Phoenix Suns offseason outlook, Part 2: New CBA challenges could lead to quick action around the NBA Draft

Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

The Phoenix Suns are looking for a new coach and might even be looking to replace other positions on the front office staff, but as of today it’s the brain trust of James Jones, Trevor Bukstein, Morgan Cato and Ryan Resch who will try to fill out a deeper contending roster for next year than the one that just meekly slunk out of the playoffs.

The Suns who entered the playoffs this year had two stars, two pretty good starters and 11 so-so guys who can’t be expected to produce regularly. They were either good at offense but terrible at defense, good at defense but terrible at offense, or good at neither but a pretty good locker room personality.

And the Suns still might have gone further in the playoffs if their two pretty good starters hadn’t underperformed and before getting hurt.

Now the offseason approaches and the Suns have very little spending power in free agency, so they’ll have to look into the trade market to formulate a roster that’s more reliable around Devin Booker and Kevin Durant.

And maybe that trade market could come sooner than later.

Suns salary cap

First, let’s take a look at where they stand. A few things to note:

Kevin Durant, Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker are under contract for 3+ more years, and will take up 90% of the salary cap ($121m of $134m) all by themselves in 2023-24. The Suns could clear the decks beyond these three before July 1, but would still be officially over the salary cap thanks to ‘roster holds’ and limited to cap exceptions to fill out the other 9+ positions on the roster. More on that below.

That brings us to...

Chris Paul is under contract for another $30.8 million in 2023-24.

Here’s all the details. The ORANGE column is the ‘run it back’ option while the PURPLE column is the ‘strip it down for a sliver of cap space’ option.

Option 1: Keep em all

The Suns have 8 players under some sort of team-controlled contracts for next season, either full guarantee, partial guarantee, team option or restricted free agent. They include four guys that are very interesting trade pieces.

The Suns could keep all those guys and choose to fill out the rest of the roster in free agency and trade season. Unfortunately, that puts the Suns over the new second tax apron once you include the not-depicted ‘roster holds’ required to put the Suns at 12 players minimum.

The players and owners recently agreed to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that has extra penalties for overspending on salaries, and the Suns are one of a handful of teams in that category.

Keeping all eight players would place these first AND second tax apron restrictions on the Suns as of July 1:

So, in keeping all eight players the Suns are strapped on spending power while also having no tradable first round picks for Durant. What’s left, you ask?

That’s it. Keeping all eight players makes it a much tighter summer on spending but not impossible.

Option 2: Strip it down

Alternately, the Suns could simply jettison everyone not named KD, Book or Ayton.

They could use the waive/stretch options on Paul, Shamet and Payne before end of June to convert their $47.65 million in contracts for 2023-24 to a mere $5.29 million cap hit. Those waive/stretch releases, along with waiving Ish Wainright’s non guaranteed contract and Darius Bazley’s restricted free agent cap hold would... not do as much for their spending power as you’d hope.

Yet once you factor in the CBA-required cap holds for minimum number of players on the roster (in this case, 9), the Suns are still over the cap while having just three players under contract.

In this case, though, they are under the luxury tax level and would have a few more spending options, including:

Sounds like a lot of options, but again that’s starting with only three players under contract, and the only one of the three you’d even consider trading is Deandre Ayton.

Option 3: Do your biggest business before July 1!

Get your popcorn ready, folks.

The new CBA with the tighter restrictions on spendy teams like the Suns and more than a handful of other teams does not go into effect until July 1.

There’s still almost six weeks and an NBA Draft between now and then. You already know James Jones like to make draft day deals. I’d expect even more deals across the NBA than usual this year, considering those spending limits being applied on July 1.

For the next 5+ weeks, the Suns can still take back up to 25% more salary in trade than they send out and use whatever’s left of their $5 million allowable cash to include in trades.

These players can be traded before end of June using their 2022-23 contract values:

Bottom line: the Suns should be looking to make trades around the 2023 Draft, even if it doesn’t net them their own first round pick in the deal.

For example, Flex from Jersey tweets he’s heard the Blazers want Ayton and are willing to deal their 3rd overall pick. No way the Blazers send the Suns the 3rd pick just for Ayton, and there’s all kinds of salary matching needed anyway. And, I seriously doubt a Suns team that wants to win the 2024 championship would hitch their wagon to a 19 year old kid. Could be a three-team trade where the Suns trade Ayton to the Blazers, take back really good player(s) worth up to 25% more than his $30 million and another team gets the crappy salary dumps along with the 3rd overall pick.

I totally expect the Suns to look hard at trading Ayton, Shamet, Payne and even Paul during the 2023 Draft.

Read more
Back to top ↑