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There haven’t been this many Phoenix Suns trade rumors out in the open during James Jones’ tenure since…well, quite possibly ever. The trade buzz reached a fever pitch over the summer with Kevin Durant, but over the last few weeks, name after name has come up in conjunction with the Suns.
That’s reassuring news for a fanbase waiting for resolution on the Jae Crowder front. Trading his $10.2 million expiring salary somewhere before the 2023 NBA Trade Deadline on Feb. 9 is a top item on Mat Ishbia’s checklist, and it’s no secret the Suns could use some help in a few key areas: ball-handling in the backcourt, shot creation in general, and rebounding/size at the 4-spot.
Trading for a second superstar to put alongside Devin Booker may be a pipe dream at this point, but there are a number of alleged suitors for Crowder and plenty of players on the open market who could help this team contend for a title.
We’ll cover some “out of the box” scenarios and three-team trades in Part 2 tomorrow, but for Part 1 of our 2023 Suns Trade Primer, we’ll be taking a look at more realistic targets — what they’d bring to the table in Phoenix, where their names stemmed from, why they do (and don’t) make sense, and what a trade that’s actually fair to both sides might look like.
For Part 1, we’ll divide these targets into three groups: the “ambitious but unlikely” targets (names that have come up but may be a long shot), the “most realistic” targets (guys that make sense and should be attainable) and the “auxiliary piece, last resort” targets (depth pieces that don’t move the needle much but would be better than nothing).
Let’s dive in!
The “Ambitious But Unlikely” Suns trade targets
Kuzma can create his own offense and would provide some additional size and rebounding to the 4-spot. That, along with his driving and finishing ability, would make him a natural fit in Phoenix, so the Suns reportedly still having their eye on him isn’t surprising. It wasn’t far-fetched to think the interest was mutual either:
Those suns jerseys are so beautiful
— kuz (@kylekuzma) October 26, 2022
Unfortunately, the fear that Kuzma would leave in free agency hasn’t grown to the level it needed to before the trade deadline. In fact, The New York Times’ Marc Stein reported the Washington Wizards have “increasing confidence” they’ll be able to re-sign Kuzma in the offseason.
That makes sense, since they just traded Rui Hachimura. They can offer Kuz more money than any other suitor, and have won five straight games to climb back into a play-in spot in the East. The Suns needed Washington to fall precipitously in the standings and for Kuzma to indicate he’d leave over the summer for this one to fully materialize.
Crazier things have happened, but a package of Jae Crowder, additional salary filler and a draft pick doesn’t make much sense for Washington right now.
With Kuzma averaging a career-high 22.0 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game, the Wiz seem more likely to hang on to one of their best players…even if they’ll probably wind up overpaying for him in the long run.
The Suns reportedly tried to trade for Bojan Bogdanovic over the summer when he was still with the Utah Jazz. That never came to fruition, and all Bogey has done since is go on to average a career-best 21.2 points per game on .483/.412/.879 shooting splits with the Detroit Pistons.
For all his defensive shortcomings, Bogdanovic’s elite spot-up shooting, driving, secondary ball-handling and two years and $39 million left on his contract after this season made him an attractive target for a team like Phoenix. It’s still true now, especially since the Suns could use a few more players who are on the books beyond this season. Their continued interested in him tracks.
However, it’s a seller’s market right now, and the Pistons are starting the asking price at one unprotected first-round pick to kick off the bidding war. They don’t need to move him either; Detroit may prefer to keep him around for next season, when a healthy Cade Cunningham could have this young core gunning for a playoff spot.
On a related note, while a bench scorer like Alec Burks or an underrated, young shooter on the wing like Saddiq Bey would look great in a Suns uniform, the Pistons reportedly intend to hang onto Burks past the deadline and won’t move Bey unless they get an offer they can’t refuse.
Buddy Hield has started all 52 games for the Pacers this year, but with Benedict Mathurin and Chris Duarte representing the future, he may be the odd man out. The Pacers are reportedly open to moving him, and the 30-year-old wing would be a nice Landry Shamet upgrade on the offensive end.
Hield doesn’t really solve the Suns’ need for shot creation or ball-handling, but he’s an elite spot-up shooter who would open up the floor with his gravity as a 42.5 percent sniper from beyond the arc this year.
Including Shamet over Dario Saric would be ideal. Shamet can fill the Hield archetype off Indiana’s bench, and his contract isn’t as bad as advertised since his annual salary is manageable, his 2024-25 salary is non-guaranteed, and his 2025-26 salary is a team option.
