After weeks of inconsistent energy and clear frustration, Trevor Ariza is reportedly gearing up to leave Phoenix as soon as possible.
The New York Times’ Marc Stein on Tuesday reported teams across the league put Ariza at the “top of the list of players who will be made available via trade after Dec. 15.” It seems the toll of losing affected Ariza within the course of just two months after spending the past four seasons chasing a championship in Houston.
The Suns' Trevor Ariza is seen by rival teams at the top of the list of players who will be made available via trade after Dec. 15, league sources say— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) December 4, 2018
Ariza is not eligible to be traded until Dec. 15 because he was signed away from his former team, the Rockets, as a free agent. All players who did not sign new deals — like Brandon Knight or Marquese Chris — have no such restrictions.
As Stein noted, teams were hoping Ariza would become available via buyout, but the Suns are “expected to pursue trades to try to get at least one asset in return.” Ariza is probably not worth a first-round pick but could easily fetch a solid second-rounder or a decent young prospect. Last week, Cavaliers swingman Kyle Korver, who is also on the wrong side of 30 and playing on an expiring deal, was traded to Utah for two second-rounders.
The hope would be the Suns could use Ariza’s large salary and winning reputation to help grab a point guard, whether as the key piece in a deal with a playmaker to spare or to grab an extra asset to be flipped for a backcourt starter. A few teams could offer a point guard straight up for Ariza, such as Philadelphia with Markelle Fultz or perhaps the Pacers with Cory Joseph or Darren Collison.
These rumors come at the same time ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Suns are covering all their bases in their search for a starting playmaker. Wojnarowski named G League guard Darius Morris as one target, and that search should ramp up in the wake of the news of Devin Booker’s latest injury.
The Suns search for a short-term point guard solution has included trade targets, unsigned free agents and G-League options, including a visit to Phoenix from Santa Cruz's Darius Morris early this week, league sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) December 4, 2018
These reports forecast the sad end to Ariza’s tenure in Phoenix, one highlighted by frustration and inconsistency rather than the veteran mentorship and sharp 3-and-D acumen the Suns expected. It’s been tough to watch Ariza this year, and leaving the Suns is probably best for the remainder of his career. He likely wants a long-term deal after getting paid big this summer and winning is the best way to become desirable.
On the Suns side, it remains to be seen whether a move like this earns them reputation points to slowly move on from their past personnel mistakes. Communication has been the buzzword in those prior fumbles, so giving a conference finalist like Ariza big money and quickly allowing him to move on to a better situation certainly seems like an amiable course-correction.
However, the Suns lost leverage by letting this get out and not quieting the rumors all fall that Ariza would be bought out. If that prevents them from finding a good trade package and they let this drag out until the buyout deadline in March, we could be looking at another transactional he-said, she-said that looms over the season.
Finding an out for Ariza as close to Dec. 15 as possible helps all sides move on and make the most of the rest of the year.