Lack of news is sometimes news on its own. Or at least something to discuss.
On the opening day of NBA free agency, a full 13 days ago, the biggest newsbreakers reported that the Phoenix Suns had agreed to terms with backup center JaVale McGee on a one year, $5 million contract.
McGee himself posted what can only be interpreted as a confirmation on social media.
And it’s not like Dwight Howard a year ago saying he’s coming back to the Lakers, then deleting the tweet a couple days later. McGee’s post is still up, and now his twitter bio even includes ‘#SUNS CENTER’ amid the gold medal mention.
So, he’s going to be a Phoenix Sun. He just hasn’t signed anything yet.
Why not? Nearly all other transactions around the league are complete and filed with the league. More than a hundred of them. For the Suns, new contracts for Chris Paul (Bird Rights exception), Cameron Payne (Bird Rights exception), Abdel Nader (Bird Rights exception), Frank Kaminsky (minimum contract exception) and Elfrid Payton (minimum contract exception) have all been signed, sealed and delivered to the league office.
The Suns now have 13 players under contract; 14 if you count McGee.
Yet, there’s no official word on McGee yet.
McGee’s contract would be different than those others, for one thing. Those were executed using bird rights (to re-sign your own players) or minimum salary exceptions.
To sign McGee, who finished last season on a one year deal that began in Cleveland and ended in Denver, the Suns would need to use a different kind of salary exception.
The only exception big enough for the reported $5 million is the Mid-Level Exception, worth up to $9.5 million this year. A team can sign as many players as they want with that exception, which is reserved for players who finished the last season with another team to a salary more than league minimum.
Assuming the $5 million report is accurate, that leaves the Suns with only $4.5 million left of that exception and another $3.7 million in the smaller, still-available, Bi-Annual Exception.
Note: there’s no evidence the Suns applied for the ‘Disabled Player Exception’ for Dario Saric. It would only be worth $4.4 million (smaller than the remaining $4.5 mil MLE), and can only be used on one player.
The Suns have 14 players under guaranteed contracts at this time, so they don’t even have the roster spots for the MLE and BAE, let alone the DPE too.
Unless, they’re trying to make a consolidation trade in the coming days by sending out multiple players for one.
That would open the roster spots to sign more than one remaining free agent, but there simply aren’t very many out there worth more than league minimum at this time. And the Suns are tickling the fancy of the luxury tax already.
And even if they did trade a couple of players for, say, Thaddeus Young and his $14 million contract, the Suns still only have the one avenue to sign McGee with or without that trade. The MLE is the MLE, and $5 million only fits into the MLE.
So why not finalize the McGee contract? Could they still be negotiating how much of it is guaranteed, which could potentially open up more of the MLE for someone like Paul Millsap (the only remaining unsigned player worth more than $4.5 million)?
Not sure what other dominos are affected by signing McGee into a part of the MLE besides how MUCH of it he uses.
Sign and trade?
Unlessssss, they are negotiating with the Denver Nuggets on a sign-and-trade of McGee to fit his salary on the roster without using any of MLE to get him.
I sincerely doubt this to be the case for two reasons:
(1) a signed-and-traded player must receive a 3 or 4 year contract. McGee is 32. There’s no reason to do a 3-year contract. None at all.
(2) the Suns would have to send back at least 75% salary matching. Because of the CBA, they cannot trade anyone they recently signed (above) so all that’s left in that range or lower is Cam Johnson, Mikal Bridges, Landry Shamet and Jalen Smith.
(3) hard-capping their spending. Depending on a lot of nerdy stuff, the Suns could be putting themselves into a corner by doing a sign-and-trade so close to the luxury tax line.
I’d give up Dario, but why would the Nuggets send even more salary AND take Dario who will be out all year? I would not give up any of the other Suns players for McGee.
And frankly, (2) doesn’t even matter because of (1). No way McGee gets a three-year contract that requires at least 2 years guaranteed salary, right?
Stranger things have happened, though. If the Suns DO trade, say, Dario’s contract for McGee, and give McGee 3 years, $15 million (with $10 million guaranteed), then the whole MLE opens up. Which might bring Paul Millsap into the fold within that hard cap limit.
There’s a reason for the delay in McGee signing his contract. We don’t know what it is, but something is at least being considered and McGee’s camp is obliging with patience.