non-guaranteed deal earns money daily toward the annual salary starting today, Oct. 14, as it’s the beginning of the first pay period of the regular season.
Shaquille Harrison’s deal has $50,000 guaranteed, which should be the equivalent of about eight days of service on the $1.378 million contract.
Canaan, meanwhile, is fully non-guaranteed and, per Bobby Marks of ESPN, would earn a bit under $20k for two days of roster time if he’s waived tomorrow.
For example, Suns point guard Isaiah Canaan will earn a total of $19,858 if the team elects to wait until Monday to waive him. That amount will count against the salary cap.
If the Suns were dead-set on releasing Canaan before opening day, you’d think they would have joined the dozen or so other teams in the cut-parade yesterday.
Maybe that’s an indication Canaan is sticking around.
The other day, I posed to Suns fans the question of who should be cut to get down to 15 players.
You can assume one such player is Darrell Arthur, who hasn’t even suited up for the Suns and for whom the Suns filed a Disabled Player Exception.
I heard that whatever injury he has is getting progressively worse and that Arthur playing this season — for any team — would be a long shot. Also, he has no interest in a buyout because there’s no way he can make up the lost salary by signing with someone else, even for the minimum. That’s why it’s been impossible for the Suns to include him in a trade. No team wants to eat that salary.
The filing of the DPE occurred after McDonough was fired last week, so we can reasonably assume that’s a brainchild of the cap guy, Assistant GM Trevor Bukstein, as a last-ditch effort for some kind of relief. The Suns likely threw the DPE at the wall to see if it would stick before cut-down day.
However, if the Suns don’t get a decision on the DPE by tomorrow — and the NBA doesn’t have to meet that deadline — the Suns would have to drop the DPE claim if they want to release him. A team cannot file for a DPE on a player already released.
You could reasonably hope the NBA will make a quick decision on Arthur by tomorrow’s roster deadline, and that Arthur is released by the Suns either with the DPE in hand or as a result of a denial of the claim.
Here’s what Suns twitter thinks.
Let's see what Suns twitter thinks. Who should be cut?— Dave King (@DaveKingNBA) October 12, 2018
The Twitteratti think it’s Canaan who should be cut, but as I said above, the Suns likely don’t agree or they’d have waived him yesterday like most other teams did with their releasable guys.
Tied for second place are Shaquille Harrison and Davon Reed. Cutting Harrison is more of a money-saver for the Suns, but I just don’t think Reed has a role on this team anymore with the signings and draft picks since he was taken in 2017.
Reed is fully guaranteed for the season, but he might spend more time with the NAZ Suns than the Phoenix Suns the way this preseason is playing out. Ahead of Reed on the depth chart at shooting guard are Devin Booker (probably 35 minutes a night), Josh Jackson, Troy Daniels and Mikal Bridges. There’s just no room at the inn.
Here are their preseason per-game stats. Not good, Bob.
You could also argue that, if the Suns should consider cutting Reed’s guaranteed contract, maybe they should release a veteran? Let’s add Troy Daniels ($3.25 million) and Dragan Bender ($4.661 million) to the chart.
Look at those net ratings! And that’s only a few. The Suns had only five players with a positive net rating in the preseason: Deandre Ayton, T.J. Warren, Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson, Tyson Chandler and Richaun Holmes.
No one else was better than Isaiah Canaan’s -13 net rating. To borrow an Espo analogy, calling Canaan the best point guard on the roster is like naming the best-looking guy in robotics club.
You could release any of these guys and the Suns really wouldn’t miss them. The issue is which players are going to get better, which players are going to turn it around and be a positive for some team in the future.
Most likely moves
The likeliest move looks to be that the Suns keep Isaiah Canaan this season. They would have released him yesterday if they were going to do it at all.
My recommendation is that the Suns release one or both of Troy Daniels or Davon Reed. Neither seems a good bet to get minutes this season unless the Suns have a lot of injuries, and both would unnecessarily cloud the minutes picture for rookie Mikal Bridges.
Short of that, I can see the Suns choosing Canaan over Harrison and hoping no one claims his contract so they can offer him a two-way contract with the NAZ Suns. If Harrison clears waivers and takes the two-way, the Suns can keep him on the roster for the next 45 days, giving them time to figure out who’s better between Harrison and ‘Sip’ (Canaan) over the next month.