There are factions of the Phoenix Suns fan base that desire to see the team go all in and acquire a star-level talent.
The likes of Pascal Siakam, or even acquire talent with a popular name like say, Kyle Kuzma. While I’m certainly all in on the team executing a trade to acquire either of these two names that have come up most for the Suns of late, there are other more low-key trades they can execute that’d better position the team with players that would address weaknesses directly,
Before looking at a couple of trades that I think would do this team well, let’s make note of some housekeeping information:
· They have their own first-round picks for each of the next seven seasons.
· They also have seven second-round picks at their disposal to trade.
· Presently have an open roster spot.
· Have $6.4 million in available cash to send and receive in a transaction.
· Deandre Ayton cannot be dealt to the Indiana Pacers (signed him in restricted free agency, to which the Suns matched), and he has the right to veto any trade.
· Dario Saric is on a $9.2 million dollar expiring contract.
· Landry Shamet is on a four-year deal at $9.5 million per, but only this year and next year are guaranteed.
With all of this in mind, let’s dive into a couple of “Non-Splash” trades I feel the Suns would better prepare themselves for the playoffs with.
Revisiting a Trade I Previously Spoke on
Around the New Year, I wrote at length about why acquiring Jarred Vanderbilt makes so much sense for the Suns.
As of now, the Suns are presently bottom third of the league (22nd) in defensive rebounding percentage, as well as in traditional defensive rebounding (27th), and lack some size.
In addition to all of that, the Suns also lack a viable option behind Deandre Ayton, especially when looking at who the team would trust should Ayton succumb to injury or foul trouble in high-leverage moments.
Vanderbilt is a player who’s spent 33% of his minutes at center this season, where he’d provide the Suns with a small ball option at the five off the bench, in addition to a 6’9 athletic presence of activity and versatility on the glass. He’s averaging 11.8 rebounds per 36 minutes, grabbing 25.2% of available rebounds when he’s on the floor, and is 92nd percentile among bigs in steal percentage at 1.8% (he’s been 92nd percentile or better each of the last three seasons there).
In addition to Vanderbilt, would be the acquisition of Malik Beasley. He’d bring a multitude of versatility via movement and off-screen shooting, juice off the bounce, and the ability to score.
(Friendly reminder that he’s the Minnesota Timberwolves franchise leader in three-pointers made in a game, with 11, and in three-pointers made in a season, with 240 last season).
When engaged, he’s also a competitor on the defensive end with active hands.
My preferred method of acquiring these two would be via a three-team trade, specifically the three-team trade mentioned by The Athletic’s, Shams Charania, where the Hawks would get Crowder + assets, the Jazz would get John Collins + assets, and the Suns would nab the aforementioned two.
Adding Versatile Firepower off the Bench
At 6’6, the Serbian sharpshooter doubles as a more than capable play initiator and secondary ball handler. He’s also apt at creating for himself, and running pick-and-roll, in addition to ample spacing and shooting off of movement or via off-ball screens.
Regarding his shot profile, he doesn’t generate a ton of rim pressure, but is very good at getting to the paint in a variety of ways, and is deft in floater range, combining a great feel for the game with a soft touch. He’s a capable mid-range shooter, and is a deadeye from deep, shooting 38% in his career from beyond the arc.
He’s efficient with both his shooting, as well as his decision-making with the ball in his hands.
Defensively, he’s no slouch either. The Hawks have their issues as a team defensively, but when they were at their best two seasons ago, he was a key cog in containing the ball against wings. He was positive on that end and showed the chops to contain the ball with some physicality, guard “up” and use his 220-pound frame to his advantage inside the arc as well.
Surrounded by a much better-rounded assemblage of talents, and a system that would enable him to do more of what he’s solid at offensively, he’d flourish in The Valley.
The Hawks are in a peculiar situation where it sounds as though they’re likely to trade two of Collins, Capela, or Bogdanovic to duck the luxury tax moving forward, increasing both incentives for the Hawks to part ways with their sharpshooter, receiving expiring contracts on much lower cap hits, while also addressing needs to trek forward with for this season.
This trade could be as simple as Bogdanovic and Aaron Holiday to Phoenix, for Crowder and Saric.
That would allow the Hawks to duck the tax, compete now, and also give them two expiring contracts, while also presenting the Suns with a positive tax hit too.
A Youthful Addition
The Houston Rockets are a young team in flux. There are countless rumblings of a lack of willingness to comply with leadership, with multiple instances on-court to further validate said rumblings.
Those, however, don’t pertain to one Kenyon Martin Jr.
“KJ” is enjoying a career-best season in scoring (11.0 points per game) and is active with his athleticism on the defensive end.
He’d bring a spark or “juice,” with great size, to the frontcourt group, with ample and contagious activity from the weak side defensively and in secondary rim protection.
He has a strong base, quick-twitch lateral movement, and is ambitious as well as anticipatory when the opportunity presents itself on that end, whether for steals or blocks. Also presents endless versatility, as a point of attack, helper, or wing defender. Either of which you could never have enough of, to throw at the glut of talent compiled in the Western Conference.
He has endless potential on that end, with the heart to match it.
Offensively, he’s more of a work in progress still. What he’s guaranteed to do is spark with his athleticism via above-the-rim activity and a growing feel for cutting, as well as his touch from deep.
ESPN’s Bobby Marks recently mentioned in “trades he would like to see” that he’d like to see Martin Jr. traded to the Suns.
The suggested trade from Marks went as such.
“Kenyon Martin Jr. to Phoenix for a 2023 top-14-protected first. If not conveyed, Houston will receive 2023 and 2025 second-round picks from the Suns.”
An alternative that's also been hypothesized by The Athletic's Kelly Iko, Eric Nehm, and Doug Haller, saw the Suns involved with the Bucks and Rockets.
Both scenarios had the Suns nabbing longtime target Eric Gordon. However, one scenario had the Suns nabbing him in tandem with KJ Martin while parting with Dario Saric (no Suns picks involved). The Bucks acquiring Crowder. Then, the Rockets acquiring a bevy of second-round pick compensation from Milwaukee, as well as Saric, George Hill, Wesley Matthews, and Jordan Nwora.
The other had the Suns nabbing Gordon in tandem with Grayson Allen, while the Bucks acquired Crowder and Martin Jr, and the Rockets received Saric, Torrey Craig, MarJon Beauchamp, a 2024 Bucks second-round pick, and the Suns 2027 first-round pick.
The market is warming up as the February 9th NBA Trade Deadline fastly approaches.
Consistent reporting emphasizes that the Suns front office has been working the phones on multiple deals, and has been for a handful of months now.
Angst given the track record of the Suns front office is valid, but this reporting, from multiple outlets, should bring solace in the short-term.
The Suns are one of the best-equipped teams to execute multiple transactions, and potentially do so without touching their coveted first-round picks via three “Non-Splash" type roster upgrades.
Opportunity is there, so as we await the inevitable news as well as the return of top-end talents of the rotation, keep in mind that work indeed is being done behind the scenes, and options are aplenty.