As we have known for most of this season, the Phoenix Suns plan to make changes across the board to their roster. Whether it is attacking it via the draft, free agency, or trades, expect plenty of movement from Phoenix all throughout this offseason.
With that being said, though, what names might intrigue them to make a move? I outlined seven names who could be donning purple and orange come October. Also, I arranged them in order of how they could be viewed in the eyes of the Suns’ front office.
Whether it’s making an aggressive roll of the dice on a disgruntled superstar or targeting ones who you believe could grow into bigger star equity with increased roles, I think all of these players fit the category of what Phoenix could pursue themselves.
Kawhi Leonard (27 at start of next season)
This is the biggest domino set to fall, whichever way the relationship between San Antonio and Leonard goes until July. If it continues to sour and trust is lost on both sides to offer him a super max extension, expect the Spurs to fetch serious value for arguably the best two-way player in the league when healthy.
I suggested this deal earlier this month when I wrote my column on why this scenario puts a temporary cloud over Phoenix.
Spurs receive: Josh Jackson, Bender/Chriss, Daniels, Miami pick, Milwaukee pick, 2021 Miami pick
Suns receive: Kawhi Leonard
Why do the Suns do this deal? Well, it immediately accelerates their timeline towards possibly a top five team in the Western Conference if their training staff believes Leonard’s quad is alright alongside making smart investments in free agency.
Trust me, moving Jackson is tough pill to swallow but if you believe he’s the next Kawhi, why not just get the real version? It’s decisions like this that define an entire rebuild, and this would be an unexpected one but lets players know around the league that they are serious about changing this culture around Devin Booker.
Pairing Booker and Leonard would be near perfect on paper as Booker would be able to focus solely on being a 25+ point scorer while Leonard can take the toughest cover and still put up 20+ points himself.
This would be the end of #TheTimeline, but if Leonard says he’s willing to play with Booker long-term in Phoenix you do whatever it takes to make it happen.
Kemba Walker (28)
This scenario continues to seem the most plausible at this stage of the game. As new general manager Mitch Kupchak takes over, it’s heavily favored they blow it up in Charlotte. If that’s the case, say goodbye to Walker because he also recently mentioned he’s tired of missing the playoffs himself. After only two quick appereances in his first seven seasons, Walker is in need of a winning situation in the short and long-term.
If Charlotte likes a prospect who drops to them at No. 11 — Alabama’s Collin Sexton and Kentucky’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander seem like two candidates to be their PG’s of the future — they could easily signal that its time to move Walker. Luckily, for Phoenix, they have No. 16 available if they came asking on the clock during this year’s draft.
It’s very likely that a wing from the lottery (Miles Bridges, Kevin Knox, Zhaire Smith) slips to No. 16, so could Phoenix offer that up as an appetizer to get Charlotte to think on it? I think so, because it allows them to quickly rebuild over the next two drafts while their bad contracts wash off their books.
After they bottom out for 2-3 years, Charlotte will be sitting in a position they have not been in forever in terms of ample cap space and flexibility.
Like Leonard, this would be a gamble with an upcoming free agent but I’m confident the Walker-Booker backcourt would be an immediate impact.
Hornets receive: Marquese Chriss / Dragan Bender, Troy Daniels, Miami pick (No. 16), 2019 1st protected 1-5
Suns receive: Kemba Walker
If Phoenix pulled this off, they are immediately set up to attract high quality free agents, too. Names like Aaron Gordon would have to think a little harder before saying no in a possible meeting this July if they could craft together a Walker-Booker-Jackson-Gordon-Ayton (?) starting five.
Steven Adams (25)
Once again, Oklahoma City is sitting in a peculiar spot. With Paul George likely on his way to Los Angeles after giving false hope to both Indiana and OKC, where do they go from here around Russell Westbrook?
Carmelo Anthony is likely to opt-in to the final year of his $28 million deal, which puts them in a bind as far as flexibility. If I was in Sam Presti’s position, I would actually take calls on trading Westbrook by next year’s deadline, because I’m getting an eerie feeling of deja vu.
There’s good odds that OKC gets stuck in neutral around Westbrook’s gigantic contract as others out West continue to improve. However, who will want to trade for that? Probably few to none, so that pivots my attention on selling high for Adams.
He’s criminally underrated around the league right now, but Adams is a top 10 center in this league. Westbrook continously drops his rebounding totals, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see him average close to 20 and 10 numbers in a new environment.
If Phoenix targets a big like Adams who fits their timeline, why not sell off some assets to a team in need of that flexibility? It would take a lot for OKC to bite, but I would still pull a deal like this with no hesitation.
Thunder receive: Tyson Chandler, Troy Daniels, Chriss/Bender, Miami pick (No. 16), 2021 Miami pick
Suns receive: Steven Adams
With their choice of Bender or Chriss, the Thunder would also acquire expiring contracts in Chandler and Daniels. Once Carmelo’s is off their sheet, all the sudden OKC has a ton of room for free agency in 2019.
