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Pau Gasol or not, Phoenix Suns GM knows Emeka Okafor’s contract is an intriguing asset

LISTEN: Ryan McDonough-Suns general manager

Part of the reason the Phoenix Suns were thought to be after Los Angeles Laker Pau Gasol is because unlike many other teams, they could in theory make a deal without losing anything from their team.

Such is the beauty of having Emeka Okafor and his $14.5 million contract just wasting away.

Acquired as part of the trade that sent Marcin Gortat to the Washington Wizards, Okafor has yet to play a single minute for the Suns due to a herniated disk. Phoenix knew of the issue when the deal was made, because even if the 31-year-old big man is unable to help the team on the court, his contract can be real helpful off it.

After all, expiring deals of that size can help a team land a high-salary star in a trade.

But with the deal set to expire after this season and the Feb. 20 trade deadline nearing, the Suns may feel some pressure to swing a deal — any deal — rather than just let a prime asset waste away before it disappears.

Asked about that by the Burns and Gambo Show on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Wednesday, Suns GM Ryan McDonough said that’s not exactly the case.

“Certainly there’s a lot of interest in Emeka’s contract,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that it doesn’t look like he’s going to be able to come back and play for us this year. That would have been a good scenario as well, if we had a guy who could rebound and block shots and anchor our defense like Emeka can, especially a high-character guy like him, he would have helped us.”

For his career, the former No. 2 overall pick is averaging 12.3 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. Last season with the Wizards, he averaged 9.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in 79 games.

But there was never any guarantee that he would recover in time to play this season, and now it appears it’s all but assumed he will not.

“If he’s unable to play then the contract is attractive because it is expiring and because there’s also some insurance money returned to whatever team has it, at that point that’s us, but I think there will be interest there,” McDonough added. “Especially from teams trying to look to dump salary going forward.

“But we’re not going to trade him just to trade him for the sake of it. It would have to be a deal that makes sense for us both in the short and long term.”