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Will the Suns release Frank or Elf to get Ish Wainright on the playoff roster?

The Phoenix Suns have no roster spots available, but it sure seems like Ish Wainright needs to be available in playoffs

Philadelphia 76ers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Phoenix Suns may be the deepest team in the league, but they might still want the talents of their former footballer turned bballer Ish Wainright at their disposal come playoff time.

Ish Wainright was signed by the Suns back on October 21, 2021 under a two-way contract which, under relaxed mid-pandemic rules, has allowed him to stay with the Suns all year just like any other player on the roster. In other years, a two-way’s involvement with the big club is limited, by the COVID-19 pandemic changed all that and it’s been treated like a 16th roster spot this season.

Wainright has not necessarily been a rotation regular, but he’s made some contributions this year. Ish has appeared in 44 games this season, including 15 of 22 games since the All-Star break. He only plays about 7 minutes per game when he gets in, but has improved his shooting to 44% overall and 35% from three-point land since the All-Star break.

Additionally, Ish is a vocal cheerleader from the sidelines, constantly hyping up the guys on the court with his antics and celebrations.

Only, we may not see any of Ish once the playoffs start next weekend. Two-way players are not eligible for playoff rosters. Ish Wainright will be away from the team unless he is signed to a full NBA contract.

The problem is that the Suns don’t have an open roster spot. They used their 15th spot last December on Bismack Biyombo to be their 3rd-string center, and he’s been quite the find. Given the number of playoff teams with huge 2-deep center rotations, the Suns will need Bizzy at some point if not a lot of points in the playoffs.

Would he play? Maybe not. Ish is only 14th on the team in minutes played this season, and a playoff rotation almost never goes more than 10 players deep.

But all four of the big wings ahead of him — Jae Crowder, Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson and Torrey Craig — play every night and an injury or foul trouble to any of them could open the door to needing Ish’s services.

Yes, the Suns could make-do with giving more minutes to Devin Booker or Landry Shamet in a big wing role but if both are on the floor together the Suns are even smaller and more at a disadvantage on the boards.

If the Suns want to keep Ish around for the playoffs, they will need to release someone on the active roster with a full contract and that deadline is today.

Here are the candidates.

Frank Kaminsky: It does not look like Frank will make it back for the playoffs, and his contract is expiring this summer. Releasing Frank would close the door on his return, but he really doesn’t have a role right now anyway with JaVale McGee and Bismack Biyombo now backing up Ayton nightly. Frank, though, is a close family member on that team in his third season with Monty’s and James’ Suns, and is just as much a cheerleader as Ish on the sidelines. Kaminsky becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer, so releasing him just speeds up that process.

Elfrid Payton: Payton is the third-string point guard, but could easily lose that spot to Aaron Holiday. Holiday is much more productive than Payton, but the 6’4” Elf has the size that Monty likes against big opponents. Teams like the Clippers and Warriors have a deep rotation of big wings, and the coach likes to put Elfrid out there to hold up defensively. Unfortunately, Elf is such a negative on the offensive end he often negates any defensive value he can bring. Payton becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer, so releasing him just speeds up that process.

Aaron Holiday: Holiday was acquired at the trade deadline when Chris Paul was lost for a month to a thumb injury. He’s been a better-passing Jevon Carter, but his small size (6-foot) hurts his chances to defend in a switch-heavy scheme like the Suns. We like him for his hustle and his offensive production, though. Ideally, Monty would like to keep both Payton and Holiday for matchup purposes if Paul or Payne go down at some point in the playoffs. Given Paul’s injury history, it’s a good bet Holiday or Payton or both will get important minutes. Holiday becomes a restricted free agent this summer, so releasing him would sacrifice the right to match an offer sheet and keep him on a multi-year contract if the Suns don’t want to lose him in free agency.


Ish’s greatest skills for this playoff run appear to be the following:

  • defensive ballast against burly wings
  • occasional corner three-point shot making
  • excited cheerleader and teammate

If the Suns want to release one of the players above, they could sign Ish to a contract for the remainder of the season to allow him on the playoff roster. The salary impact would be negligible, even to ownership, because they would just keep paying Ish at the same rate they’ve been paying all season (rookie minimum).

Poll

What should the Suns do with Ish?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    Release him to keep Frank, Elf and Aaron
    (16 votes)
  • 48%
    Keep him, release Frank Kaminsky
    (306 votes)
  • 48%
    Keep him, release Elfrid Payton
    (308 votes)
  • 0%
    Keep him, release Aaron Holiday
    (2 votes)
632 votes total Vote Now