Report: Suns pursued Magic F Aaron Gordon at trade deadline

Mar 6, 2020, 12:11 PM | Updated: Mar 9, 2020, 8:51 pm

Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon (00) reacts after being called for a foul on Atlanta Hawks cente...

Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon (00) reacts after being called for a foul on Atlanta Hawks center Damian Jones, left, during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, in Atlanta. Orlando won 130-120. (AP Photo/John Amis)

(AP Photo/John Amis)

The 2020 NBA trade deadline marked the first time since 2014 that the Phoenix Suns front office didn’t make a deal.

Not that they didn’t try.

According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the Suns targeted Orlando Magic power forward Aaron Gordon as the clock ticked to zero on Feb. 6.

The Suns also made a late push for Orlando’s Aaron Gordon, sources said. Gordon, who along with Derrick Jones Jr., put on a show at the NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Contest, has had a strong second half of the season. He is expected to be pursued in the offseason by multiple teams.

Such a move poses layers of curiosity.

First, let’s talk about Gordon. The Arizona Wildcats product and No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 draft has developed into a versatile NBA power forward, and he’s an obvious target with the Suns lacking a true starting-caliber power forward.

This year, Gordon is averaging 14.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. Throughout his career, he has been an inefficient but necessary scorer for a Magic team lacking natural No. 1 offensive options.

At 6-foot-8 and 220 pounds, he profiles more as a high-level defender and complementary offensive player who is just good enough as a shooter (31% from three this year) to get by.

He’s also an underrated playmaker and ball handler who would fit in Suns coach Monty Williams’ 0.5 offense. Gordon would give the Suns an athletic, switchable defender to complement the current core of Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, Ricky Rubio and Kelly Oubre.

Gordon is under contract two years beyond 2019-20 and has a descending contract of $18.1 million next season and $16.4 million in 2021-22.

How would the Suns acquire him?

He is making $19.9 million this year and any trade would have required a similar salary to be exchanged — likely with high draft picks included.

At the time of the deadline, Tyler Johnson was on the Suns roster and his salary would have helped to push a deal through. But how many picks would Phoenix need to give up? And would Orlando want to make any deal without getting a ready-to-go player in exchange considering it is in the Eastern Conference playoff race? Probably not.

Trading away Bridges or Oubre would have enticed the Magic to take a deal, but that feels more like a move former GM Ryan McDonough would make. Current GM James Jones, who has valued team chemistry and culture-building over on-paper improvements, might be hesitant to give up Bridges, the team’s best perimeter defender, or Oubre, the Suns’ energy driver.

Here’s another question: Did the pursuit of Gordon take Phoenix out of a reported trade possibility that involved the Detroit Pistons and guard Luke Kennard?

The Suns and Pistons reportedly were moving on a deal for Phoenix to acquire Kennard for a first-round pick. That was sunk by disagreements over protections on the pick, reported Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Those talks could resume later on — after Phoenix knows its lottery position if it doesn’t make the playoffs. But now it’s a wonder if the Suns were worried that using a potential lottery pick to acquire Kennard would self-sabotage a bigger deal involving a player of Gordon’s caliber.

As it stands, Phoenix knows it must put more pieces around a core that starts with Booker and Ayton. The 2020 NBA Draft could be when the Suns push many of their chips into the middle of the table.

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