The Pacers may prefer another expiring salary like Saric instead, but either way, this wouldn’t be a bad return for Crowder. The only problem is Indiana might get better offers. They’re a small-market team, so the extra cap space that Saric and Crowder open up as expirings only goes so far in helping them land a big fish in free agency. At that point, is the Suns’ 2024 first-rounder attractive enough?
Immanuel Quickley/Cam Reddish
The Suns have been linked to Immanuel Quickley, a potential backcourt target as the Suns begin to plan for life after Chris Paul. As CP3’s backup, he’d make sense. As his long-term successor? Not so much.
Quickley has been a double-digit scorer off the bench all three seasons he’s been in New York, but he’s been a below-average 3-point shooter the last two years and has never averaged more than 3.5 assists per game in a season. The advanced metrics point to Quickley being a decent playmaker and lively defender, but he’s not expected to be available at the deadline anyway.
Things can change, of course, but Quickley’s $2.9 million salary means a trade involving Crowder — the guy Phoenix wants to trade, rather than a Josh Okogie, Jock Landale or Damion Lee, who are in Quickley’s salary range — would only work if Cam Reddish were included.
Reddish’s asking price is reportedly only two second-round picks. That’s not terrible for a 23-year-old wing, but the math doesn’t work for his $5.9 million salary alone either. Lump Reddish and Quickley together and you have your solution:
Quickley and Reddish may be worth fliers, but considering the overall package, the Suns should set their sights higher at the point guard spot for the future, especially at the cost of a first-rounder.
Still, it’s worth keeping in mind, since the Knicks have reportedly expressed interest in dealing Reddish for Grayson Allen, an expendable piece on a Milwaukee Bucks team that’s continually searching for a third team in a Jae Crowder deal….
We’ve tackled LeVert before, but as the Cleveland Cavaliers’ most likely trade piece, this might be one area where the Suns try to capitalize on whatever trade value Crowder has left. It’s no secret the Cavs need wing upgrades, so even though Crowder typically played the 4 in Phoenix, his defense and toughness would make Cleveland a scary playoff opponent.
With that being said, LeVert has been fairly decent for the Cavs, averaging 12.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game off the bench, all while providing solid defense. Even with LeVert on an expiring $18.8 million contract, Cleveland won’t be dumping him for just anyone.
That probably makes an offer of Crowder, a pick and either Saric or Shamet a bit of a non-starter:
LeVert would be a solid two-way piece off the bench for the Suns, but it seems unlikely they can offer what the Cavs will want.
OG Anunoby/Pascal Siakam/Fred VanVleet
There’s a good chance all the anticipation for a Toronto Raptors fire sale ultimately fizzles, but if everyone outside of Scottie Barnes is available for the right price, we might as well speculate. The question is what that price will be for some of their most prized players.
OG Anunoby is a name we’ve covered here before (twice), and The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported Monday morning that the Suns are among the interested suitors for him. While he wouldn’t solve their biggest issue with ball-handling and shot creation, he’s no slouch on the offensive end, averaging 16.9 points per game on 36.6 percent shooting from 3-point range this year.
The biggest asset would be his swarming defense and multi-positional versatility. Anunoby would allow Monty Williams to ease some of the burden on Mikal Bridges’ shoulders, provide the Suns with a legitimate small-ball 5 option, and give this team the most stifling defensive wing tandem in the NBA.
Anunoby is only making $17.3 million this season, so a package revolving around Crowder and Shamet/Saric works financially, but doesn’t provide anywhere near enough value for Toronto until Phoenix throws a heap of picks on top…or Cam Johnson.
Johnson and two picks is a steep price, given the Suns can match any offer on him in restricted free agency and how well Phoenix has played when he’s been on the court this season. After all the Suns have posted a +33.1 Net Rating with their preferred starting five, an 11-3 record when he plays, and an on-court Net Rating of +13.0 when he’s out there, which is the best mark on the team.
Adding Trent to the equation allows the Suns to heap on more expiring salary, but would also probably require another protected first-rounder:
One alternative, given the past rumors of Toronto’s interest in Ayton, is making a bolder move:
Yes, the Suns get worse at the center spot. As much as Anunoby can play as a small-ball 5, it shouldn’t be his full-time identity. Bismack Biyombo has been a shot-blocking machine, and Jock Landale joins him in being far better at defending the rim this season than DA, but there’s no question Phoenix would still need help at the 5 in another trade.
