The Suns entered the 2018-19 NBA season with the belief that their depth at forward would be a strength, but by the end the group was held back by a logjam.
Trevor Ariza and Ryan Anderson were replaced by Kelly Oubre Jr. and Mikal Bridges, but the team was left with no more answers than they began with.
On Wednesday, John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports reported the team has no firmer grasp of how the rotation will break down, particularly because of the moving pieces of Oubre’s restricted free agency.
“They’re going to look at Kelly as their third-best player,” Gambadoro said, but added, “Do you want to pay your third-best player $20 million a year?
“I’m not sure they want to do that ... They don’t want all their cap money to be used on Kelly Oubre.”
Certainly, the teams left in the playoffs right now are showing us that collecting as many players who can defend bigger playmakers and knock down open 3s is a fantastic strategy. By that I mean, Pat Connaughton is making an impact in the second round. Keeping a ton of those guys in your back pocket as a team is a great strategy.
The problem for the Suns is, as with many rebuilding teams, these guys all come with the ego and investment of a lottery pick. It would be pretty tough to make Jackson your 14th man, even if sometimes he has played at that level. By the same token, trade value for some of these guys is far different from the perspective of the team that drafted and tried to develop them compared with opposing teams.
“I believe they’re going to try to move one but probably two of their wings and if they had their choice of what two wings they would keep, it’s Mikal Bridges and Kelly Oubre,” Gambadoro said Wednesday.
Sure. Warren improved greatly and probably has neutral trade value on a reasonable contract, meaning the Suns wouldn’t have to give anything up to move him. Jackson is a tougher sell, but perhaps some teams around the league still think they could turn him into a starting-caliber wing.
The Suns, according to Gambadoro, want to pay Oubre $12-14 million instead of $16-20 million. Basically, they are hoping the latest crop of deals signed by Josh Richardson and Aaron Gordon set the market for Oubre rather than the overpays in 2016 to the likes of Kent Bazemore and Evan Turner.
“At 15-20 (million dollars), maybe they deem that keeping Josh Jackson is a better option,” Gambadoro said.
It almost feels like we have to throw everything we thought about the Suns’ long-term strategy out the window now that James Jones is in charge and nearly every other face in the organization has changed.
That starts with how things shake out on the roster, especially on the wing.