EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

NBA trade deadline preview: Ball-handlers the Phoenix Suns should target

Jan 31, 2022, 6:51 PM | Updated: Feb 2, 2022, 10:44 am

Even though the Phoenix Suns are the best team in the NBA, there is still room to improve the roster in one of the franchise’s best opportunities ever at winning a championship. With that type of thinking in mind, Phoenix’s front office should be proactive.

Empire of the Suns’ Kellan Olson and Kevin Zimmerman will review three sets of position groups the Suns could look to improve before the trade deadline on Feb. 10. More specifically, they will focus on one headlining target, followed by a few other names the Suns at least discuss.

Up first is an extra ball-handler off the bench.


The Suns have not gotten enough from Cam Payne and Landry Shamet this year. That’s something I broke down a few weeks ago in relation to the deadline, and since then, Payne improved before getting hurt while Shamet regressed before getting hurt.

Payne has missed time with a wrist sprain while Shamet is dealing with an ankle sprain. Those injuries shouldn’t impact the way Phoenix goes about the trade market. But their play should, as Payne after a strong 12-game stretch is still shooting only 40.4% and Shamet is down to 37.0%.

Phoenix needs another threat off the bounce.

– Kellan Olson

The Headliner

Eric Gordon, Houston Rockets

Salary: $18.2 million this year, $19.5 million in 2022-23, $20.9 million non-guaranteed 2023-24*
Stats: 14.4 PPG (50% FG%, 44% 3P%), 3.2 APG in 42 games (29.5 MPG)

Here’s a name that is already quite logical and makes even more sense the more you think about it.

There is a very simple way to highlight Gordon’s value via a great nugget from Sam Cooper of The Timeline Podcast.

This season, Gordon is shooting 43.9% from 3-point range, the third-best percentage in the NBA. On possessions that NBA.com’s tracking data counts as drives to the basket, Gordon’s field goal percentage is 58.8%, the second-highest efficiency among the 89 players with at least three shot attempts per game on drives.

Those types of numbers on an awful Rockets team are impressive.

Gordon’s shooting would provide a unique weapon to Phoenix despite it being, you know, awesome in the first place. He puts some range on that sucker, comfortably.

Of his five 3PA/G, Gordon is taking two off the dribble a night and converting a terrific 41.7% on them.

Seems like a guy you’d want to chase off the line, but what comes into play is Gordon’s bag that has made him one of the league’s most underrated buckets over the last decade.

The 33-year-old has lost a chunk of his high-tier athleticism from yesteryear but is shooting 65% at the rim this year after a 69% mark the season prior. You can see on some of these dribble attacks that his burst and first step are still a problem, with the scoring craft guiding him from there.

Now, if you’re asking yourself while seeing those Rockets jerseys, “Wait a minute, didn’t he play with Chris Paul?”

What an excellent question! I’m so glad you brought that up!

In their first year together (2017-18), Paul’s and Gordon’s 18.2 net rating is the highest of the seven players Paul spent at least 500 minutes on the floor with. That includes a scintillating 119.9 offensive rating across those 775 minutes.

Houston regressed the following season, and ditto for Paul’s net ratings with almost all of the Rockets’ key pieces. But not Gordon, with the 11.8 net rating far above the numbers for James Harden (7.4), Clint Capela (5.2) and P.J. Tucker (4.8).

Now, if you’re asking yourself after your brain linked Gordon and Paul’s name together, “Wait a minute, didn’t they get traded for each other? And didn’t Gordon get sent to New Orleans? Which means he played for Monty Williams?”

Again, just putting the barrel of the bat on the ball. Couldn’t be prouder of you.

This isn’t all roses, to be fair. Williams and Gordon at one point in 2013 got into a shouting match on the bench when Gordon’s suboptimal effort persisted, to the point where Gordon was benched from the early third quarter onward.

Williams has discussed how much he’s grown as a head coach since then, nearly a decade ago, and it’s fair to assume Gordon has too. Their relationship over two more years together did improve, to the point of making the playoffs together in 2015. We’ve seen how great Williams is with his players, and if we’ve learned enough about him to this point, it’s that he would relish the opportunity to try and do it all right with Gordon.

Gordon’s hefty salary is the only pause here, but in the pursuit of a championship, that shouldn’t matter. Yes, even with (you would assume) a hefty long-term deal for Deandre Ayton coming alongside Mikal Bridges’ next season. Acting as a luxury tax team is an inevitability. Just pay the money.

