NBA insiders like Shams Charania, Jake Fischer and Marc Stein, among others, are starting to hear more and more Phoenix Suns rumors as the trade deadline approaches.
We found out last week that the Suns have been given the clearance by new/incoming team owner Mat Ishbia that GM James Jones has the freedom to use future draft picks as sweetener in trades and has the ability to take on future salary as well.
None of that is earth-shattering. Any team that wants to improve mid-season is almost certainly going to have give up a pick or two and take on more salary than they send out.
But taking on long-term salary would be new for James Jones, actually.
If you look back at the trades Jones has made in the four years since becoming the interim GM in October 2018 (and then the permanent GM in June 2019), he’s never taken on long-term future salary in a trade. Never.
- Dec 2018: acquired Kelly Oubre Jr.; RFA in 2019
- Feb 2020: acquired Tyler Johnson; UFA in 2020
- July 2020: acquired Dario Saric; RFA in 2021
- July 2020: acquired Aaron Baynes; UFA in 2021
- July 2020: acquired #24, drafted Ty Jerome; rookie contract
- July 2020: acquired Jevon Carter; RFA in 2021
- Nov 2020: acquired Chris Paul; likely UFA in 2021 (player option); acquired Abdel Nader; UFA in 2021
- Mar 2021: acquired Torrey Craig; UFA in 2021
- July 2021: acquired Landry Shamet; RFA in 2022
- Feb 2022: acquired Torrey Craig; UFA in 2023*
- Feb 2022: acquired Aaron Holiday; RFA in 2022
- July 2022: acquired Jock Landale; RFA in 2023
Over four years, Jones has made 12 trades that brought in a total of 13 players to the active roster. More players were acquired in those trades for salary matching purposes (ex. Austin Rivers, Kyle Korver), but these 13 are the only ones who appeared in games with the Suns.
Only 2 of 13 players had guaranteed money on the books past the season in which they were acquired. And one of those was a player option that Chris Paul was almost certain to decline, making him a free agent.
So really, the answer to this question is Torrey Craig. Craig is the only player Jones has ever acquired — not counting rookie-scale deals from draft picks — with guaranteed, no-option money beyond the current season. And that was only $5 million for one extra season.
He’s been more prone to bring in pending restricted free agents (7 of 13) in the final year of their rookie-scale deal — Oubre, Saric, Carter, Nader, Shamet, Holiday, Landale — that give the Suns control on whether to extend/re-sign them or not. Of those seven, he has re-signed five so far, with Landale coming up this summer.
Just twice in four years has Jones made floor-raising trades to the Suns roster (the collective 2020 series; Chris Paul), and both times all the work was done during the off season. The most impactful mid-season trades Jones has executed were to acquire Kelly Oubre Jr. and Tyler Johnson in his first winter as GM.
Impactful mid-season trades aren’t really in his wheelhouse. And acquiring long-term money REALLY isn’t.
So, you might find it interesting that the Suns are apparently, according to league insider Marc Stein, window shopping for point guards like the Hornets’ Terry Rozier, the Raptors’ Fred Van Vleet and the Knicks’ Immanuel Quickley.
Owed $75 million over the next three seasons (third season non-guaranteed)
Rozier was once a target of the Suns in the summer of 2019, when they settled on Ricky Rubio instead. Rozier went to Charlotte, and has played so well he signed a four year, $96 million extension last year. If acquired by the Suns, he’d be owed $23 and 24 million in the next two years, with a non-guaranteed $26 million in three years (based on his team making the second round of the playoffs and him hitting a games-played threshold). Bringing on Rozier this season likely means saying goodbye to Chris Paul in the offseason (or, waiving Paul and re-signing him to a much smaller deal).
Rozier has been good in Charlotte, but he’s not really a floor-raiser on a bad team. You’d have to harken back to his Celtics days of coming off the bench to wreak havoc to see how he might play in a playoffs setting.
I actually really like the prospects of this acquisition. With Devin Booker in the fold, the Suns don’t need a pure point running the show. Someone who can be a hound dog on defense, create some shots and make a few passes would be great, and Rozier does those things.
This year, the 28-year old Rozier is averaging 21.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 5.2 assists, but is only shooting 41% from the field and 32% on threes. He’s been over-tasked with being their full time point guard this year due to continuous injuries (three ankle sprains) to LaMelo Ball.
His first three years with Charlotte as more of a combo guard were much better: 19 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds with 44% shooting, including 39% on threes. That guy would fit very nicely in a three guard rotation with Paul and Booker, as well as fill in well if either went down to injury.
