It has been an interesting few weeks to start the New Year for the Phoenix Suns, along with their fan base, leading up to the February 8 trade deadline in the NBA. The peaks and the valleys, the highs and the lows. Beating the Orlando Magic in the Miami Heat...yay! Losing to the Portland Trail Blazers and blasted by the Los Angeles Clippers...boo!
Like every team in the NBA, the Suns have holes in their team. The challenge that they face is they do not have many outs to fill those holes from a roster construction standpoint. That conundrum alone leaves us wondering what moves, if any, Phoenix will make prior to the trade deadline.
It’s been rumored that the Suns are seeking an athletic wing to bolster their roster, but when you begin to delve into what they can offer to opposing teams, it is a short list. Outside of trading one of the Big Three — and Bradley Beal has the ‘ole “no trade clause” attached to his contract — the Suns aren’t packed full of assets that other franchises are salivating over.
The team's most viable and tradable contracts were all obtained in the Deandre Ayton trade.
Good job, James Jones. Mission accomplished on this front. You took the $102.1 million DA was owed over the next three seasons and turned it into roster flexibility. And surprising production. I tip my hat to you.
Every other contract outside of the Ayton remnants is either a maximum or veteran minimum contract.
You go further down the asset rabbit hole and, knowing that Phoenix has very few picks to sweeten the pot of any deal, it gets tougher to see how the Suns could obtain anybody of value via trade.
Jusuf Nurkic has been playing well for Phoenix, averaging 12.2 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 3.5 assists in 39 games played. The fit that he provides with the team isn’t something you’d want to sacrifice to get an athletic wing. Do you have visions of Drew Eubanks starting for Phoenix? I sure don’t.
Conversely, Nassir Little hasn’t provided enough value for Phoenix in his short time with the team. He’s played in 25 games, starting 2, and is averaging 4.9 points and 2.4 rebounds in 14.7 minutes. He’s shooting 31.4% from three-point range. Extrapolated out to his per 36, that’s good for 12 points and 5.9 rebounds. Meh.
While he’s flashed his athletic ability, he most likely isn’t enough to garner the attention of any other team.
The other challenge with Little is he is on the first year of a four-year $28 million contract. What does that mean? It means that if anybody is looking to dump salary, they’re not going to do it by obtaining Little. They would gain back his salary and he doesn’t become an unrestricted free age until 2027. So unless James Jones has some wizardry up underneath his hat, Little remains on the team.
Which brings us to Grayson Allen.
Leading the league in three-point shooting and having a career year in pretty much every statistical category, Allen is the Suns' most appealing asset. He makes $8.5 million and is an unrestricted free agent next season.
This means he is appealing to nearly every team in the NBA.
The first would be the one seeking a salary dump. Let’s say, simply for argument's sake, you are the Chicago Bulls. You have a decision before you as Patrick Williams is scheduled to be a restricted free agent next season. His qualifying offer? $12.9 million. Like you’re doing every season, you’re underperforming as your team is in the middle, currently slotted as the ninth seed of the Easter Conference. So what do you do?
If you want to move off of the Patrick Williams decision, you pick up the phone and call James Jones. You add Grayson Allen via trade, knowing that you don’t have to pay him next year, and you take on Jordan Goodwin’s contract to make the deal work.
I know that this is hypothetical, seeing as the Bulls would never take Grayson considering what he did to Alex Caruso last season, but in this example, you can see why it is viable for an underperforming team to try to move off of somebody, some money, or a decision, by taking on Allen’s contract.
The second type of team that would be interested in Allen is a contender who could use some three-point shooting. Orlando is the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, sitting at 22 -20 this season. They are second to last in the league and three-point shooting, however, and need to do something to bolster that. They could put together some sort of deal that involves Mo Wagner and some picks to gain that shooting from Phoenix
My point? Grayson Allen is highly desirable.
My next point? The Suns should not even entertain trading him.
Allen has proven to be the ideal fifth starter for Phoenix. It was a question that we asked ad nauseam this past off-season: Who would be the fifth starter for the Phoenix Suns? We knew that Devin Booker, Bradley, Beal, and Kevin Durant were going to be three of the starting five, and following the transaction that sent Deandre Ayton to Portland, it was Jusuf Nurkic who would be the fourth starter.
We never entertained the thought that GA would be the fifth. Josh Okogie? Keita Bates-Diop? Yuta Watanabe? We all had our thoughts and ideas, but Allen never crossed our minds.
He has been the perfect player on both ends of the floor in the fifth spot. Think back to last season, when Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton joined Devin Booker and Kevin Durant in the starting lineup. The fifth starter was Josh Okogie and we would pray that he could hit a corner three-pointer because it would open up the Suns offense. But he couldn’t.
Now you have a guy who can. And not only can he, he’s doing so with the best clip in the league.
I don’t care what offers are being thrown Phoenix’s way or what “athletic wings” we could potentially get. Grayson Allen has earned the right to stay in Phoenix, and he stated so himself.
“My name has been in someone’s tweet every year since I’ve been in the league, so I hardly pay any attention to it. Usually, it brings a smile to my face because it’s funny. I’ve loved playing here this season, I’ve loved playing with this team,” Allen said earlier this week.
“I don’t want to be traded,” he added.
Sure, he may walk this upcoming off-season. The Suns own his Bird rights, however, which means they can offer him more than anybody else. That’s a risk you simply must take.
I’ve thrown my hypothetical Grayson Allen trades out there in the Twitter-verse. It’s fun playing with the trade machine this time of year. It’s fun playing GM, stacking contracts, and seeing what you can get back.
Granted, I’ve never attempted to justify the trades. I just like throwing them out there and seeing the reaction. Yes, part of me is a Twitter troll. I admit it and I apologize. I’ll try to be better from now on. Do I need to say a couple of Hail Mary’s or something?
But you can’t let go of Grayson Allen. And that isn’t just the fact that the Suns are on a four-game streak talking.
He’s been doing it all season. He’s been the one constant on this team that you know you can rely on. He shooting the ball fantastically from beyond the arc but he is also attacking the cylinder with his surprising athleticism. He’s consistently playing quality defense. It’s not above-average defense, but he’s not a liability either. That’s valuable in the modern NBA. You need someone who is both capable and confident. Alen has been that and more on both ends of the floor.
So you hold onto them tight. You make like a Third Eye Blind 2000 release and never let them go. You focus on winning this season, not seasons to come.