Don’t you love days like the trade deadline? You turn your Shams and Woj Twitter notifications on, grab a cup of coffee, and prepare for the whirlwind of moves and deals as the day unfolds. You constantly refresh you feed as you eagerly wait for a blockbuster deal (is that phrase relevant anymore? Should it be a Netflix deal? Chill...). It is one of my favorite days of the year simply due to the uniqueness.
For some teams and organizations, it’s like Christmas morning, as you are gifted with shiny new toys. It was a record setting day on March 25 as the trade deadline came to a close.
Final tally on NBA Trade Deadline Day, per league:— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 26, 2021
-- 16 Trades
-- 23 teams
-- 46 roster players
Most ever in each category in past 35 years on deadline day.
For Suns fans and James Jones, it was just another Wednesday.
The trade deadline has come and gone for the Phoenix Suns. Outside after trading away some cash considerations for Torrey Craig last week, the day was uneventful for Phoenix as James Jones held the line and made no rash decisions or moves.
And you know what? I think that is a good thing.
James Jones reminds me of the guy who walks into a restaurant 5 minutes prior to close. He’s the guy who merges onto the freeway at the last minute, using every inch of the exit lane prior to join the traffic party. In short, I am saying James Jones is the guy who does what you don’t think he should do. Sometimes it frustrates you. But ultimately, he does what is best for him (and his team).
Two years ago, when Phoenix native Brandon Clarke was on the board in the 2019 NBA Draft, Jones went against the grain and took Cameron Johnson. It left many Suns fans with their hands on the head, wondering why Jones went that route. Paola Uggetti of The Ringer wrote:
“Johnson is a sharpshooter, but that’s about the nicest thing you can say about him. He’s already older than Devin Booker (who has already played four seasons!), will be 28 when his rookie contract ends, and wasn’t invited to the green room Thursday because he wasn’t expected to go until the late first or second round. Numerous teams reportedly took Johnson off their draft board because he’s had injuries to both of his hips. None of this sounds good! Pray for Booker.”
Think back to the trade deadline last season. Phoenix had a 20-30 record and were in 11th place in the Western Conference. Many of us want to Suns to do something, anything, to assist in progressing the team forward. The team had the assets available to make some moves, with pending UFA Aron Baynes, the Tyler Johnson contract, flight-risk Kelly Oubre and picks.
Like William Wallace in Braveheart, James Jones held.
Ultimately, it made sense as to why. The Phoenix roster he had constructed barely had played together. Ayton was suspended for 30% of the season. Baynes had missed 20 games. The team as a whole was experiencing the type of nagging injuries that prevented any type of congruency or chemistry to form.
He wasn’t willing to be a seller in a buyers market. Although Phoenix was 4.0 games out of the eighth seed, he wanted to stand fast and allow his chess pieces time to develop.
Why would he make a trade? The team hadn’t had the time to gel and execute his vision. Some fans were upset, of course, because we always are. Come the Orlando Bubble, we were all witnesses to his James was trying to accomplish. Jones held the line, the Suns won games.
Fast forward to this season. Phoenix has flipped the script relative to where they stand in the league. Entering the trade deadline, Phoenix is the second seed in the Western Conference. For the first time in years, the Suns would be buyers rather than sellers.
Do the Suns have needs? Yes. Every team does. Did they have the ability to go out and add a missing piece via the trade market? Sure. But at what cost? The chemistry the Phoenix Suns have developed, and continue to develop, is priceless. The team plays with a defined pace and style, and loosing key parts of the roster to bring in a missing piece this late in the season didn’t make sense. Or cents, if you will.
Given the Suns’ roster construction, being buyers was a challenge:
A whopping 55.6% of the Suns’ monies are allocated to Devin Booker and Chris Paul. 10 of the 15 players make $4.3 million or less. It’s an interesting way to build a roster (and smart when you have two max players) and Jones has received production up and down the line. The price for valued pay in astonishing.
Couple that with the fact that the Suns will not be able to trade a first round pick until 2027 (until OKC uses our pick swap provided in the Chris Paul trade) and Phoenix was hampered entering the trade deadline.
Did we want James to pull the trigger and stir up some excitement? Sure. It’s fun. It creates fodder and engagement. But given all of the assets at his disposal, James likely did the right thing.
We now turn our eager eyes towards the buyout market. This is an avenue in which the Suns can solidify their roster and add the missing piece. Many NBA teams who made transactions on Wednesday are finalizing their rosters as well, welcoming their new additions, and will have to buyout some their players. These are players the Suns could focus on. With the addition on Nikola Vucevic to the Chicago Bulls, will they buyout Otto Porter?
Again, that comes at a cost. Who on the Suns roster would they have to part with to allow that piece to join the team? Abdel Nader? E’Twaun Moore? What makes these decision so tough is, again the value every player has brought to this team and the chemistry they have developed. Their attitudes and selflessness care invaluable.
Some might but frustrated with the Suns lack of movement. Jones decision is Casablanca-esque, if you will. You’ll understand it “maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.”
In James we trust.