Appearing on FanDuel TV, however, Shams Charania did not mention Ayton as a potential trade piece in an Anunoby deal, but did list off picks, expiring salaries and Cam Johnson.
“They’ve got the picks, they’ve got players… can you put together a package for OG Anunoby…”@ShamsCharania on Phoenix Suns interested in OG Anunoby#RunItBack | https://t.co/Q9hUtUoPZJ pic.twitter.com/P03Tw7ebTh
— FanDuel TV (@FanDuelTV) January 31, 2023
With that being said, the deal above supplies the Suns with Anunoby, a Shamet upgrade in Trent, and even better, they get to add some minimal protections on the 2026 and 2028 picks.
Or we could just go nuclear and blow some shit up:
— Lucas (@LucasJHann) January 29, 2023
As much as Fred VanVleet and Reggie Jackson would make for an intriguing 1-2 punch at point guard, there’s a 99.9 percent chance the Suns don’t move Chris Paul in the middle of the season — not only because he deserves better from this franchise, but because he’s looked a lot more like the Point God since returning from his latest injury.
That makes FVV’s fit a bit tricky. He may be putting up 19.1 points and 6.5 assists per game, but he’s doing it on subpar efficiency, shooting 39.2 percent from the field and 34.3 percent from downtown. We’ve written about this at length, but VanVleet turns 29 in February, and as an unrestricted free agent, he’ll be looking for a new deal starting around Tyler Herro’s four-year, $130 million range. Good luck convincing him to come off the bench in a contract year, and good luck asking a Hall-of-Famer like CP3 to be the sixth man.
Of course, the biggest fish, and the one that would take care of Phoenix’s need for additional ball-handling, offensive creation and a certified No. 2 option, is Pascal Siakam. As one would expect, it’ll take quite the haul to snatch him from Toronto.
For all the complaints about Toronto being five games below .500, Siakam is a legitimate All-NBA player, NBA champion and two-way force who’d thrive going from being the guy expected to do everything to a No. 2 option again. He addresses the Suns’ need for more size and rebounding at the 4-spot, he’s a versatile defender, and having a guy putting up a 25-8-6 stat line is typically not a bad idea!
Ayton, Cam Johnson and picks are the likely package required there. If the Suns want to get more bang for their buck, throwing Crowder in the deal to land Gary Trent Jr. helps ease the pain losing Johnson’s sharpshooting:
We’ve floated Siakam in the past as a natural two-way fit for this roster. If the Suns can get away with a deal that substitutes Saric/Shamet and another first-rounder in Cam Johnson’s place, even better:
Or, let’s just loop in the Knicks and get crazy!
PHX: Pascal Siakam, Gary Trent Jr., Isaiah Hartenstein
TOR: Deandre Ayton, Cam Johnson, Landry Shamet, Cam Reddish, 2 unprotected 1sts from PHX
NYK: Jae Crowder
Yes, it’s legal. *runs* pic.twitter.com/VufkQpmWOD
— Zona (@ZonaHoops_) January 5, 2023
The “Most Realistic” Suns trade targets
Before the season started, we had John Collins and Justin Holiday heading to Phoenix for Crowder, Johnson, Saric and the Suns’ 2023 first-rounder. This time around, ESPN’s Zach Lowe suggests the asking price for Collins might be lower than expected:
He mentioned trading expiring salary plus two picks then says “and the Hawks might be willing to do it for one pick”.
— Mike Vigil (@protectedpick) January 28, 2023
If all it takes is expirings and a first-rounder to pry Collins from the Atlanta Hawks…isn’t that at least worth considering?
To be fair, Action Network’s Matt Moore has heard the Hawks are unlikely to move Collins before the deadline. But if he is available, and if it’s for such a low price, having a capable rebounder and rim-running threat at the 4 would be a helpful addition…to the bench, at least.
Collins is only averaging 13.5 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, all while shooting a career-worst 26.3 percent from beyond the arc. But given the supposed tension between him and Trae Young, perhaps Collins needs a change of scenery. After all, it was just last year he was putting up 16.2 points and 7.8 rebounds a night on 36.4 percent shooting from deep.
The bigger problem is paying that kind of money to a likely reserve, since — and I cannot state this emphatically enough — the Suns should not trade for Collins if it requires moving Cam Johnson to the bench. Collins is owed $51.9 million over the next two years, with a $26.6 million player option for the third year. That’s a lot for a backup 4, even if the Suns could use more players who are on the books beyond this season.
