Seven Days of Suns Trade-mas: Reuniting P.J. Tucker and Jeff Hornacek
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 weekday for a new year of Suns basketball.
First, our prior ideas:
Mindaugas Kuzminskas, Sasha Vujacic and a 2017 second-round pick (Chicago)
That doesn’t exactly blow you away, does it?
Unless you think the Knicks would give up a somewhat promising 22-year-old center like Willy Hernangomez for a one-year go with Tucker, or you think the Suns would want to include Alan Williams in this trade to get a minor upgrade at the third center spot and acquire Kyle O’Quinn as well, there’s not much else to work with between these two teams.
Essentially, the Suns are taking back salaries and getting a second-round pick in a deep draft while dealing Tucker’s $5.3 million expiring contract.
Kuzminskas is a 27-year-old Lithuanian rookie who can hit the three-pointer (40 percent on the year), 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. Of Knicks who average double-digit minutes, he’s got the best plus-minus on the team.
For Phoenix, Kuzminskas would be under contract through next season and is on a reasonable $3 million deal. He’s a youngish role player who the Suns could re-sign and perhaps use as a future trade asset.
Vujacic, as Suns fans who watched him as a Lakers guard know, is a shooter and little more. Like Kuzminskas, playing time hasn’t been there for Phil Jackson’s (and Goran Dragic’s least) favorite Slovenian, who has played in 21 games at 8.5 minutes per outing. Vujacic has shot a miserable 31 percent and 24 percent from three this year, and would seemingly be a candidate to be waived immediately.
There’s one small twist here. Vujacic would actually require consent to be traded — by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, him being traded during his one-year deal would void his Early Bird Rights. Without getting into much detail, this might not be a big deal if Vujacic doesn’t see himself re-signing in New York this coming summer anyhow.
All-in-all, it’s hard to imagine the Suns acquiring a promising youngster for Tucker, who can leave as an unrestricted free agent this coming offseason.
And when it concerns the Knicks, well, it’s hard to imagine the Suns wanting anyone New York would give up. Point guard Brandon Jennings’ one-year contract is close enough to Tucker for a straight swap, but he is the only other point guard on the Knicks’ roster after Derrick Rose. And the Suns have guards.
It’s even hard to see the Knicks parting with one of Hernangomez, Ron Baker or Maurice Ndour, intriguing younger prospects in their own ways.
The point here is that Phoenix could get a second-round pick for Tucker. With the Knicks’ second-rounder in 2017 being acquired first from the Bulls and sitting 46th overall as of now, there are intriguing enough prospects on the board in a deep draft.
If it’s not a draft-and-stash prospect, there are solid options on the board. Villanova senior Josh Hart, Florida State sophomore Dwayne Bacon, Utah junior Kyle Kuzma, North Carolina junior Justin Jackson, Wisconsin senior Nigel Hayes and Oregon junior Dillon Brooks are just a few high-profile NCAA players who could fall to middle of the second round if they enter the draft.
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