Suns trade notebook: Coveting star or assets, McDonough not pressed to deal

Feb 15, 2017, 5:25 PM | Updated: Feb 16, 2017, 7:18 am
Sacramento Kings forward DeMarcus Cousins, left, and Phoenix Suns guard Brandon Knight go for the b...

Sacramento Kings forward DeMarcus Cousins, left, and Phoenix Suns guard Brandon Knight go for the ball during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Feb. 3, 2017, in Sacramento, Calif. The Suns won 105-103. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
LISTEN: Ryan McDonough, Suns' General Manager

There’s been little scuttlebutt of late after Sacramento Kings general manager Vlade Divac hushed rumors of the Suns’ interest in acquiring big man DeMarcus Cousins, but here comes the NBA trade deadline. As reports become more frequent, we want to keep up with what might be an active trade deadline for the Phoenix Suns. Here, we’ll recap the past week or so of news with a little analysis while also riffing off comments from those with the Suns and around the NBA who speak on such matters.

SEARCHING FOR STARS

Unless Carmelo Anthony is still considered a star player, Cousins remains the only star whose name has even been mentioned in NBA trade rumors so far.

HoopsHype’s Alex Kennedy reported in his own trade notebook this week that one NBA general manager expressed surprise Phoenix hasn’t been mentioned more in trade rumors, and that the Suns are actively looking to acquire a star or continue acquiring more young pieces.

Regarding the rumor mill, it’s important to point out that McDonough’s Suns have been successful keeping their dealings quiet until trades are nearly complete.

Regarding their desire for a star, well, sources don’t need to tell us that. McDonough hasn’t been shy about his aggressive approach and wasn’t when asked about it Wednesday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM’s Burns and Gambo show.

“We’ll obviously always inquire about star players,” McDonough said, adding he believes the Suns’ assets would make them one of the first teams others would call if they want to deal a star. “We proactively call others ourselves.”

IF NOT A STAR …

Outside of acquiring a star, which at this point would come as a surprise, McDonough said the Suns being below the cap floor makes them able to absorb bigger contracts to trade for more assets.

“We’re also able to take on contracts, particularly expiring contracts, if it’s incentivized or if there’s a young player or pick attached to it that we think will help us going forward,” he said.

But unlike last year with Markieff Morris wanting out of Phoenix, the Suns don’t feel the need to force a deal, the general manager said.

That might indicate Phoenix isn’t desperate to trade backup guard Brandon Knight. At least, the team isn’t putting that out there for teams to short-change the Suns with offers.

As for the likelihood of trading Knight, McDonough, speaking more generally about the big picture of the NBA, might have hope it could still get done thanks to the rising cap. Knight is owed from $13.6 million to $15.6 million per season over the next three years.

“Teams are less worried about preserving cap space or hoarding cap space. It’s less of a concern than it used to be,” McDonough said. “Now pretty much everybody or virtually every team has cap space so that’s less important and teams are more willing, I think, to take on long-term salaries if they think the deals will help them in the short-term.”

TO TRADE OR NOT TO TRADE BLEDSOE

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst says it would make sense for the Suns to test the market by dangling a red-hot Eric Bledsoe to see what he would draw in a deal.

Windhorst’s colleague, former Suns front office member Amin Elhassan, isn’t in agreement. At least, he doesn’t think Phoenix should consider trading Bledsoe until the offseason.

“I’m all about succession plans,” Elhassan said Tuesday on the Burns and Gambo show. “I don’t want to make a move and not have the next move planned out. To move him now and not know where you’re going to pick, who’s going to be available, all those things — you’re basically left without a point guard if you do that, at least potentially. Or not a point guard that you really like or what have you. For me, I’d hold onto him.

“You wait until draft day or July and maybe you revisit that when you know, OK, we drafted a Markelle Fultz or we signed a Kyle Lowry. To trade him now and just say, oh, I’ll just wing it with Brandon Knight and Tyler Ulis until something else better comes along, I don’t like that uncertainty.”

McDonough might not actively dangle Bledsoe on the market.

“He’s really come a long way,” McDonough said. “Look, I think he’s just starting to enter his prime at 27 years old.”

The Suns will “more likely look at add players to help him and Devin (Booker) and help our young core grow,” the GM added.

McDonough will never say never. If Bledsoe is needed to acquire a star player or multiple enticing assets are offered to the Suns, they will have to listen.

WHAT CAN THEY GET FOR TUCK?

It’s easy to see why P.J. Tucker is the most likely Sun to be traded.

He’s on an expiring, light contract at that. He’s an energizing bench player who can defend scoring forwards.

Elhassan agrees he’s the most tradeable player, but he’s not sure the Suns will end up getting a first-round pick like McDonough wants. Phoenix might have to settle for a second-rounder McDonough said he doesn’t want.

“Well here’s the problem. Everyone says the Suns’ asking price for him is ridiculous,” Elhassan said. “Teams hang up the phone laughing because you’re not going to get that kind of a return for a guy that old for a contract that’s going to expire. A good second-round pick I would (take). He’s going to be a free agent. So you either get something or you get nothing.”

NICE SIDESTEP

During Arizona Sports 98.7 FM’s Newsmakers Week on the Doug and Wolf show, Wolf tried to ask Suns coach Earl Watson if he’d hypothetically be up for coaching a player who sounds pretty similar to Cousins.

A lightly-edited transcript:

Wolf: “Let me give you a hypothetical. There’s a guy, there’s a guy out there and maybe he’s not on your team right now. He’s really, really good. But he’s kind of got a behavioral issue. Do you want that guy? Do you actually want a crack at bringing something like that into your organization right now? Do you think you could actually make an impact on a guy that’s out there who’s really, really good, who might have issues? Let’s put it that way.”

Watson: “I have a preschool in Kansas City Kansas. I swear. This is true, this is true, this is true. The principal texts me and says we need shirts for school. I went to our merchandise store at the arena that sold Suns jerseys and I bought everyone there Suns jerseys. So they’re wearing Booker, Bledsoe, Tucker, Warren — that’s their clothing for work. Sent them like 30 jerseys.

“It doesn’t matter to me, you’re put in people’s lives for many difference reasons, and I feel like if you feel like it’s a challenge or you feel like you can reach someone, why not try to reach them? Never be intimidated, you never know what can happen.

“When you get to that point, you feel like you can reach people, you have to understand the most difficult challenge has the greatest reward.”

So, there’s that.

Penguin Air

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