Following the surprising trade for Tyler Johnson before the Feb. 7 deadline, the Suns are sitting in a new position. Gone is the max cap space that owner Robert Sarver suggested they were preserving in preseason (Ryan Anderson’s salary was reduced so they could waive and stretch his contract at the end of this season; that won’t be happening with Johnson), but this indicates possibly a realization of how this free agency period would go for them.
At the moment, possessing an abysmal record of 11-46, which is on pace to be the worst season in franchise history for Phoenix, this wasn’t going to be a desirable destination. Especially when you factor in the arms race between the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers, as both have enough salary space for two superstar max free agents, chances were slim to none the Suns would successfully be able to nab legitimate win-now veteran talent.
However, there’s new routes to be explored. One of those is surveying the trade market in June and July.
And one example maybe the Suns learned from was Philadelphia last summer. Even though the 76ers had enough to recruit a star to pair with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, it didn’t even matter as they couldn’t get a face-to-face meeting with LeBron James nor recruit anyone else. Less than seven months later, Philadelphia pivoted to trades being the best bet to add talent around their dynamic young duo. With Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris now in the fold, Philadelphia is set to be a sustainable contender for years depending on how re-signing both goes.
Could Vice President of Basketball Operations James Jones be choosing the same route another former player turned executive Elton Brand did this season with Philadelphia? It’s definitely possible as many teams could be looking to reshuffle the decks amidst the chaos of free agency.
What point guards and or power forwards make sense for the Suns to pursue via trade after the season wraps up? I outlined four in each position group, so let’s dive into it.
Note: As I suggested in my story yesterday, the Suns could envision using Johnson’s expiring in trades. In these scenarios listed, that salary-matching definitely comes into play.
Even though Jones seemed to suggest on 98.7 FM’s Burns & Gambo earlier this month that players in their 30s is too big of an age gap for such a young core, he’s also very coy. Most of the time Jones appears for his weekly radio hit, or speaks with the media, it’s vague to say the very least.
If someone like Lowry became available, which is becoming more and more of a possibility as he was offered for Mike Conley before the trade deadline, would the Suns kick the tires? I say yes, because Lowry is the ideal veteran to lead Phoenix out of the abyss. Lowry also can play on or off ball seamlessly while setting up Deandre Ayton and others in their favorite spots.
Mock trade: Kyle Lowry for Tyler Johnson, T.J. Warren, 2020 Suns 1st
Along the same lines as Lowry, it all depends on the return New Orleans will receive from the eventual Anthony Davis trade. Right now, it seems like the top four for Davis, as far as assets go, is as follows: Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks and Boston Celtics. All of these teams are armed with the right mix of young pieces and draft capital that could appease the Pelicans.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Pelicans GM Dell Demps is holding out for a young player with All-NBA potential. That sounds to me like Jayson Tatum. If Boston ended up shipping out Tatum and future picks along with Al Horford or Gordon Hayward, Holiday might stay around as the rebuild might not take as long.
Holiday mentioned to the New Orleans media that Davis was 90 percent of the reason why he stayed. So, his mind could be set on leaving anyways. If that’s the case, Holiday will be a hot commodity in short order.
In my opinion, I believe Holiday is one of the best fits on-paper next to Booker. So, if he does indeed want out, Phoenix should pounce on the opportunity.
Mock trade: Jrue Holiday for Tyler Johnson, T.J. Warren, 2019 1st (depends on lottery)
What do you know, another veteran point guard. This time with Conley, it’s already known he was trying to be dealt before Thursday. Memphis ended up hanging on to Conley, but he’s definitely going to be on the move this summer.
As I wrote last month when the Conley talks first emerged, I advocated for the Suns to accelerate their rebuild with him. I won’t repeat myself a bunch, so check that story out for more on why Conley is an awesome fit within the Suns’ system.
Compared to Lowry and Holiday, Conley’s price will be much lower as well.
Mock trade: Mike Conley for T.J. Warren or Josh Jackson, Tyler Johnson, 2020 Bucks pick
Lonzo Ball’s father, LaVar, is trying to speak him playing for the Suns into existence. Even if it means trashing all of Ball’s teammates and coaches along the way, LaVar seems intent on having his son not be a member of the Lakers anymore.
And if the Lakers want to get back involved in the Davis derby, all of their young core will remain on the trading block.
Ball was ranked No. 1 on the Suns’ 2017 draft board, so they would definitely be interested in him. The big question for me takes me back to his father, though.
Could such a young locker room being able to handle outside noise from Ball, if his father speaks up and starts doing what’s happening now? That has me slightly worried, but Ball’s talent overshadows it.
Yes, he can’t shoot the ball well but he also fills the two biggest needs for Phoenix: playmaking and on-ball defense versus point guards. Ball has both in spades.
