Welcome to the seven days of Suns’ Trade-mas. With the Suns near the bottom of the Western Conference and a roster brewing with trade potential and questionable fits, Empire of the Suns brings you a trade scenario every day for a new year of Suns basketball.
First, our prior ideas:
F Omri Casspi (expiring), G Malachi Richardson, G Tim Quarterman, 2017 lottery protected first-round pick from Portland (if Portland is in the lottery, the Suns would receive the Cleveland pick Portland recently acquired)
G Evan Turner, G Brandon Knight
Trail Blazers receive
C Enes Kanter
F Rudy Gay, C Kosta Koufos
Now we’re having some fun!
The base of this deal is a swap involving Knight and Gay, but Phoenix should (and reportedly do) not want any part of Gay, so another team — playoff teams are interested in Gay for his offense — has to take him on.
Enter Oklahoma City, desperate for any offense provided from the wing. Aside from Russell Westbrook and Victor Oladipo, the next leading scorer on the perimeter is defensive specialist Andre Roberson at 6.9 points per game.
Rumors have been swirling involving the Thunder and Gay, and it makes sense. The 30-year-old Gay has averaged at least 17 points per game since 2008, his second season in the NBA. He has a player option this summer he said he plans to decline and is not happy in Sacramento, making him an ideal rental for a team like Oklahoma City.
With any trade after the 2016 free agency boom, matching salaries becomes quite the ordeal.
Portland gets involved, acquiring Kanter, who inevitably has to be moved from Oklahoma City because of over $71 million it has tied to Westbrook, Oladipo and Steven Adams for the 2017-18 season after recently agreeing to extensions with all three.
The Trail Blazers get their man they signed to an offer sheet last summer. Kanter is a valuable interior player. Forty-eight percent of his total rebounds come contested, the fourth-highest mark in the NBA among players who average at least five rebounds a game. He scores 1.03 points per possession from the post, the best number among big men averaging at least three post possessions per game.
Kanter is an improvement for Portland with what he does well. He shoots over 65 percent within five feet of the rim, where current backup big men Ed Davis, Noah Vonleh and Meyers Leonard shoot an average of under 55 percent. Kanter’s rebounding percentage is 17.7, a mark the aforementioned three bigs can’t beat.
The underrated Koufos gives the Thunder a solidified presence at center on both ends for 48 minutes without fear of Kanter being exposed defensively in the playoffs again. In two of his last three seasons, Koufos has finished among the top-15 centers for defensive real plus-minus.
In an added bonus, Portland gets rid of a long-term commitment to Turner, who has one of the worst total plus-minus numbers in the league. Kanter supplements the offensive loss off the bench in the post, a far more ideal place than the perimeter, where Turner was a clumsy fit alongside Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum and Allen Crabbe.
Turner is very good in the right role as Brad Stevens showed in Boston, where his net rating was 1.2 and he shot 46 percent from the field last season. Maybe that role is in Sacramento in a backcourt with Knight.
Now to the Suns, where Knight gets his wish running the point for his own team and forms — I can’t believe I’m saying this — a somewhat enticing duo of creative offensive players with Turner. With his play in Phoenix, it’s easy to forget Knight is only 25 years old, on a fine contract and two years ago around this time was receiving All-Star consideration for his play in Milwaukee.
Combine two revitalized players with DeMarcus Cousins, and if all goes well, the Kings go from No. 8 seed miracle to legitimate playoff hopeful. If not, well, you know, the Kings are the Kings and they would at least heavily consider a deal like this.
For the Suns, it’s one of the best-case scenarios for unloading Knight and getting some actual value in a deal besides creating cap space. Richardson, a 20-year-old rookie out of Syracuse, has to become a better decision-maker with his shooting, but his legitimate size and athleticism on the perimeter with shot creation skills don’t come along too often. Together, that all makes Richardson worthy of a late first-round selection and the right fit for the NAZ Suns this year.
Quarterman, a 22-year-old out of LSU, gives the Suns a realistic NAZ Suns option who could fit on the roster. The combo guard’s defensive potential has a high ceiling and has proven himself to be a good distributor. While he continues to grow as a defender and explore his offensive game in the D-League, Quarterman could become a rotation player over time, a good deal for the two years left on his contract.