EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Bobby Marks would like Suns to trade for Blazers wing Robert Covington

Jan 11, 2022, 11:01 AM | Updated: Jan 12, 2022, 11:57 am
Portland Trail Blazers forward Robert Covington, center, celebrates with guard Anfernee Simons, lef...

Portland Trail Blazers forward Robert Covington, center, celebrates with guard Anfernee Simons, left, and guard Ben McLemore during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks in Portland, Ore., Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)

(AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)


Continuity has been key for the Phoenix Suns under general manager James Jones, but that hasn’t meant he hasn’t been willing to swing deals.

First it was about rebuilding a team with winning pieces. Then it was making a blockbuster Chris Paul trade to push the Suns into title contention.

The Torrey Craig midseason trade last year was about ticking the needle as close as possible to championship winner, and that type of trade again could help a team that sits at 30-9 so far this year. How does he go about it this time?

The NBA trade deadline on Feb. 10 looms, and ESPN’s Bobby Marks released his annual league-wide overview Tuesday with one deal he’d like to see Phoenix make.

It involves acquiring another wing at the expense of the Suns’ big man depth:

Trade we would like to see: Dario Saric, Jalen Smith and two second-round picks (2025 and 2026) to Portland for Robert Covington.

Saric has not played this season after suffering an ACL injury in the NBA Finals last July, while Smith’s recent stint in the rotation due to COVID-19 absences pushed his stock upward.

For the Suns to consider that deal, there would be things to consider. For one, is Saric on track to potentially contribute this year? Even if his health is in a good spot, does Phoenix see him as expendable with three centers signed now?

The team added Bismack Biyombo last week as insurance behind Deandre Ayton and JaVale McGee. Frank Kaminsky’s health as he rests a stress reaction in his knee also matters in terms of having a shot-making, play-making big man to complement the center trio.

Smith’s rookie contract option not being picked up for its third year in 2022-23 complicates his value — not only because it raises a rare red flag that Phoenix did not want to prolong the contract of its lottery pick, as Marks notes:

One disadvantage for any team acquiring Smith in a trade is that because his option was declined, it would be limited to offering him a maximum of $4.7 million in first-year salary in free agency this summer, the same amount as what his 2022-23 option would have been. (The Suns have the same restriction if they choose to keep Smith past the deadline and want to re-sign him this summer.)

Smith’s and Saric’s deals would need to be included in a Covington trade, as he is making $13 million in a contract year.

As for the why the Suns might want to add another wing, Covington is either insurance or an addition for a team that could use as much wing depth as possible to combat a title favorite like the Golden State Warriors.

The 31-year-old Covington has fallen off with Portland the past two years and is shooting 41% overall and 35% from three-point range. As a defender, he could give Phoenix a longer presence with decent rebounding chops to plays with or in place of Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson and Jae Crowder. His presence would also allow the Suns to go bigger on the perimeter, with Bridges playing two-guard if necessary.

More length against the likes of the Warriors, who force switches, or the Milwaukee Bucks, who will put all the gravity on the three-point line as their Finals MVP flies into the paint, would not hurt any title contender.

Whether the 16-24 Blazers would have any interest in such a deal is tough to say as they determine whether their current trajectory is working.

But from the Suns’ perspective, that type of deal is what should be under consideration. Jones is asking himself this: What roster tweak could this team foresee that helps it beat the best and get over the top?

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