In all honesty, trading for Collins at a low price, giving him a trial run, and then possibly flipping him over the summer might be the best avenue if the Suns are indeed interested.
Here we go again with the D’Angelo Russell-Devin Booker rumors!
Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus cited league sources that believe Phoenix could be a possible destination for D-Lo, who is reportedly a top trade candidate for the Minnesota Timberwolves. The two sides were apart on a contract extension, and because the Wolves will be above the cap this summer, they can’t afford to lose him for nothing in free agency.
Russell shouldn’t be the Suns’ long-term answer at the 1 beyond the CP3 era, but as a backup and stopgap starter? There are certainly worse options than a guy who’s averaging 17.8 points and 6.2 assists a night on a career-high 46.6 percent shooting from the field and a career-high 39.1 percent shooting from deep.
The difficulty is in finding a trade that properly compensates Minnesota, since expiring contracts do them little good. Crowder, Shamet and Saric make up enough salary to balance out Russell’s $30.3 million deal, but an unprotected pick is a necessity to avoid including Cam Johnson. That group of incoming players is a tad underwhelming, and it also screws over the Wolves’ depth at point guard, so Cam Payne takes Saric’s place:
That might not be anywhere close for the Timberwolves. Even if they’re looking to trade Russell, that doesn’t mean they’re content punting the season by not getting a starting-caliber point guard in return. If that’s a requirement, a third team would need to be looped in unless they really like Payne for some reason.
If that isn’t a prerequisite, however, the biggest concern on the Suns’ side would be mistaking Russell for what he really is: an expensive stopgap bridging the CP3 era. Russell is only 26 years old, but for a contender, he’s an underwhelming option as a starting point guard, and even worse, he’s heading for unrestricted free agency this summer.
Trading for him means committing to re-signing him, or losing him for nothing and not getting any of that cap space back. Could the Suns maneuver their way into a two-year, $40 million pact to maintain flexibility, or will D-Lo want bigger money on a longer deal?
Russell as a backup guard sounds great on paper, but in reality, there are quite a few pitfalls that come with this scenario.
Jordan Clarkson and Jarred Vanderbilt
The Suns should aim higher in theory, but Clarkson would address their need for shot creation with the second unit, while Vanderbilt would be a tremendous defensive addition who could help with the rebounding.
He’s not a great 3-point shooter (35 percent this year, 34 percent for his career), but Clarkson can get hot in a hurry. He’s the type of guy who’s capable of winning you a playoff game and losing you one, but he’s also a gamer putting up a 20-4-4 stat line in a career year as a starter. The Suns would obviously put him back in a sixth man role, but it’s one he’s familiar with.
As for Vando, he’s perhaps the most underrated defender in the NBA, able to guard multiple positions capably and even spend time as a small-ball 5 in a pinch. His 8.5 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists don’t seem like much, but he’s a rebounding and defensive specialist who would bolster the Suns’ depth. He’s only 23 years old, on a bargain contract and has even been working on his 3-point shot, shooting 34.5 percent on 1.1 attempts per game after barely taking any through his first four seasons.
Prying them both from Danny Ainge’s grasp might prove tricky, but the Utah Jazz are no longer taking the league by storm, dropping all the way to 10th in the West. Lauri Markkanen, Walker Kessler and Ochai Agbaji are reportedly the only Jazz players who are off limits, so the question is whether expirings would require one or two picks to make it work. Two first-rounders is stretching it, but even that is worth considering.
Clarkson’s upcoming player option complicates things, but the Suns would have the inside track to re-signing him. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, is on the books for one more year at a meager $4.7 million.
The Jazz have other attractive pieces, including Collin Sexton, Malik Beasley, Mike Conley and the attainable Rudy Gay, but factoring in contracts, skill-sets and availability, Clarkson and Vanderbilt stand out as the ones they should target.
Terry Rozier and Jalen McDaniels
Another point guard linked to the Suns in their eventual pursuit of a post-CP3 future, another name shot down by the Trade Reaper. Whatever the case, Rozier is rumored to be attainable at this year’s trade deadline, and while he’s hardly the most exciting name to come up, he could help as a sixth man.
Averaging 21.7 points, 5.1 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game, the 28-year-old can clearly produce in multiple categories. His .417/.339/.822 shooting splits are hardly efficient, but after years of playing in a starting role on bad teams, perhaps a return to form as a high-end backup on a contender would serve him well?
