EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Phoenix Suns are limited in NBA buyout candidate pool

Feb 9, 2024, 4:40 PM

There’s a 14-man roster minimum in the NBA the Phoenix Suns are a player short of, but they will be limited once again in the buyout market as they were at the trade deadline.

Of course, they showed some cleverness in using expiring trade exceptions and contracts to swing a two-for-four trade that revamped their wing rotation.

Because of their financial situation, Phoenix cannot sign players who are bought out on deals paying above $12.4 million this season. So don’t go wishing for Spencer Dinwiddie, Kyle Lowry, Joe Harris or Marcus Morris.

The balancing act for Phoenix is whether there’s a viable rotation player — or even a hopeful one — in this group of players that would fit. Or is there any point in getting a look at someone in a more developmental role?

Honestly, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Phoenix burn one or both of their roster spots by promoting two-way players Saben Lee, Udoka Azubuike or Theo Maledon at some point this year.

We’ll break down buyout candidates — those who have reportedly been released or agreed to it as of Friday — into two categories: Players who can be occasionally used in a real rotation due to injuries and/or foul trouble but are in ninth- or 10th-best player territory and others who are just worth a look.

NBA buyout candidates who have a shot at spot minutes on the Suns

F Thaddeus Young

Stats: 5.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists in 14.7 minutes

The 35-year-old was a real rotation piece lately for the lowly Toronto Raptors. He’s long been linked to the Suns in their various iterations because he’s a ball-mover who can take a dribble or two and make the correct pass.

Young is a decent rebounder and shooting an efficient 62% this year, a sign he doesn’t play above his head. He knows himself, and for a team that could reduce turnovers, that’s good. But Phoenix could use a jumbo wing for defensive reasons above all else, and that’s where the fit is a little wonky at the moment. Still, adding a guy who you know is trustworthy has its reasons.

F/G Danuel House Jr.

Stats: 4.2 points and 1.7 rebounds in 15.0 minutes per game, 45% FG

Real ones might remember House’s 23-game run with the Suns in 2017-18. Since then, he’s been part of NBA rotations, most notably during a stint with the Houston Rockets during their Morey-ball era.

House is a hot-and-cold shooter over the course of his career and at 30 years old still has the juice to still be a lanky perimeter pest in spot minutes.

PG Killian Hayes

Stats: 8.1 points, 5.2 assists in 24.0 minutes per game, 41% FG

Hayes is the only true playmaking point guard on the market unless the Washington Wizards waive Delon Wright. The seventh overall pick in 2020, he’s still 22 years old.

But the sheen has worn off his potential. He’s put together four years of terrible shooting splits. Right now he’s a less efficient Elfrid Payton. If you are still yelling at the Suns to pursue a real point guard after the trade deadline, I guess this is your guy.

C Robin Lopez

Stats: 1.1 points in 4.1 minutes per game

It’s not about the stats here. It’s about Shaq’s rookie’s tweet game.

But seriously, the Suns first-round pick from 2008 is a spot-minutes backup center who can put a sharp elbow into somebody and add to both the locker room culture and be a tough guy if he has to play.

PG Cory Joseph

Stats: 2.4 points, 1.6 assists in 11.4 minutes per game

It was just four years ago that Suns fans were hoping for Joseph to land with Phoenix in free agency because they were so desperate for a point guard. They inked Ricky Rubio instead, a good move for sure.

Joseph isn’t about stats. Let Stephen Curry explain it after he was traded to the Pacers and cut:

F Danilo Gallinari

Stats: 7.3 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 15 minutes per game (32 games)

Gallinari has hardly been back from a serious knee injury that zapped his entire 2022-23 season.

He’s been fairly productive and in a six-game stint with Detroit after first playing for the Washington Wizards has been hitting well from deep. The athleticism at this point might be lacking, but he’s an engaged player on both ends. Do the Suns need more of this at the moment? I don’t think so (they own the NBA’s top offense over the past 10 games).

Counterpoint: This!

G Victor Oladipo

Stats: NA

The major injuries have piled up and the two-time All-Star hasn’t evolved into a role player for a good Miami at this point, which is where you wonder if it’s even worth a look.

Might as well get a look

G/F Furkan Korkmaz

Stats: 2.5 points. 0.7 assists in 8.6 minutes

Korkmaz was once getting regular minutes for the Sixers, and it’s crazy to believe he spent seven years there alongside Joel Embiid. At his best, he was a low-efficiency shooter who had the extra pass in his bag but nothing close to playmaking.

At his worst, he’s a thin-framed wing who is still only 26 years old. Maybe he is a trustworthy end-of-roster guy.

F James Bouknight

Stats: 3.6 points, 0.4 assists in 5.8 minutes per game

One of the few guys on this list who wasn’t even traded before being cut, the 11th overall pick from 2021 was flat out dropped by Charlotte. He came out of UConn as an overly aggressive but inefficient scoring wing and hasn’t even passed the test of doing enough right to make the Charlotte Hornets rotation on this year’s team. The Charlotte Hornets!

It’s not great, but you never know what you might find if you make someone learn from Devin Booker and Kevin Durant. Or maybe the reasons he couldn’t get into things in Charlotte tell it all.

C Harry Giles III

Stats: 3.4 points, 1.6 rebounds in 5.1 minutes per game

Here’s the best athlete of this exercise, a 25-year-old big who can move as well as anyone at his size.

At 6-foot-10 and 240 pounds, Giles gives you a physical third-string option behind Jusuf Nurkic and Drew Eubanks, but it would be a surprise if he could provide more than Azubuike.

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Phoenix Suns are limited in NBA buyout candidate pool