It may be too early in the season to begin exploring trades for the Phoenix Suns. The team is ten games in, and while they possess a 4-6 record, their primary focus right now should be on developing chemistry and understanding what this roster is and what it could be.
That being said, we would not be doing our due diligence if we didn’t at least explore possible trade targets and opportunities. This is the first year of the “second apron” and the challenges that brings, and that is where Phoenix finds themselves after acquiring Bradley Beal this past offseason.
Why do I bring this up? Recent reports from The Atheltic’s Shams Charania are leaking information relative to what is happening with the Chicago Bulls. There is unrest in the Windy City. Per Charnia, “NBA teams are probing the availability of two-time All-Star guard Zach LaVine, and there’s been increased openness from the Chicago Bulls and LaVine about exploring a trade, league sources said.”
Developing: NBA teams are probing the availability of Bulls two-time All-Star Zach LaVine and there is increased openness from both sides about exploring a trade, sources say.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) November 14, 2023
Details at @TheAthletic: https://t.co/2UvELP2lMG
A team that the Suns narrowly defeated just last week is in turmoil.
No, this isn’t where I tell you all of the reasons why LaVine would be a great fit with Phoenix and how we could navigate a trade to bring him to Phoenix. The Suns are set with high-end talent. Where there is an explosion, there is fallout from that detonation. A residual effect exists if Chicago bis to push down on the detonator, and it is something that the Suns could capitalize on.
Alex Caruso is a pest. We witnessed this just last week as he aggressively defended Kevin Durant, and did so effectively. Caruso guarded KD for 5:50 of gameplay, holding Durant to 1-of-7 shooting and forcing 2 turnovers. The sixth-year guard has a reputation for his gritty play and defensive prowess. A 2020 NBA Champion with Frank Vogel’s Lakers, Alex is a high-IQ basketball player.
And if the Bulls start the ‘ole blow-it-up approach, it is possible that Caruso could be on the move. This brings us to two questions we have to explore if the Suns are interested in bringing the Bald Mamba to Phoenix:
Is it financially possible?
Caruso is currently on a very affordable contract in NBA terms. He is slated to make $9.4 million this season, which is year three of a four-year deal. Next season is only partially guaranteed, but if it were to be fully guaranteed, it would be $9.9 million.
Could Phoenix put something together for Caruso? At this moment, no. But in time, yes.
December 15 is the date on which the entire roster becomes open game for transactions. As Dave King shows us in his Suns Weekly article (a must-read), here is where the Suns’ cap sheet sits:
Per Sir Dave King, a reminder of how the second tax apron affects the Suns this season:
Today through end of regular season:
- cannot sign any high-salary buyout guys (who had more than $12.4 million or so)
- cannot acquire > 10% more salary than they send out in any trades
- CAN aggregate salaries in trades to make the money work
A player like Grayson Allen — his $8.9 million contract is 9.5% of Caruso’s $9.4 million — or a combination of Nassir Little plus two veterans minimums would make financial sense. Starting next season, if the Suns are once again living in the world of the second apron, they would not be permitted to stack salaries to make a deal.
Question numero uno answered. There is a way to make it happen financially. This brings us to question number two:
Is anything the Suns propose a viable offer in the eyes of Chicago?
This is where it gets dicey for Phoenix.
If Caruso hits the market, he would be a hot commodity. Teams across the league would be lining up to utilize his services. The Bulls would have plenty of options at their disposal, and it would come down to what the vision is of executive vice president of basketball operations Artūras Karnišovas and head coach Billy Donovan.
Zach LaVine is the primary asset cash cow for the Bulls. If the rumors are true, a transaction for the former Olympian and two-time All-Star will provide plenty of draft capital and/or star power in return. Secondary transactions that could occur might not need as many draft picks in return, which works in the Suns’ favor. They don’t have many.
What the Suns do possess are multiple contracts that are player options next season and, in Nassir Little’s case, a player with upside. Little is owed $7.25 million next season, however, which could be a hindrance. As for Grayson Allen, I’m not sure the Chicago faithful are a fan of his.
Couple this with the fact that other NBA teams would have better offers, and Phoenix would have to do something that would really make a splash with the Bulls.
If the Suns could make it work, Caruso would be a welcomed addition to Phoenix. He is a player who makes winning plays. Much again to Josh Okogie, he plays with determination and fortitude on every possession that any NBA franchise would value. The difference between Caruso and Okogie is he can hit a shot when called upon. Alex is shooting 44% from deep this season.
Alas, the odds do not appear to be in the Suns' favor. The challenge when having a roster that is top-heavy is that, when names like Caruso could become available, you must go through the exercise we just went through. And the result generally will come out the same: the Suns simply do not have attractive enough assets to add a fringe player of Caruso’s caliber that could positively affect the roster.
If recent history has told us anything, is that James Jones will pursue one of the Bulls’ assets. He’s a veteran minimum guy with a player option next season. And his name is Torrey Craig.