What would a Rozier trade look like?
Salary-matching-wise, Rozier’s $21 million swaps nicely for two of Jae Crowder, Dario Saric and Landry Shamet, but I don’t see why Charlotte, who would be in quick rebuild mode, would be interested in that package. Only Shamet is guaranteed in 2023-24, so at least it opens up Charlotte’s salary cap for free agent signings. Problem, nobody wants their free-agent money.
Here’s a crazy one: Rozier ($21M), P.J. Washington ($5.8M) and Mason Plumlee ($9M) and a protected first round pick to the Suns for Deandre Ayton ($30M) and Jae Crowder ($10.1M). Depends on how tired you are of DA, I guess. The Suns would be giving up the best player in the deal for sure. Rozier and Washington would be long-term rotation players for the Suns, but not needle-movers, per se. I just can’t see this one happening mid-season. Maybe next summer.
What actually probably has to happen for the Suns to get Rozier is that:
a. Charlotte just wants a clean slate for the draw of an unprotected 2023 first round pick (probably 18-25 range) and cap space. The Suns don’t have any young prospects they want to trade (no, they won’t trade Cameron Johnson for Rozier).
b. Suns find a third team who wants Jae Crowder and is willing to give up a good young player to get him. Is it possible Charlotte wants Grayson Allen from Milwaukee more than they’d want Landry Shamet from the Suns? That’s just one example. (Allen, FRP and Dario/Shamet to Hornets, Jae to Bucks, Rozier to Suns).
Has a player option for $22 million in 2023-24
Obviously this would be a major acquisition for the Suns. VanVleet has experience playing in a three-guard rotation with All-Stars ahead of him in Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, and he’s shown he can lead a team all by himself too.
He’s a 2022 All-Star. And he’s a 2019 NBA Champion as the Raptors third guard. In the Finals, blessed with ‘new dad energy’, FVV averaged 14 points on 44% shooting and 40% on threes, plus 2.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game.
Since then, he’s been a full time starter for the Raps, either next to or in place of Kyle Lowry, with the apex being his 2022 All-Star campaign with 20.3 points (40/37 splits), 6.7 assists and 4.4 rebounds.
The problem here is that the Suns would REALLY have to commit something big to get VanVleet. If the Raps trade FVV, they are committing to the tank again. Meaning, they will want good young players with long term future who fit the Raps model. Masai Ujiri wins deals. He doesn’t lose them.
I don’t see the Raps just giving FVV away for some combo of Shamet, Saric and Crowder. Shamet doesn’t move anyone’s needle as a prospect, and the other two are best on vet teams trying to make the playoffs.
To get FVV, the Suns would have to make a big sacrifice of Deandre Ayton or Cam Johnson, which I just don’t see James Jones doing in the middle of the season. That’s a real blowup. He’s not going to trade a good young player for a third guard who will be a free agent this summer and 29 years old next year.
One year left on rookie deal, then RFA
Oh man. If there was a perfect trade target for James Jones’ MO, this is it. Quickley fits the same mold as half dozen other guys JJ has acquired in the past four years — playing out their first round pick deal with the ability to earn a long-term extension in Phoenix.
Quickley, 23 years old, is caught in a logjam for minutes on the win-driving Knicks. Big free agent acquisition Jalen Brunson and second-year player Quentin Grimes have gotten the starting jobs over Quickley, though he’s still the 4th leading scorer on the team and playing 27 minutes a night as a combo guard off the bench. His three-point shooting has regressed from 39% as a rookie to 34% last year and 33% this year, but he’s otherwise been steady his whole young career with 11-12 points, 2-3 assists and 2-4 rebounds per game.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the Knicks are all that interested in trading Quickley. Some team might have to bring in a lot more incentive to make it happen, like giving the Knicks a much better player in return with Quickley as the young prospect going back to them.
Don’t expect the Knicks to ‘dump’ Quickley. They want their own playoff run. If he’s traded, it will be in a bigger deal that brings the Knicks a better player. That’s not informed; just my opinion.
Another consideration is Quickley’s ceiling. Seems like a really capable third guard, but can he blossom into a pure starter at some point? Can’t really make that projection at this time (but then again, we said the same of Scary Terry three years ago).
That’s the three guys mentioned by Marc Stein as having drawn the Suns attention this month. You can bet these are only three of a three dozen such players, at all different positions.
Still, considering what it would take to get all these guys, what’s your best FIT on the Suns post-trade (assuming what I expect to be the cost to get them).
Which guy fits best with the Suns this season, considering the cost to get them?
This poll is closed