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Phoenix Suns

Updated Jan 9, 2017 - 12:43 pm

Seven Days of Suns Trade-mas: Trading Chandler, paving the way for Len

Phoenix Suns center Alex Len (21) is congratulated by center Tyson Chandler, left, after Len went to the bench at the end of the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Orlando Magic in Orlando, Fla., Friday, March 4, 2016. The Suns 102-84. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

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:

‌• The deal to blow it all up
‌• Reuniting P.J. Tucker and Jeff Hornacek

Suns receive

Festus Ezeli, Ed Davis, 2017 Cavaliers first-round pick

Trail Blazers receive

Tyson Chandler

***

It’s no surprise to see a new Phoenix Suns trade rumor popping up every week. The reasons for that reflects in this series.

The Suns have enough tradeable pieces that could fit on 80 percent of NBA teams. Instead, those pieces are currently stuck on a bad team without an identity.

One of those pieces is Tyson Chandler, the veteran center who, according to head coach Earl Watson, drew trade interest in the past. The Trail Blazers are reportedly interested in the big man for his defensive abilities, and it’s not difficult to see why teams would want Chandler.

Chandler has had a great bounce-back year as he’s clearly benefitted from a healthy season and retained as much of his explosiveness as he could at the age of 34.

That’s been the most evident in his rebounding, where Chandler has the third-best rebounding percentage among players averaging at least 20 minutes per game this season.

The value of Chandler, however, is offensively, where over time the veteran has proven his tremendous sense of what to do in the 2-3 seconds following setting a screen in the pick-and-roll. He’s on pace for nearly a career-high by shooting 67.5 percent from the floor to this point.

The struggle this season has been the Suns’ lack of any offensive flow, and that’s where Chandler has arguably been hurt the most — more than any other player on the team.

With that in mind, his advanced stats still support a good season. The team’s offensive rating when Chandler is off the floor is 99.6, six points lower than his mark of 105.9. With Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum at the helm in Portland, Chandler could see his numbers skyrocket to, say, the 110 offensive rating in his years with the New York Knicks.

Where Portland will have to trust Chandler is their own defense, because as Chandler has shown in his past two seasons, he is not an elite enough defensive player to make up for all the mistakes happening in front of him. His past two defensive ratings of 107.8 and 107.7 mirror the Trail Blazers’ 109.8 defensive rating this season, the second-worst mark in the league. Does Portland expect Chandler’s presence to make a significant difference if other mistakes are still happening around the floor?

On the Suns’ end of this deal, Ezeli has shown his potential and ability with the Golden State Warriors, but the 27-year-old cannot stay healthy and in this theoretical trade, is essentially dead money. The second year of his deal in 2017-18, which pays $7.7 million, is only partially guaranteed $1 million, meaning the Suns wouldn’t take much of a hit for his salary. They would, however, get space back that would have been lost due to Chandler’s commitment that goes through 2018-19 and pays out $13 million next year and $13.6 million the final year.

Davis is an average backup big man, capable of protecting the rim and rebounding in small bursts, making him an ideal backup to Alex Len as the Suns make him the priority down low for the present and future while also making it easier to play rookies Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss limited minutes at center. Like Ezeli, Davis does not hold much weight on salary cap space in the second year of a three-year, $20 million extension.

Phoenix retains some of its long-term flexibility while picking up a late first-round pick and not leaving the center department barren. It’s not in the upper echelon of value the Suns could get for Chandler, and the Suns would have to consider how important it is to them to deal Chandler now. There’s also the question of if Chandler wants to leave because judging by Watson’s comments in November, it was Chandler’s choice to stay or go.

The big man lands on the most fascinating part of the spectrum for the Suns of the possible players they’d trade before the deadline. His veteran presence is important to the team, he’s playing good basketball and there’s no reason why he couldn’t come off the bench for Len in the future anyway. Chandler, however, is also the best fit on the roster in terms of the impact he could make on playoff teams and being affordable enough for those teams to be able to acquire him, making his potential return tough to turn down for the Suns if the right situation presents itself.

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