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Phoenix Suns Trade Deadline Primer: Who stays, who goes from the West’s worst

Ranking the likelihood of a trade, player by player

Phoenix Suns v Indiana Pacers Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

What: NBA Trade Deadline

When: Today, 1:00 PM AZ time

Will the Phoenix Suns make another trade before the deadline today at 1:00 PM AZ time?

The floodgates opened last week (19 trades already!) after Kristaps Porzingis was surprise-traded to the Dallas Mavericks for nothing more than salary cap relief. Now every team is trying to pilfer other teams’ stars for the low low price of having cap room for Kevin Durant or another big name this summer.

The Suns, for their part, have only dipped their toe in the water while continuing to preach patience during the losingest season in 50 years in the valley.

Suns dump Ryan Anderson

After acquiring Anderson to pair with Trevor Ariza for veteran leadership failed miserably, the Suns were just going to watch the clock until season was over and release Anderson. He was either going to be a three-year dead cap hit of about $5.2 million a year, or a one-year gulp of $15.6 million in dead cap next year alone.

Now that they’ve dumped him for a couple more guards, only one of whom will ever play for the Suns.

Let’s recap the Suns transactions over the last three seasons, which updated as of the Anderson trade to swap him for Tyler Johnson.

Out: Goran Dragic, Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris, Isaiah Thomas and Bogdan Bogdanovic (5 starters, 4 playoff teams, 2 All-Stars)

In: Mikal Bridges, De’Anthony Melton, Tyler Johnson (one starter, no playoffs, no All-Stars)


Suns acquire Tyler Johnson

Age 26; 11 points, 36% 3P shooting, 3.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists for career

Swapping Ryan Anderson’s albatross contract for Tyler Johnson’s is not even as big as moving the deck chairs on the Titanic. It’s more like rearranging the mops in the closet. The Suns were on the hook for $15.643 million if they released Anderson before July 19. Johnson’s deal is worth $19.245 million*, a difference of $3.62 million.

So you can only read the Johnson acquisition as such: the Suns acquired a rotation guard for the next 16 months who is better than anyone on the Suns after Devin Booker for the low price of $3.62 million in cap room for 2019-20.

The Suns have shot 29% on threes since Warren went down two weeks ago. Johnson immediately becomes the team’s second most likely three-point shot maker on the floor.

Johnson is a combo guard who can pass a little, shoot a little and can’t play very good defense. Sound like every other Suns guard? But he was also worth a long term contract standoff and is only 26 years old, so he’s like a Kelly Oubre Jr. acquisition. The Suns swapped Ariza and Ryno for Oubre and Johnson.

He’s better than Jamal Crawford, Troy Daniels, Quincy Acy or Jawun Evans, who have all gotten rotation time in the past month. And he’s better than today’s version of De’Anthony Melton and Elie Okobo. If someday Melton or Okobo are better than Johnson, then it’s simple to give those young guys more and more of Johnson’s minutes.

*Johnson’s 2019-20 contract is a PLAYER OPTION. There’s a (close to zero, but greater than zero) chance that Johnson opts out to sign a long-term deal at a lower price with someone. There’s a ton of money going to be available this summer, and Johnson at $10 million a year is worth a long term deal. Don’t hold your breath, though.

Suns acquire Wayne Ellington for a minute

Age 31; 10.5 points, 38% 3P shooter last three years with Miami

In that same Miami deal, the Suns got Wayne Ellington’s $6 million expiring deal. Ellington doesn’t want to play the Troy Daniels role, and he doesn’t want to play for a terrible NBA team.

Ellington has veto rights on any trade given he signed a one-year deal (CBA rule), so his approval of the trade means the Suns convinced his agent they would help him get to a contender and/or a team of Ellington’s choice with consistent guard minutes for a playoff run.

That could mean releasing him to let him sign with whoever he wants, like they have already done for Tyson Chandler and Austin Rivers.

Or, they could re-trade Ellington before 1:00 PM today to his chosen team, but Ellington would have to approve the move.

Either way, Ellington almost certainly won’t ever suit up for the Suns.

Any more trades?

Last week, I ranked the Suns players in terms of likelihood to be dealt. I still think the order is exactly the same a week later, though now I would include Wayne Ellington on the same line item as Troy Daniels.

  1. T.J. Warren — Are the Suns holding Warren out until the deadline so they can trade him? Have they mutually agreed to part ways? Duane Rankin says no. But it sure seems odd that Warren is out indefinitely with a sprained ankle, and he doesn’t even have a limp or swelling when he walks around in street clothes. But then again, this is the Warren who had the mysterious three-week “head injury” last year from which he returned unfazed one day. What could Warren bring back? Who knows. I literally have no idea.
  2. Troy Daniels and Wayne Ellington — Same player, same problem with the Suns. Now that Tyler Johnson is in the rotation, there’s really no need for either of these one-dimensional players on an 11-win team. One or both will be traded today or released tomorrow (or soon after). Guys like Daniels and Ellington have gotten anywhere from a late second round pick to nothing but contract swaps so far this week.
  3. 2020 Milwaukee pick (protected top-10) or Suns 2020 pick — For anything with NBA-level talent.
  4. One or two of the Suns other wings — With or without trading Warren, the Suns can afford to trade one of Bridges, Jackson or Oubre if there’s an equal or better talent available in the same age range at power forward or point guard.
  5. 2019 Suns pick — Only for a huge piece to a future playoff team.
  6. 2021 Suns pick — Only for a huge piece to a future playoff team.
  7. Anyone else — Sure, the Suns could trade just about anyone else on the roster, but none of them are as obvious as the top two slots on this list. Yet, here we are with Ryan Anderson being the first guy traded off this team.

Keep your eyes open!

And watch Bright Side for updates throughout the day.

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