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Suns as trade partners? Really?

Would the Phoenix Suns really make another trade before the season starts?

Denver Nuggets v Phoenix Suns - Game Six Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Our local newsbreaker ‘Flex from Jersey’ dropped a tweet yesterday to bored Phoenix Suns fans that the Suns might just be a participant in preseason or early-season trades as training camp is only a couple weeks away and the regular season starts barely a month from now.

I love and respect Flex. He gets valid intel. Lots of teams are looking to make trades before games begin to matter in 30 or so days. The Suns are probably getting some calls.

But, we’re talking about the Phoenix Suns who almost completely remade their roster this summer in free agency and trades, culminating in 13 of 17 rostered players being added since February. And only two of the four returning players (Deandre Ayton, Devin Booker) are making more than minimum salary.

If the Suns just added all these players — presumably players they targeted — why would they want to trade them?

And, given the rules in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) how many can they actually trade even if they wanted to? Not many, it turns out. At least not until December 15.

Between now and December 15, the Suns are only allowed to trade a handful of players —

  • 2 supermax players the Suns would never actually trade (Devin Booker, Kevin Durant)
  • 1 mini-max player the Suns would only trade right now to IMPROVE their championship chances (Deandre Ayton)
  • 3 minimum-salary guys with minimal on-court value (Jordan Goodwin, Ish Wainright, Toumani Camara)

That’s it. None of the free agents signed in July this summer can be traded until at least December 15. There’s no way they trade Booker, Durant or Bradley Beal before figuring out if they can win a championship with them as the top three. Plus, Beal has veto power on any trades.

So what’s left to trade then?

  • Deandre Ayton’s $32.46M contract is still the most tradable contract on the team
  • Jordan Goodwin ($1.93M) could be a deal sweetener — just like he was in the Beal trade to Phoenix — because there’s a chance he vastly outplays his contract
  • Toumani Camara is a rookie second round pick with very limited trade value, but it’s at least higher than two-way graduate Ish Wainright’s value

That’s it, folks.

Now let’s talk about what the Suns can do in trades this month and next on the team level, given their ‘second tax apron’ spending status.

  1. Can bring back up to 10% more in salaries than they send out, or bring back less than they send out (limitations based on the other team)
  2. Can include very little cash considerations (reportedly sent $5.6M of available $7M to San Antonio to take on Cam Payne’s contract) or draft picks (second rounders only)
  3. Can still ‘old school’ aggregate players either direction

CAN the Suns make a trade right now? Sure, as long as it’s Deandre Ayton. They can trade up from Ayton (up to 10% more salary) or they can divest from Ayton and get below the second apron. Everything else is just moving deck chairs around.

But let’s talk about Ayton a little bit.

At his best, he’s the best 4th option of any title-contending team. So why not keep him at least halfway through the year to see if he can be that guy, with a new coach in Vogel and third-wheel in Beal.

At his worst, he’s an under-achieving big man who isn’t worth the salary. If the Suns want to improve their mid-rotation talent at the expense of downgrading their 4th-best guy, they can convert Ayton’s $32 million salary into multiple returning players (i.e. two players making $16 million each) any time through the trade deadline in February.

So, for those reasons, I’m out on trading Ayton right now UNLESS someone wants to send back a clear upgrade for the roster right now.

But what team would want to acquire Ayton in a clear loss before the season even starts?

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