If the Lakers want to move on from Ball anyways, will the Suns reportedly dial them up again after Tania Ganguli of the LA Times suggested there was mutual interest?
After learning of the Lakers’ offers to the Pelicans, Lonzo Ball’s camp maintains that New Orleans isn’t the desired destination. Phoenix makes the most basketball sense if Ball were to be traded and according to two sources there is mutual interest.— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) January 31, 2019
Mock trade: Lonzo Ball for Elie Okobo and 2020 1st (different if it’s in a 3-team deal)
Which point guard makes the most sense for Phoenix to trade for?
This poll is closed
Pivoting over to the power forward need, the most logical trade partner continues to be Orlando’s Aaron Gordon. When Gordon was signed to his extension last summer, the Magic structured it where his salary would decrease every season. What that means is that it’s one of the most tradeable contracts whenever Orlando wants to reboot.
Gordon continues to be placed in a position that isn’t natural for him. He’s not a small forward but a power forward. Orlando seems intent on trying Gordon with Jonathan Isaac and Mohamed Bamba, but it simply hasn’t worked.
Depending on how this year finishes up for Orlando, they could be set to blow it up around it’s younger core if Nikola Vucevic walks this summer. Vucevic walking should mean Orlando begins shopping Gordon, in my opinion. Also, with the aforementioned contract structure, I wonder how much Orlando would even receiver for Gordon?
Compared to the other options available on their roster, Gordon provides more defensive versatility and rebounding that’s needed next to Ayton.
Mock trade: Aaron Gordon for T.J. Warren or Josh Jackson, Elie Okobo, 2020 1st
This might be a surprise to some, especially with Detroit hiring Dwayne Casey before this season began, but Blake Griffin won’t ever reach his personal goals there. The Clippers sent Griffin to the Pistons right when he was eligible to be traded following his max extension around a main package of Tobias Harris and the rights to Jerome Robinson.
If Griffin isn’t happy in Detroit, the Suns were connected to him last summer before his free agency meeting was cancelled. Thinking about it, Griffin paired with Ayton and Booker could be loads of fun. The big question, though, is how a high-usage forward like Griffin would mesh with the Suns’ two young stars.
So far this season, Griffin is averaging 26.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 5.3 assists while carrying a true shooting percentage right below 60 percent. That’s elite production, and it’s a piece missing within the Suns’ system.
Mock trade: Blake Griffin for Tyler Johnson, T.J. Warren, 2019 Suns pick (depends on lottery)
The only way Green ever becomes available is if Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson stay in Golden State. Financially, Golden State wouldn’t be able to afford an incoming Green extension for 2020, so trading him this summer would be the move.
Knowing how savvy the Warriors’ front office is, they won’t just let Draymond walk for nothing if that scenario does indeed happen in July.
Phoenix is in desperate need of a culture-setter and veteran voice. Green would provide exactly that while also helping further establish an identity more focused around defense.
As it relates to Green, would you be comfortable trading assets for Green then signing him to an extension? With the way Green has looked, there’s serious questions to whether his next contract could turn into an albatross with his deteriorating perimeter shooting ability.
Is that worth the risk for Phoenix? It’s certainly an interesting discussion to have.
Mock trade: Draymond Green for T.J. Warren, Elie Okobo, 2020 Bucks pick or 2020 Suns 1st
Speaking of albatrosses, Love might already be approaching that category before his new extension even hits with Cleveland. When the Cavaliers signed him to a long-term extension, especially for the price, it stunned many around the NBA community.
However, we can’t ignore Love because he’s close with the Suns’ VP of BBall Ops. Love called Jones his “favorite teammate” after he retired, so he could easily be selled on a future with Booker and Ayton in Phoenix.
This move would be interesting since Love has shown he can’t stay healthy, but desperate times call for desperate measures. If the Suns strike out on free agency plus their preferred trade options, maybe they dial up Cleveland to inquire about Love.
If the Cavaliers want to blow everything up after the lottery, sending Love packing for whatever assets they can get is the most logical resolution. And I imagine his value would be along the same lines as Conley or Marc Gasol, two veterans who are past their prime.
From that point of view, maybe the Suns actually talk themselves into Love? I don’t know how it would end up, but it certainly fits the billing of trying to improve the team one way or another.
Mock trade: Kevin Love for Tyler Johnson, T.J. Warren or Josh Jackson, 2020 Bucks pick
Which power forward makes the most sense for Phoenix to trade for?
This poll is closed
However the Suns plan to maneuver this summer, they better get it right. With Johnson now aboard, it seems like they are setting their sights on trade even though Jones mentioned to Bright Side Night donors last month that free agency and the draft were the most likely route to finding their long-term answer at point guard.
Now, we sit back and wait about five months until they are able to make moves.