Phoenix Suns training camp, ahead of the franchise’s 51st season, begins in one week. Preseason games start a week after that. And the regular-season home opener is two weeks after that.
The Suns are promising to be competitive this season. They’re tired of losing. They want to stop tanking for draft picks, and to start winning more than 1 game out of every 4 — which would exceed their win rate over the last THREE miserable seasons.
Yet they still have no legitimate point guard.
Five-year, five-team journeyman Isaiah Canaan, with 1.8 assists per game on his career resume, is the most experienced point guard on the roster. And he’s coming off a horrific leg break that might not have him at full speed to start camp.
After him, not one potential point guard has started more than two games in his career. At any position. Two are rookies.
This might not be such a terrible problem if the coach wasn’t a rookie himself, and if the star shooting guard who might have been able to run the offense himself hadn’t broken his hand a week ago, and is now unable to do anything until after the season has started.
Some 51st season this is shaping up to be.
Which is why I advocate for the Suns doing what it takes to close the deal and acquire Patrick Beverley from the Los Angeles Clippers.
He’s not a high scorer or a playmaker. Over the past five seasons, Beverley has shown us he will post about 10 points with 38% three-point shooting, 3.5 assists and 4 rebounds. He’s going to be 30 years old, is coming off a major injury and will be an unrestricted free agent next offseason.
Whatever it takes, Dave?! For that?!?!
Rumor has it the Suns are offering a second round pick or two to the Clippers, while the Clippers are demanding a first round pick from the Suns.
A first-round pick? For Patrick Freaking Beverley?
I know most of you don’t agree with me, but hear me out on my alternate proposal. It’s all about pick protections.
Would you trade the future first-round pick from Milwaukee for Patrick Beverley?— The Bright Side (@BrightSideSun) September 17, 2018
First of all, why Beverley?
We’ve talked about this a lot, so I don’t need to go much further into it. I like Beverley as the starting point guard for the Suns, right next to Devin Booker. Beverley provides the hounding defense to cover for Booker, and won’t dominate the ball, allowing Booker to run the show after getting the ball past the time stripe.
But here’s two more reasons “why Beverley.”
The 19-year-old rookie combo guard, De’Anthony Melton, has a skill set that resembles Beverley’s but needs a role model in order to see how he can be effective with it. Beverley allows Melton to watch it firsthand. The same can be said of Shaquille Harrison and, to a lesser extent, Elie Okobo. But it’s really Melton who could some day be a better Beverley.
And the OTHER reason to acquire Beverley is so Trevor Ariza doesn’t give up and check out until the All-Star Break when he realizes he’s alone on Defender Island. Being able to bring a defensive mentality to the Suns is one of the expectations for Ariza, but, like the now-defunct Tyson Chandler two years ago, you can’t play defense with only one proven defender.
Ariza and Beverley in the starting lineup would set the stage for the whole team to try harder on defense, and would allow coach Kokoskov to focus on developing the Booker-to-Ayton pick-and-roll combo.
The Clippers don’t want to give up Beverley either, for similar culture-setting reasons, but they’ve got five point guards after the Draft and they love Shai Gilgeous-Alexander especially.
Why isn’t a second-round pick enough?
Part of it is how desperate the Suns are for SOMEONE who can run the point, so teams like the Clippers are going to make them overpay.
Also, teams like the Clippers don’t need to trade their starting point guard a week before training camp. They have until opening night to get their roster down to 15 players, a good three weeks from now.
Still, if the Clippers are willing to trade Beverley, you’d think a high second-round pick would be enough.
If the Suns are offering their second-round pick, the only type of second-round pick still owned by the Suns, that’s basically at the level of a first-round pick, only with a little more roster-control wiggle room since second-round picks get non-guaranteed deals.
So why would the Clippers turn that down for a guy whose contract is in its final year and isn’t even guaranteed?
Because it’s not just a “second-round pick for Beverley” scenario.
