EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

NBA trade deadline primer: What are the Suns working with?

Feb 4, 2019, 12:38 PM | Updated: Feb 5, 2019, 2:19 pm
(Matt Layman/Arizona Sports)...
(Matt Layman/Arizona Sports)
(Matt Layman/Arizona Sports)

In his brief half-season as the Phoenix Suns co-interim GM, James Jones has pushed patience and internal development.

Assuming that interim tag comes off, Jones has a summer of opportunity ahead with the team likely to earn a top-five pick and the ability to free up enough cap space to make significant improvements by targeting high caliber players in a large free agent class.

But opportunity could knock at the trade deadline as several star players sit on the trade block. Anthony Davis of the Pelicans and the Grizzlies’ Mike Conley and Marc Gasol could be moved. Directly related to those deals or not, trades could pop up for Phoenix considering the franchise’s need to make a splash — and soon.

To prepare for any involvement in the NBA trade deadline at 1 p.m. Thursday, let’s take a quick glance at the Suns’ roster at present, including rundowns of their assets and potential targets.

Roster at a glance

– 14 roster players; two on two-way contracts

– One open roster spot; two if Phoenix does not sign F Emanuel Terry, currently on a 10-day deal, to a second contract before the deadline

Depth chart

PG: De’Anthony Melton, Elie Okobo, Jawun Evans (two-way)

SG: Devin Booker, Jamal Crawford, Troy Daniels

SF: Mikal Bridges, Josh Jackson, George King (two-way)

PF: T.J. Warren, Kelly Oubre Jr., Dragan Bender, Emanuel Terry (10-day), Ryan Anderson

C: Deandre Ayton, Richaun Holmes

Valuable assets the Suns could trade

One of the wing forwards

Mikal Bridges, Josh Jackson and T.J. Warren all could be the young player combined with a draft pick or more in any relatively big Suns trade, say, to acquire a point guard. Kelly Oubre Jr. also has value (more on that below). They’re all listed here because, while valuable on this team, the Suns also have to make some decisions about how they fit together and if they can trade one to provide more roster balance.

They all have at least one good reason why they wouldn’t be traded:

– Bridges might be proving himself too complementary a piece alongside Booker and Ayton to deal.

– Jackson is still just scratching the surface, and it’s too soon to properly project his floor or ceiling. That could hinder the Suns’ decision-making or any team interested in acquiring him.

– Warren’s latest injury doesn’t help his stock in a year where his three-point shot (43 percent on 4.2 attempts per game) showed almost unprecedented improvement. He’s also on a deal that, while a reasonable price per year ($10.8 million to $12.7 million), runs through 2021-22.

– Oubre is a restricted free agent this summer and has value as an energy combo forward and decent-enough shooter, but because he was acquired from the Wizards in the Trevor Ariza trade earlier this season cannot be aggregated into a bigger trade. He must be dealt one for one, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

Troy Daniels: On an expiring deal at $3.3 million, Daniels could draw interest among playoff contenders as a pure shooter who creates gravity and can score in short stints off the bench. It’s doubtful he would bring back more than a second-round pick.

Richaun Holmes: He’s built up his value immensely while playing this year, but the Suns would need to 1) have decided they won’t have the money to re-sign him as Ayton’s backup this summer and 2) find a trade partner who is a playoff team needing a big man. Neither of those things seems likely.

Cash money

According to Marks, the Suns can send out as much as $4.2 million in a trade.

Upcoming draft picks

Under the reformed draft lottery system, Phoenix enters the week at 11-43 and tied with the Knicks and Cavaliers with a 52 percent chance to earn a top-four pick and 14 percent shot at first overall (a.k.a. Zion Williamson territory).

The Suns’ 2019 Bucks pick from the Eric Bledsoe trade is unlikely to hit this year with Milwaukee owning the best record in the NBA and the pick being 1-3 and 17-30 protected. It is likely to convey to the 2020 draft, when it is only 1-7 protected and again likely to be a low first-round choice.

Potential trade targets

It would seem unlikely the Suns make any moves other than acquiring more draft assets or adding a starting-caliber point guard. As we’ve covered of late, here are a few names to keep an eye on.

Lonzo Ball, Lakers (10 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds per game): Ball, 21, is very likely going to be involved in negotiations if the Lakers make a move for the Pelicans’ Davis. Whether that involves the instinctual youngster going to New Orleans or not remains to be seen, but he and the Suns have “mutual interest,” according to the Los Angeles Times’ Tania Ganguli. That keeps him in this conversation until the Davis trade happens — be it Thursday or this summer.

Jrue Holiday, Pelicans (21 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds per game): The 28-year-old veteran would bring immediate ball handling help to Phoenix and give Booker a defensive ace alongside him. The Suns, however, would have to be comfortable paying him from $26 million through 2020-21 with a player option of $27 million in 2021-22. New Orleans would need to be willing to break down its roster beyond Davis, and as of now it’s not certain they would want to part with Holiday.

Other notable guards potentially on the market or on expiring deals: Mike Conley (Grizzlies, trade block), Delon Wright (Raptors, expiring RFA), Avery Bradley (Clippers, expiring non-guaranteed), Patrick Beverley (Clippers, expiring), Kris Dunn (Bulls, trade block), Darren Collison (Pacers, expiring), Cory Joseph (Pacers, expiring)

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