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Report: Suns ‘expressed interest’ in Knicks rookie Mindaugas Kuzminskas

New York Knicks forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas (91) breaks away and dunks in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Todd Kirkland)

Should the Phoenix Suns continue the slow course of developing a core led by Devin Booker and Eric Bledsoe, there’s no doubt general manager Ryan McDonough will also continue searching for buy-low assets to add to his arsenal.

Such a piece could be one Mindaugas Kuzminskas, the 27-year-old rookie with the New York Knicks who, according to Basketball Insiders’ Michael Scotto, has drawn interest from Phoenix.

Why would Phoenix possibly want such a role player?

One guess is that the Suns could be looking at a future without veteran forwards P.J. Tucker and Jared Dudley, the former of whom is on an expiring deal. Adding solid depth behind rookie big men Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender will be necessary if one or both of Tucker and Dudley leave via trade or free agency.

Kuzminskas is on a contract that runs through next season and pays him $3 million during that span. That’s a valuable asset moving forward simply as a salary, and the Suns remain just below the salary cap floor as it stands.

The forward is averaging 6.0 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.0 assists in 47 games for New York this year. From our Suns Trade-mas piece examining a trade for Kuzminskas in January:

Kuzminskas is a 27-year-old Lithuanian rookie who can hit the three-pointer (Editor’s note: He was shooting 40 percent at the time but that has dipped to 31 percent), moves well off the ball but doesn’t and shouldn’t demand having the ball in his hands. He’s a decent passer, has length at 6-foot-8 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan, but struggles on the defensive end due to his lack of athleticism.

What would Phoenix need to give up to acquire Kuzminskas?

Tucker could be dealt for Kuzminskas and one smaller salary heading Phoenix’s way, as we examined in our Suns Trade-mas series in January, but Tucker being included seems not likely with the Knicks having little need for an expiring veteran now — unless they want to gun for the eighth seed despite being four games and four spots back.

A straight swap of Kuzminskas for Suns veteran Leandro Barbosa would also work financially, though the same problem on New York’s end applies to Barbosa as it does Tucker.

Likely, a second-round pick would need to be headed to the Knicks — or a third team would need to be involved.

In any case, a rebuilding Suns team trading for a player like Kuzminskas might draw pause — in not underwhelming reaction — but there’s little reason why Phoenix should not give up a little bit for a smart, capable role player who won’t break the bank and, if everything goes well, could perhaps grow into a productive player with more NBA experience.

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