Beverley has a $5 million contract, and both the Suns and Clippers are basically out of cap room and over the regular-season roster limit, so there’s likely some unpalatable salary-matching discussions going on while both teams try to come out of the trade with the same or few players.
Technically, since the Clippers are over the cap but (barely) under the Luxury Tax Threshold, the Suns have to send back between 50% and 150% of Beverley’s $5 million to even make it work.
The Suns could send out Darrell Arthur, whom they’ve yet to release, but then Arthur’s $2.4 million extra (he’s $7.4 million guaranteed) would throw the Clippers into the luxury tax, which no one wants to do.
The Suns could send out Troy Daniels and his $3.25 million for Beverley. The Clippers could then waive/stretch Daniels and overall save almost $4 million this year net, but is Beverley really just a salary dump to the Clippers?
The Suns could also send back cash in an effort to even out the financial situation on the Clippers’ end.
It could also be a bigger trade. Something like Daniels and Tyson Chandler, who could both be waived/stretched, for Beverley and Boban Marjanovich.
But again, the Clippers would only gain a roster spot by waiving/stretching the returning players, which creates dead cap space in future years.
Hence the desire for the Suns to include a first round pick for the Clippers’ troubles.
The Clippers need trade assets and/or young, cheap player salary slots. Their own first-round pick is already tied up in a trade with Boston, with lottery protections until 2021. So while they may still have a pick the next two years if they miss the playoffs, they can’t use it in trade unless they write the protections in a way that ensures it comes two years after they give one up to Boston based on the Stepien Rule in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
I can see why the Clippers want a first-round pick.
I can see why the Suns don’t want to give one up.
But at some point, this game of chicken has to come to an end. While I absolutely would not use a first-round pick for Cory Joseph, for example, I would definitely consider using one for Beverley.
In acquiring Beverley, the Suns would have three-fifths of the starting lineup of the 55-win Rockets from two seasons ago, with Devin Booker taking James Harden’s role and Deandre Ayton taking Clint Capela’s.
I don’t see 55 wins coming out of that lineup — Booker isn’t quite Harden — but I do see a culture setting in. I see an actual rotation being built, with complementary players. And I see literal role models for Melton (Beverley), Mikal Bridges (Ariza) and “still developing” Dragan Bender (Anderson) to carry the torch when those three leave.
So what first-round pick could the Suns offer?
The Suns have their own picks, plus Milwaukee’s weirdly protected pick.
If the Suns use their own, however heavily protected, they basically strap themselves for years, just like the Clippers have always done. If the Beverley/Ariza plot fails, then the Suns are worse off than they started and will only be able to build the team through more high draft picks.
If the Suns use the Milwaukee pick, there’s a chance the pick ends up in the lottery and the Suns will hate themselves. It’s protected 1-3 and 17-30 next year, meaning it goes to the Suns if the Bucks finish anywhere from 4th to 16th in next year’s draft order. The 17-30 protection was the Suns saying they’d rather wait till 2020 for the pick than get a low first rounder in 2019. Of course you don’t trade that pick, as is, either.
So what to trade, to entice the Clippers to eat some salary?
Under the new CBA, a team can add more pick protections in a re-trade. The Suns don’t have to trade the Milwaukee pick with the protections currently in place.
The Suns can trade any part of their range of conveyance — 4-16 range in 2019, 3-plus range in 2020, unprotected in 2021 — on that pick to the Clippers.
Would the Clippers accept a lottery-protected version of the Milwaukee pick, starting in 2019? Or a top-20 protected version?
That’s likely where the negotiations are sitting right now. The Suns want to add protections to the Milwaukee pick so they keep full control of their own picks going forward, while the Clippers probably want something that at least has a chance to be mid-round pick someday.
If the Suns and Clippers can agree on draft considerations, then it’s just a matter of which player(s) they want from the Suns that they can waive and stretch.