It would be a hard pill to swallow for Thunder fans having to sell high on another promising big man, but I think wrangling in two quality picks (with high-end upside on 2021 selection of being high in draft order) alongside Bender or Chriss could seriously get them to consider.
Quietly, I think Adams is someone the Suns could target if they sense OKC needs to endure another shakeup.
Kevin Love (30)
Back in 2014 before he was sent off to Cleveland, Phoenix made a last-second push to acquire Love from Minnesota for a package centered around Eric Bledsoe. However, the inclusion of their No. 1 pick (Andrew Wiggins) tipped the scales in their favor.
That lets you know that McDonough has been a fan of Love for awhile now, which means he’s someone to heavily consider this summer in swinging assets for. He will be 30 at the outset of the 2018-19 season, but he’s still under control for two more years.
From a pure spacing and versatility point of view, Love is an ideal fit alongside Booker and Josh Jackson. He could switch between the 4 and 5 while also being a valuable learning tool for whomever is behind him in Chriss or Bender.
This move wouldn’t be one that pushes you super far up the standings but it’s a quality first step. Adding Love into the fold for a deal centered around one of Chriss/Bender + No. 16 seems like a win-win on both sides.
Phoenix acquires a valuable frontcourt piece while Cleveland resets where they will be able to have tons of flexibility in 2019, especially if LeBron bolts this summer.
Cavaliers receive: Chriss/Bender, Troy Daniels, Jared Dudley, Miami pick (No. 16), Milwaukee pick
Suns receive: Kevin Love
Andre Drummond (25)
Before this past season began, Stan Van Gundy was quietly shopping Drummond to the highest bidder. Nobody wanted him at the time, but he took huge steps forward in his development.
Drummond continues to be an above-average rebounder, but he looked way more like a modern big man this time around. Not only was he passing the basketball off swings, but he was playing way more instinctually on defense.
He will only be 25 throughout the 2018-19 campaign, so this could be home run swing for general manager Ryan McDonough to take this summer.
Detroit would also send back Stanley Johnson if Phoenix included Warren, I believe, as a young wing-for-wing swap. Johnson isn’t a shooter, but he’s still dripping with defensive upside.
Pistons receive: Tyson Chandler, Troy Daniels, T.J. Warren, Marquese Chriss / Dragan Bender, No. 16 pick, Milwaukee pick
Suns receive: Andre Drummond, Stanley Johnson
Damian Lillard (28)
I’m sensing maybe the most out of all this list, Lillard’s Trail Blazers need to blow it up for the greater good.
As it showed with a quick sweep by New Orleans, Portland is very far away still from being a title contender but they are already capped out. This means general manager Neil Olshey needs to decide between who to sell high on between Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.
Even though Lillard is fiercely loyal, he also wants to win. Maybe it is best for both sides just to move on while Portland finally hits the reset button and tries to bottom out for a few seasons around McCollum and their No. 10 pick Zach Collins.
Why not try to poach Portland’s star point guard out of there for their own good? I think Lillard has more potential next to Booker as well, but they would need to hit the defensive pieces around them out of the park.
Trail Blazers receive: Troy Daniels, T.J. Warren, Marquese Chriss / Dragan Bender, 2019 1st top 5 protected, 2021 Miami pick
Suns receive: Damian Lillard
John Wall (28)
Will Washington finally pull the plug on their backcourt featuring John Wall and Bradley Beal? I think it’s more of a possibility than we all think, even though they continue to deny that.
It’s obvious this roster’s chemistry isn’t great, and they are not close towards a championship with their secondary pieces around their backcourt. However, should Washington think about what Portland will as well? Honestly, they should because they are destined to be stuck in the 4-6 seed in the Eastern Conference with how it’s going right now.
If Washington decided on shipping one out, I think it’s Wall just due to what we have seen already this season but that contract is simply scary to think about.
Wall’s super max extension he signed won’t even go into effect July, but from there it continues to escalate in terms of cost per season. At the back end of it, Wall would be costing Phoenix over $40 million.
The question needs to be considered though, because I think if he was put on the trading block he would intrigue McDonough and the Suns. He’s a score-first guard, but also provides defense and passing ability that could work next to Booker if he bought in immediately.
This is probably the biggest gamble on this entire list to take, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see McDonough this as he needs to hit on all of his moves from now through the start of next season.
Wizards receive: T.J. Warren, Chriss/Bender, Troy Daniels, 2021 Miami pick, 1-5 protected 1st in 2019
Suns receive: John Wall
This is going to be a tumultuous few months for everyone in the Suns’ front office, as they will have to officially decide on a long-term path for how this roster is constructed around their two set pillars in Booker and Jackson.
Which name makes the most sense to trade for on this list?
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