In the midst of their worst start in franchise history at 4-20, the Phoenix Suns are reportedly going to put their most valuable win-now asset on the table as soon as possible. According to Marc Stein of The New York Times, the Suns are planning to do the latter with their veteran who signed a 1-year, $15 million contract as priority No. 1.
Ariza had a strong debut, as did almost everybody else versus the Mavericks on Opening Night, Oct. 17, but he was inconsistent from there. Following his return from an absence due to personal reasons, though, Ariza is averaging 9.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.2 steals while shooting 38 percent on three-pointers, 46.9 percent on catch-and-shoot opportunities.
The veteran who the Suns perceived as their JJ Redick to the Process rebuild in Philadelphia will attract enough value where he won’t be bought out before being dealt. And it seems obvious that they could use Ariza’s salary to find either their stopgap or possible long-term option at point guard later this month.
With that being said, if the Suns are actually going to use their starting forward as trade bait to fetch a backcourt partner for Devin Booker, what could a possible deal look like? I scoped around rosters and tried my best to come up with the best possible solutions for both sides, including Ariza’s likely wishes to join an immediate playoff contender.
Philadelphia 76ers: Trevor Ariza for Markelle Fultz and Furkan Korkmaz (2019 2nd-round pick swap)
This deal makes the most logical sense. Both Keith Pompey (Philadelphia Inquirer) and John Gambadoro (Arizona Sports) reported that the Suns have kicked the tires on Markelle Fultz. The former No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft was recently diagnosed with TOS, requiring immediate physical therapy in Los Angeles, per his agent Raymond Brothers.
Ariza would immediately fill the hole left by Dario Saric at power forward, sliding right in between Jimmy Butler and Joel Embiid to form a championship-caliber front court. Philadelphia trotting out a starting unit of Ben Simmons, Redick, Butler, Ariza, and Embiid can go toe-to-toe with Toronto, Milwaukee, and Boston.
Multiple outlets have reported that Fultz wouldn’t even fetch a first-round pick, while Ariza would at least be able to get a salary filler with a second-round pick attached. Swapping second-rounders makes sense, because it will give Philadelphia a top-35 pick while Phoenix’s will instead land in the mid-50s.
A straight up Ariza for Fultz trade doesn’t work, but throwing in only Furkan Korkmaz’s $1.7 million salary would do it. Korkmaz requested a trade before due to his lack of playing time, and his third-year option was declined by the 76ers.
Fultz would take a chunk out of their cap space for next summer at $9.7 million, unless they were able to get off Ryan Anderson’s contract without stretching him. The thing is, if the Suns’ medical staff was able to get Fultz back to his old self, then they would be set for years.
Why not take a swing like this if you’re interim GM James Jones?
Los Angeles Clippers: Trevor Ariza for Milos Teodosic, Boban Marjanovic, and 2019 2nd-round pick
The Clippers have exceed expectations a quarter of the way through the season. Tobias Harris has taken the All-Star leap while Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has legit sleeper upside for Rookie of the Year. No wonder why the Suns had such a high grade on Gilgeous-Alexander during the pre-draft process, displaying his immense two-way prowess early.
Ariza could appeal to Los Angeles if they truly want to gun for a legitimate playoff run. Adding Ariza alongside Harris and Danilo Gallinari on the wing gives them legitimate scoring and defense versatility.
Meanwhile, the Suns not only fetch another pick but also find a stabilizer at point guard in Teodosic. Head coach Igor Kokoskov is familiar with Teodosic, and he could instantly become someone Elie Okobo can go to for advice constantly like Jamal Crawford.
Would the Clippers really debate about Boban over Ariza? I don’t think so, even though he is such a fan favorite.
Indiana Pacers: Trevor Ariza for Darren Collison and 2019 2nd-round pick
Outside of the Fultz scenario, this one is very intriguing for both sides. Ariza would bolster the Pacers’ win-now chances against the Eastern Conference’s elite while Collison could quite possibly become the Suns’ point guard longer than four months.
Last season in Indiana, Collison shot a career-best 46 percent from deep while also carrying a strong assist-to-turnover ratio. That seems a nice little buoy to help along the development of Phoenix’s young core.
Aaron Holiday is starting to emerge, so this might be the best time to cash in one of the excess point guards to acquire a top-20 wing to pair with Victor Oladipo.
Utah Jazz: Trevor Ariza for Dante Exum, Thabo Sefolosha, and 2019 2nd-round pick
Utah is a team that tends to make trades to bolster their playoff hopes. Whether it’s Jae Crowder or Kyle Korver, they tend to stay busy up until Febuary’s deadline. Ariza would help Utah stop their slide when he’s paired next to Rudy Robert instead of Derrick Favors.
For Phoenix, they bring in someone who not only knows Kokoskov but still has high upside in Exum. If all went well under Kokoskov, Exum could be the Suns’ long-term answer at point guard standing at 6’6” with a 7’ wingspan.
With the way the Jazz set up Exum’s contract, the final year of his new extension was non-guaranteed, so this would essentially be an 18 month test trial with the Australian native.
Over the past week, Exum has only played 9 minutes while receiving a DNP-CD. He’s obviously not in their plans it seems, so why not flip his upside to help Donovan Mitchell and Gobert?
Los Angeles Lakers: Trevor Ariza for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and 2019 2nd-round pick
Unlike most scenarios, this seems unlikely but who knows. Jones does have a prior relationship with LeBron James, and it’s reportedly been used already with Tyson Chandler’s early buyout.
If Jones wants to do LeBron another favor, flipping Ariza’s expiring for Caldwell-Pope’s works while also receiving a 2nd-round pick. For the Lakers, Ariza would be an ideal fit playing with the GOAT.
