The Phoenix Suns dealt Markieff Morris to the Washington Wizards just before the trade deadline. While the contracts of Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair are more important than their future contributions, a return of a top-9 protected first-round pick that will likely convey in 2016 was a win.
In this version of the Empire of the Suns roundtable, we all agree on that, but there are many possible outcomes and many questions moving forward.
1. Did the Suns get good value for Markieff Morris?
Kevin Zimmerman: They couldn’t have done much better. Best-case, I imagined general manager Ryan McDonough grabbing Morris for a late first-round pick and a youngish player who might be future piece. Instead, he snatched a back-end lottery pick in a draft that could have that Devin Booker type of talent at that spot — assuming the Wizards don’t tank, of course. Plus, there’s a little cap relief involved.
Kellan Olson: Absolutely. When the deal first broke with a draft pick, I assumed it was lottery protected. That’s not the case. The Boston Celtics taught us last year how valuable the back end of the lottery can be, when they made a late playoff push and ended up with R.J. Hunter instead of a name like Myles Turner or Devin Booker. The Suns also get instant cap space, with both players acquired having their deals not guaranteed for the 2016-17 season. Great work by McDonough.
Bryan Gibberman: Yes. When the report came out from “The Vertical,” that the Suns were looking for a first-round pick and a young player, that seemed like a set up to try and obtain one of those. That’s what McDonough was able to do, and I’d say the pick has the potential to be better than what I was expecting in return.
Jon Bloom: All things considered, yes. In this day and age, very little information stays hidden from the masses, and even less from trained eyes. Teams around the league saw what was going on here, and likely heard more than we did about the “Keef Beef.” This obviously damaged his value and limited his suitors, so the fact that they could potentially land a talent like Denzel Valentine from Michigan State at the end of the lottery as a result of this deal…bravo!
2. Do you agree with the Suns not trading P.J. Tucker and Mirza Teletovic?
Zimmerman: Throw Jon Leuer into this question as well. It is relatively inconsequential, quite honestly. Maybe Phoenix could have had a second-rounder for any of the three, but using such a pick to do anything more than move into the late first round seems unlikely. McDonough hasn’t been a fan of giving second-rounders much thought; he hasn’t bothered with Alex Oriakhi or Alec Brown, and traded Andrew Harrison for Leuer last year on draft night. This signals a ground-up rebuild isn’t in the Suns’ thinking.
Olson: This question is more about if you agree with the Suns train of thought. With Tucker and Teletovic sticking around, that appears to indicate that the Suns think they can be competitive again next season. That makes them worth keeping, even if Teletovic is expiring at the end of the season. In theory, the value of Teletovic possibly re-signing as opposed to just a second-round pick makes sense. At the end of the day, we’d have to know what McDonough was getting offered in order to fully answer the question.
Gibberman: To be determined. Do they re-sign Teletovic on a good contract this summer to fill out the bench? Is the team improved enough next year that it’s worth having a role player like Tucker around? I need to see how this offseason plays out before I decide whether this was the right move or not.
Bloom: Hard to say as I don’t know what kind of deals were out there to be made. I like both players and would be happy if they were back on the roster next season. They both can be versatile difference makers in their own way and are solid veterans to have alongside the young core in Phoenix.
3. As it stands, the Suns will have close to $30 million in cap space this summer. Who’s one name to keep an eye on in July?
Zimmerman: A star who is not on the free agent list but the trading block. The list of players worth spending big on in free agency is short. Kevin Durant, Andre Drummond and DeMar DeRozan seem unlikely options and Dwight Howard is a questionable one. After Al Horford, there’s nobody that appeals to me. Save the cash, develop the youngsters and remain patient.
Olson: June will be bigger than July because of this name: Ben Simmons. With Morris moving on and both Leuer and Teletovic expiring, the future of the power forward position for the Suns is hazy. The instant solution to this problem is winning the draft lottery and taking Simmons, who is the best talent in the draft and happens to be a hybrid 3/4. If the Suns don’t win the lottery, they are left with some very raw talents in spots 2-6 of the draft and would have to battle with almost every team in the NBA this July in free agency because of the cap significantly rising. The draft lottery on May 17 is going to be an extremely nerve-wracking time to be a Suns fan.
Gibberman: I’ll give two guys — Al Horford and Nicolas Batum would be my top two targets. Both have versatility to play multiple positions, are good defenders, above average passers, and have high basketball IQ. These are all areas the Suns desperately need to improve to compete for a playoff spot next season.
Bloom: I’ll stay consistent with the opinion I shared in the last round table and say New Orleans forward Ryan Anderson is a guy I’d love to see in Phoenix, but a lot depends on what goes down in the draft with the Suns poised to have three picks in the first round (their own, which would be top 5 if all stays the same, Washington’s if it’s #10 or higher, and Cleveland’s, which will likely fall in the late 20’s). McDonough and company should have some options with the combination of those picks along with their future first-rounders — and don’t sleep on the value of Bogdan Bogdanovic. He’s the impressive 23-year-old shooting guard who they took with the 27th pick in the 2014 draft and is currently starring for one of Europe’s best teams in Turkey.
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