EMPIRE OF THE SUNS
Here comes the Tsunami of Kelly Oubre Jr. trade suggestions
We are weeks away from the eight-game seeding finale to the NBA’s 2019-20 regular season. The hope is the season resumes amid a pandemic without major hiccups.
If that is the case, things will move swiftly. The draft and free agency will be quick punches in the face following the NBA Finals in October. So let’s prepare Phoenix Suns fans for a nagging storyline over the next several months, potentially until the 2020-21 trade deadline — whenever that is — passes.
Kelly Oubre Jr. will be in trade rumors. It’s inevitable considering he’s found a home in Phoenix, is on a contract that expires after next season and is taking meaningful steps forward in his career.
The Athletic’s Anthony Slater is maybe the first to point out that interest in Oubre will come not as 2020-21 begins but as soon as three months down the road, during the NBA Draft. In Slater’s series examining the Warriors’ potential offseason targets, the beat writer lays out a reason for Golden State to have interest in the 24-year-old forward.
Lottery night, if the order breaks right for the Warriors, could present several intriguing trade possibilities. The Oubre option — via a pick swap, utilizing the $17.2 million (trade) exception — is one of the best among these theoretical paths.
If the NBA Draft Lottery order goes relatively chalk, the Warriors will find themselves in the top-five and Phoenix will be in the 10 or 11 range. That could entice the Suns to move up if they like a certain player, Slater proposes.
Phoenix jumps up to get the prospect whose timeline and controllable contract pair perfectly with their young core, the Warriors walk away on draft night with at least a season of Oubre (sliding into their $17.2 million trade exception before it expires) and a later lottery prospect they still believe will develop into a valued long-term core member.
Slater points out the Warriors would need to be “meh” on the draft class. They would also need to be happy to pay about $30 million for Oubre — taxes will pile on top of the Warriors adding his $14.3 million deal.
Doing so, Golden State could arguably figure to challenge atop the Western Conference next year with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson returning off injuries. Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green would join Oubre as the five best players on that team.
That all assumes the Suns don’t want to re-sign Oubre on a long-term deal.
They were a little apprehensive to do so last summer, when the two sides met in the middle with a two-year, $30 million deal. Phoenix also bought itself some insurance by the surprise drafting of wing Cam Johnson.
Obviously, Suns fans can see a bevy of reasons why Phoenix would laugh at such an Oubre trade proposal. Even forgetting that Oubre has done everything to ingrain himself as a Valley Boy, and even forgetting Oubre is part of a five-man lineup that ranked second in net rating this year, there’s more to dispel Slater’s idea.
Suns general manager James Jones has made it clear turning the culture around is not possible by throwing more teens into the equation. The 2020 draft class is hardly regarded as strong.
Even if this becomes a must-trade-Oubre scenario, which prospects in this class are worth the leap from 10th up to fifth, third or even first?
I could make an argument that Monty Williams sits LaMelo Ball behind Ricky Rubio to develop the naturally-gifted youngster who played in Australia last year.
Forward Deni Avdija is currently playing in Israel, doing everything he can to move up the draft board that’s going to remain mostly stale with no workouts or games going on in America. The Suns could need a power forward.
Strong game for Deni Avdija today in a win over Holon: 24 PTS, 7 REBS & 4 AST in 31 MIN while shooting 4-of-6 from 2 and 4-of-8 from 3. The potential top-5 pick is now shooting 48% from 3 in 5 games since Israel returned to play. Avdija's versatility @ 6-9 on full display today. pic.twitter.com/kuD4REaaFL
— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) July 6, 2020
Georgia combo guard Anthony Edwards is too risky a project and does what Booker does. James Wiseman is redundant with Deandre Ayton.
Maybe Phoenix sees a point guard like Kira Lewis Jr. or Tyrese Haliburton as a future star not worth waiting around for later in the lottery.
Anyway, there are high-lottery players worth considering for the Suns. None of them are sure things.
Getting back to Oubre, the point is this: Situations are going to arise where teams call about prying the guy away from Phoenix.
He’s earned that, upping his efficiency with a lower usage percentage while averaging 19.5 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.
Teams with more financial flexibility than the Warriors and those up there in the lottery might take the risk of losing Oubre after a season, trading for his Bird rights to see how it goes.
It would just be surprising if Phoenix bit. This front office’s attempts at keeping players’ faith and not wanting to rock the boat when the basketball product just needs stability are for good reason.
But yeah, this is going to be a thing.