Funnily enough, that asterisk next to Gordon’s final year is because it’s non-guaranteed unless he wins a championship or makes an All-Star Game. So if the Suns are in the hole another year on $20.9 million, a ring should fully numb any pain that hit would bring.

A trade built around Dario Saric, Shamet and picks that The Four Point Play Newsletter covered is perfect. It gives Houston two capable NBA players on tradeable salaries, and Shamet’s odd poison pill bump for this year’s salary of $3.7 million to $9.2 million for the team acquiring him wouldn’t matter for the Rockets’ low cap number.

See, makes all the sense in the world!

– Kellan Olson

Other possibilities

Spencer Dinwiddie, Washington Wizards

Salary: $17.1 million, $18 million next year, $18.8 million non-guaranteed 2023-24
Stats: 13.2 PPG (39% FG%, 22% 3P%), 5.7 APG in 40 games (30.5 MPG)

Gotta be honest, no clue what’s going on here.

Dinwiddie’s field goal percentage is at a rough 38.6% as Washington enters a tailspin, having lost six of its last seven. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor reports that “the Wizards want to move Dinwiddie because he looks like a shell of his former self and his teammates don’t want him there.”

Oof!

Dinwiddie is someone we’ve covered here for a few years as an intriguing piece next to Devin Booker, a guard who can feature on or off the ball, specifically as a secondary runner of the offense. The skillset is there but it sounds like he is going through it at the moment. It’s a risky proposition, and unlike Gordon, it would be tougher to still get Payne minutes if Dinwiddie was the first guy off the bench.

Worth mentioning, though!

– Kellan Olson

Goran Dragic, Toronto Raptors

Salary: $19.2 million expiring
Stats: 8.0 PPG (38% FG%, 28% 3P%), 1.8 APG in five games (18.0 MPG)

The two-time former Suns point guard appeared only five times at the start of the year for the rebuilding Raptors before he left the team indefinitely for a personal matter. Whether that personal matter has resolved to the point of him playing is unknown, but The Toronto Star’s Doug Smith reported Dragic is receiving plenty of interest in the trade market. It’s another issue of whether the 35-year-old Dragic can give a team like the Suns anything their current players cannot.

He’s a shell of his former self as injuries and age have added up, but Dragic remains an offensive initiator and — in theory — is still a solid enough shooter who has played an ancillary role around other playmakers the past few years with the Miami Heat. Is he a liability on defense at his age? And does he want to be third on the depth chart at either point guard (Chris Paul, Cam Payne) or shooting guard (Devin Booker, Landry Shamet)?

Elfrid Payton would argue Dragic would not even be third in the point guard pecking order. Again, a lot depends on what Dragic has left in the tank. The potential he ends up as a buyout candidate for a team clearing cap space could also make him available as a cheaper signing after the trade deadline.

– Kevin Zimmerman

Tomas Satoransky, New Orleans Pelicans

Salary: $10 million expiring
Stats: 2.8 PPG (30% FG%, 16% 3P%), 2.4 APG in 32 games (15.0 MPG)

I will not overcomplicate this after you groaned at those stats. Williams gives former assistant Willie Green, the Pelicans’ head coach, a phone call and asks what’s going on over there. Green gives him the lowdown and that’s probably that.

Satoransky has not been able to find his footing in the league since breaking through with the Wizards three years ago and earning himself a pay day with the Chicago Bulls. Like Dinwiddie, it’s someone we’ve discussed in the past given his playmaking ability and basketball IQ.

More of a last-ditch option, if anything.

– Kellan Olson

Dennis Schroder, Boston Celtics

Salary: $5.9 million expiring
Stats: 14.8 PPG (44% FG%, 35% 3P%), 4.5 APG in 44 games (30.4 MPG)

Phoenix fans will remember that Schroder came into the first-round playoff series between the Lakers and Suns last year as a scary X-factor. He exited as an underperformer. But after whiffing in the free agent market, the numbers from a strong regular season in Los Angeles have held up with Boston. Schroder is on a reasonable expiring contract and would slot in basically as a more offensively well-rounded Payne.

The Suns making such a move would be surprising for that reason — Payne still has the trust of this team despite his hot-and-cold year. But for the right price, it would be hard to say the Suns did not get better if they were able to add a player who is still in his prime at 28 years old.

Schroder is an aggressive playmaker and pest on the other end. He already has time spent alongside Chris Paul back with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2019-20, when as the team’s third-best guard he had by far his most efficient shooting season in the NBA. It would just be surprising if the right price in the Celtics’ mind would be something Phoenix can give, however.

– Kevin Zimmerman

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