Trade SZN has descended upon the NBA, and with just over two weeks until the deadline, the phone lines are starting to cook and the rumor mill is heating up. Teams across the Association are determining whether they are buyers or sellers, and with the Play-In Tournament looming, the group of sellers isn’t as high as you’d expect.
For the Phoenix Suns, they would love to be buyers. The team is 25-18, riding a six-game winning streak, and looking for ways to bolster their bench unit. Because it needs a-bolsterin’. Their bench unit, which is primarily filled with veteran minimum players, currently ranks near the bottom in most statistical categories.
They’re 28th in points (27.4), 24th in field goal percentage (44.2%), last in three-point percentage (28.3%...gross), 29th in assists (5.7), and 24th in plus/minus (-1.2). I guess the old adage of “you get what you pay for” rings true in the Valley.
In a recent live stream with Chris B. Haynes, Jusuf Nurkic spoke about getting certain players if they are available. Haynes spoke about the conversation on a recent episode of #thisleague UNCUT with Marc Stein.
“Nurkic came on,” Haynes began, “and I told Nurk, I said, ‘Yeah, I just reported about the Suns looking for an athletic forward. And they’re not in the market for a point guard.’ I told Nurk that. He started talking about he could see the need for that. But then he brought up Brogdon by himself. He said, ‘If there’s someone like Brogdon that’s available, I don’t know how you can’t go after him and try to get him.’”
“He brought up Brogdon out the blue,” he continued. “Wasn’t even asked about him, didn’t ask about him, didn’t say anything about him. I didn’t even mention a point guard.”
Whoa. Unprompted? Is there smoke where that fire is coming from?! Most likely not, but it goes to show you even players are analyzing themselves internally and forecasting team needs.
It would be nice if the Suns could go get someone like Malcolm Brogdon. He is kinda sorta exactly what the team needs. But his contract, which has 2 years for $45 million and $22.5 million per year is unattainable.
Welcome to the Trade Deadline 2024 for the Phoenix Suns.
Phoenix will certainly make a move of some sort — Mat Ishbia and James Jones have developed a history of doing so — but it might not be the move you want. Or think the Suns need. Yes, the team has needs. A backup point guard. A backup big. Someone who can provide scoring from the second team unit.
What should the Suns prioritize this trade deadline? Moving off of their most undesirable contract, that of Nassir Little.
I know, I know. You want something better than that. You want a need to be filled rather that a long-term strategy move. But any move the Suns make this deadline SZN will be on the fringes, which may help the team short-term. Long term, however, they are stuck with Little’s contract. And it’s not a desirable one, especially considering his production.
I wrote about it in a piece last week, and it bears repeating:
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.
If Jones can move off of Little, that is a big trade deadline win for Phoenix. He isn’t an impact player. He isn’t contributing. And you have him for three more seasons. It’s a hard contract to move, and when you begin to explore the mechanics, the Suns may have to add a second-round pick or two in order to make him enticing enough to an opposing team.
The best-case scenario is you get someone in return who contributes. The most likely scenario is Phoenix adds an expiring contract.
I’m sure we’d all love to add Charlotte Hornets’ big Nick Richards (although John Gambadoro says the Suns aren’t interested).
Definitely NO on Richards. Bridges would be great but very hard to do and you wouldn't be able to sign as an UFA and you don't get his Bird rights if you trade for him - but I'm pretty sure the Suns would just rent him if that possibility arose, I just believe chances are slim. https://t.co/NGigVwnWnR— John Gambadoro (@Gambo987) January 23, 2024
He meets a roster need right now. For the future, however, getting out of the Little contract — which isn’t little — is the move James Jones should be exploring.