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What’s in the box? Tools the Suns can use to trade/sign players for the coming season

The Phoenix Suns are one of the highest spenders in the NBA, meaning they will have limited ways to add more players to roster.

Philadelphia 76ers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Man oh man, when the whole rest of the league is zigging the Suns are zagging.

In recent years, the zaggers were the Warriors, Clippers and Nets who were willing to blow away the luxury tax line as far as they could go. One of those teams got a championship or three out of it.

Now it’s the Phoenix Suns who are zagging. While the Warriors are starting shed future salary commitments to non-core players (Poole), the Suns are still adding to their own core before the harshest penalties go into effect.

The Suns now have an All-Star core of Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal. Those just happen to include

  • two of the six highest paid players in the league next season (Kevin Durant at $47.6M, Bradley Beal at $46.7M)
  • two of the three largest commitments in guaranteed long term money (Devin Booker at $234M and Bradley Beal at $251M)
  • three of the eight highest paid players in the 2024-25 season (Booker at $52M, Durant at $51M, Beal at $50M)


We can’t worry about next year or years after that, though. So many things change in a short time that next summer will be completely different than this summer. The salary cap will at least double in two years thanks to new TV money and might see a huge jump as early as next year.

This year, though, the Suns have to fill out the rest of a very top-heavy roster. And that includes filling in the middle tier — 4th starter, 5th starter and top bench guys. They can’t go into another playoffs being stuck — no offense, Josh — with deep bench guys in the starting lineup and first off the bench.

Right now, the Suns have not one player making less than $32 million and more than $6 million. For salary scale reference, the four players they need are likely to be worth anywhere from $5 million to $20 million dollars in salary.

Let’s take a look at what the Suns can offer other teams and players.

Tradable assets

  • Deandre Ayton, age 25 next season, mid-level starter owed $102 over the next three years
  • Cameron Payne, age 28, mid-level backup owed $6.5 million this year, but only $2 million if released by 6/29
  • Trade exception (from Saric/Bazley trade) that can take in up to $5.05 million in a single player’s salary. Must be used by itself in a singular trade with another team, no aggregation with other players. The thing here is that, to take a player into the exception, the Suns must send something back like a draft pick or money.

Except the Suns don’t have any tradable future draft picks. They only have...

  • Second round pick Toumani Camara’s ‘rights’ are tradable now until signed, or 30+ days after signing a contract.
  • About $1.5 million left in unused ‘cash’ allowed to be used as compensation in trades each year, after sending $3.5 to Washington in the Beal trade.

Using the trade exception requires the use of either or both of Camara’s rights and cash, since the Suns don’t have any other non-salary assets to trade (i.e. future draft picks).

  • Secondary swap rights in 2024
  • Secondary swap rights in 2026

The only other tradable assets the Suns have are additional swap rights to the 2024 and 2026 picks. For example, they already traded swap rights TWICE on their 2028 first round pick, once to Brooklyn and now to Washington. Brooklyn gets the higher of Suns-Nets that year and now Washington gets the best of their own pick and the lesser of what the Suns have left after the Nets swap. Swap rights are mostly window-dressing, especially as the second swap, but there is SOME value. Imagine a world where the Nets and Suns are both in the 2028 lottery and the Wizards are in the playoffs. The Wizards could use those secondary swap rights to get into the lottery and give their pick — the worst of the three — to the Suns.

Spending power in free agency

If you thought the cupboard was bare on tradable assets, wait till you see this list. At least I got to six bullet points on trade assets!

Currently, they only have five players under fully guaranteed contracts, plus Cameron Payne, Jordan Goodwin and Ish Wainright under team options or of the non-guaranteed variety.

They will need to get to at least 13 players to start the season, and some of those players will need to be reliable rotation players.

Here is the Suns spending power:

  • Early Bird Rights

The Suns have ‘Early Bird Rights’ on free agents Torrey Craig, Bismack Biyombo and Jock Landale, meaning they can sign those players for anything from the league minimum to the league average (about $12 million per year) salary. If the Suns want to bring any or all of them back, they can outbid other teams to do so. Anything over the minimum must be for 2+ years.

  • Restricted Free Agent Rights

The Suns have restricted rights on Landale (mentioned already), Saben Lee and Darius Bazley, meaning they have the right to match any offer these players get from another team.

Unfortunately, none of the returning players are real needle-movers. They should not be considered starters or even top one or two off the bench in a playoff rotation.

Which leaves us to...

  • Veteran Minimum Salaries

Outside of the Suns own players mentioned above, the Suns can only offer veteran minimum salaries to players of other teams. They’ve got to hope they get lucky, like the Warriors did in finding Otto Porter at a minimum salary in 2022. Porter was a key player for them all season long.

But you cannot count on finding FOUR core rotation players on the minimum-salary market, and you’re probably not that excited about relying on Craig, Biz and Landale as big pieces next year, so the Suns are going to have to use trades to find a real player or two they can count on.

The trade market is interesting this summer, especially for big-spending teams who are trying to load up before rules get even tougher.

According to Spotrac, the Suns have committed the second-most guaranteed money in the league this year and THE most in 2024-25. They are one of only three teams (with the Nuggets and Clippers) who are already over the projected the cap in guaranteed money.

**UPDATED Sunday afternoon!!**

The salary cap can rise up to 10% each year, per the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

That limits the cap increases to the following, no matter how much bigger the next TV rights deal is.

This table shows maximum increases of 10% each year after this one, which is already set at $136 million, and where the Suns stars stack up all by themselves.

Once a team exceeds the cap, they can only use small exceptions and/or keeping their existing players to keep spending beyond that. That’s what the Suns will face each year they’ve got these three on the team.

The league and TV networks will negotiate new long-term TV rights deals sometime next spring, to officially take effect in 2025-26 season. But the kicker here is that TV money is expected to double, which should more than require the full 10% annual increase. In fact, the players will likely be losing out on this deal. The teams’ salary cap is directly connected to something called Basketball Related Income and the TV deals make up 40-50% of that income. Here’s an article that projects TV money to approach $5 Billion per year (yes, with a B) based on what’s happened in other sports already, up from the current price tag of about $2.7 billion per year.

“I would expect NBA rights to more than double and potentially quite a bit more,” said Ed Desser, a sports media consultant and former NBA executive who has negotiated the league’s previous media deals.

But forget about future years. This year is the challenge.

The Suns have to find real quality players to support Booker/Durant/Beal, and they’ll have to do it with limited resources.

One thing to note: the Suns can bring back up to +25% in salaries in trades THIS WEEK ONLY. It’s like a super sale at the department store. After July 1, the Suns can only bring back +10% in salaries in trade.

That post-July-1 restriction applied to all 30 teams, by the way. Look for more trades than usual this week while teams still have more wiggle room on salary matching.

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