Depending on Ariza’s value, this might be all he could fetch but I highly doubt it with how he’s performed previously in Houston.
Miami Heat: Trevor Ariza, Elie Okobo or De’Anthony Melton, and 2020 Bucks pick for Goran Dragic and Rodney McGruder
Third time is the charm, right? Would the Suns really trade for Dragic again? Here’s the thing, I actually think they could with the way Miami is playing right now. If there is one team who should consider joining the tank race for Zion Williamson, it’s Miami. Currently, they are 9-14 and just came off a loss to the Orlando Magic.
The Memphis Grizzlies were ravaged by injuries last season with Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, but they ended up with Jaren Jackson Jr. in the end. Miami could end up with one of Williamson, R.J. Barrett, or Cam Reddish and then become an attractive free agency destination once more. Certainly seems like a winning formula to follow if you want to quickly bounce back to relevancy.
Dragic has turned into an injury prone player during his tenure in Miami, and Father Time might also be catching up with him, but he’s someone who would help instill buy-in from others in the locker room. Dragic has already had success with Kokoskov, winning EuroBasket this past year behind Cinderella-like efforts from the former Sun.
In eight games this season, Dragic is averaging 16.3 points and 4.7 assists but only shooting 41.6 percent. Maybe going into even more of a secondary role being the third or fourth option behind Booker, Ayton, and T.J. Warren would even help him as well.
Giving up one of Okobo or Melton would sting, if they developed properly in Miami’s system, but the Suns are in a desperate state right now to find any answer they can.
Brooklyn Nets: Trevor Ariza and Dragan Bender, and Bucks pick for Spencer Dinwiddie and Kenneth Faried
Brooklyn is riding an eight game losing streak, meaning either one of Dinwiddie or D’Angelo Russell could be placed on the trading block sooner rather than later. And with the way both have played as of late, moving Dinwiddie might be the best option GM Sean Marks can pull off. Russell, Jarrett Allen, Caris LeVert, and their likely top-seven pick is a nice core to build around.
Dinwiddie at 6’6” would give the Suns great size in the backcourt, but also someone who doesn’t make mistakes often when the ball is in their hands. A league source told Bright Side of the Sun that Phoenix indeed was on Dinwiddie before former GM Ryan McDonough was fired.
Could Jones circle back around and work out a deal? I think it all depends on the Nets’ play. Between now and Dec. 15, Brooklyn has four games: Toronto, @ New York, @ Philadelphia, and Washington. Falling to 8-22 would surely allow Marks to turn towards piling up the losses in order to capitalize on the Nets’ first pick in recent memory due to their disastrous Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trade.
Ariza would never play for Brooklyn, I imagine, instead hitting the buyout market. The Nets recoup an expiring for a first-round pick. A nice win-win move for both sides.
Washington Wizards: Trevor Ariza, Josh Jackson, Elie Okobo or De’Anthony Melton, and 2020 Bucks pick for John Wall, Jason Smith, and 2022 2nd-round pick
Want to know what a panic move would look like for the Suns? Well, this is it.
The Wizards are listening to offers on not only Wall, but Bradley Beal and the rest of their roster, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported last month. They would love to find a team desperate enough to get them out from under Wall’s supermax deal. Phoenix could be the only realistic destination for Wall, if he ever were to leave Washington.
Ariza’s expiring could be used as filler then bought out to sign with Houston or somebody else) while Washington recoups a former top-five pick in Jackson, a promising young point guard prospect with Okobo, and a first-round selection 18 months from now.
Don’t get me wrong, Wall would definitely help advance the likes of Booker and Ayton along, but the contract would cripple Phoenix’s long-term flexibility. They would have to hope a midseason acquisition of Wall wouldn’t hurt their lottery odds too much, because they can’t afford to miss on possibly their final shot at a franchise-changing prospect in the Booker era (all dependent on Jones building the roster correctly in 2019).
Dallas Mavericks: Trevor Ariza, Josh Jackson, and 2020 Suns pick (top-10 protected) for Wesley Matthews and Dennis Smith Jr.
For my final proposal I whipped up, this one peaked my curiosity the most. Both Jackson and Smith Jr. are struggling mightily in their current environments. Could a swap be the best thing for them? Well, it’s possible while also giving Luka Doncic another piece to compete right now in Ariza. Doncic could also be a nice on-court fit with Jackson as well.
Smith Jr. has been inefficient while also turning the ball over far too often, but he’s now in more of a combo role with Doncic. If he were to join Phoenix, Smith Jr. would have the ball in his hands far more, but also defer to Booker whenever it’s needed. DSJ showed some passing creativity at North Carolina State. Smith Jr. could really benefit with a big man like Ayton on the floor with him while spacing the floor with shooters such as Booker and Mikal Bridges.
Envisioning a lineup of Smith Jr., Booker, Bridges, 2019 pick (or free agent like Nikola Mirotic or Thaddeus Young), and Ayton is intriguing on the surface with pieces like Warren also involved.
Unlike the Jackson for Fultz suggestions I keep hearing, the Jackson-DSJ swap seems way more realistic, if both teams were ever to give up on their former 2017 lottery picks.
The Suns can easily capitalize on their point guard hole by using Ariza’s contract as bait for playoff aspiring squads. Simply giving away Ariza or buying him out would be seen as a failure. Take advantage of these types of situations when they occur, especially if the interim tag still hasn’t been taking off the GM 24 games into the season.
Before Ariza’s trade restriction is lifted the morning of Dec. 15, Phoenix has four more games against Portland, Miami, Los Angeles Clippers, and San Antonio.