For the Charlotte Hornets to bite, it’ll take a first-round pick, plus Crowder’s expiring contract and either Saric’s expiring contract (if they want to free up cap room for an aggressive move in free agency) or Shamet’s contract (if they’d rather have a serviceable player under contract for the foreseeable future).
Committing to Rozier for the long-term past CP3 would be crazy, but he is an NBA veteran who might make for an effective stopgap. He’s owed $48.1 million over the next two years, plus a non-guaranteed $26.6 million for 2025-26. If he can provide energy and scoring off the bench, as well as get back to his career 37.1 percent mark from 3, this wouldn’t be the worst midseason addition.
The Suns could make it even spicier by asking for Jalen McDaniels, a long, lanky wing averaging a career-high 10.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game this season. The Trade Reaper doesn’t see it happening, but The Rally’s Shams Charania reported the Suns have interest in McDaniels.
“Sources tell me that the Suns have emerged as a team with interest in (Jalen) McDaniels, among several others in recent weeks.”
— The Rally (@TheRally) January 10, 2023
He’s not a great shooter, but the 24-year-old has room to grow, and his $1.9 million salary would be an easy toss-in if Phoenix added Cam Payne to the equation:
Gary Trent Jr.
Trent was included multiple times in the Raptors section above, but he should be mentioned individually, since he’s reportedly a guy that “might make sense” for Phoenix.
Averaging a career-best 18.6 points per game on 36.9 percent shooting from deep this year, Trent would be massive as an upgrade over Shamet. He’s a career 38.5 percent sniper from long range and is probably the most attainable Raptor.
The question is, would expiring contracts and a pair of second-rounders be enough for Toronto? Or would they hold out for a first-round pick on top of the salary cap relief?
The “Auxiliary Piece, Last Resort” Suns trade targets
Multiple reports have confirmed the Suns still have interest in Eric Gordon, but the Houston Rockets may be asking for too much in their quest to squeeze a first-rounder out of him. If Phoenix relents, but adds a top-10 protection and pushes Shamet instead of Saric, is that enough to make Houston balk?
This feels like a classic last resort trade, but Gordon can legitimately help as an upgrade over Payne or Shamet in the rotation. His 12.5 points per game on 33.6 percent shooting from 3 don’t leap off the page, but those dwindling numbers may be a circumstance of his environment more than anything. He’s still been effective on corner 3s, he can drive and finish (which the Suns badly need), and he’s a secondary playmaker familiar with CP3.
His $20.9 million salary is non-guaranteed next year unless his team wins the title, and for an above-the-cap team, having another player under contract helps anyway.
The good news is, every time Grayson Allen’s name comes up in conjunction with the Milwaukee Bucks’ interest in Jae Crowder, the term “three-team deal” is always mentioned. That means the Suns are not interested in Allen’s shenanigans.
Unfortunately, that means the Bucks’ current offer on the table is…not great.
“The Bucks most current offer is Jordan Nwora, Serge Ibaka, George Hill, 2nd round draft compensations… for Crowder”@ShamsCharania on Suns giving Bucks permission to speak with Jae Crowder 👀#RunItBack | https://t.co/Q9hUtUoPZJ pic.twitter.com/b0Acvh9j3M
— FanDuel TV (@FanDuelTV) January 30, 2023
Allen for Crowder straight up works financially, and it may become the ultimate last resort if the Suns can’t find something better and have to get something out of Bossman at the deadline.
Allen isn’t bad, as we’ve covered before, but his 10.6 points per game on 40 percent shooting from 3 probably aren’t worth making Phoenix the most hated team in the league. It’ll cost the Bucks a pair of second-rounders for that little bit of misery.
If the Portland Trail Blazers really do have interest in Jae Crowder, the Suns should keep them in mind as a last resort trade partner. Recent trade buzz indicates they’re not looking to move Hart, but as underwhelming as that kind of return would be, he could help, at least.
Hart is a solid defender and an inconsistent 3-point shooter, but he’s still chipping in 9.3 points and an impressive 8.1 rebounds per game this season, all while shooting 50.2 percent from the field.
The only problem is Hart’s $13 million salary is just a smidge too high for a straight-up Crowder swap. At that point, including one of Okogie, Landale or Lee isn’t worth it.
Playing on an expiring $12.2 contract for a rebuilding team, the vultures should be swarming around Josh Richardson soon. He’s been brought up here before, and while his 11.2 points and 3.2 assists per game on 36.2 percent shooting from deep seem average, they’re more helpful than Bossman’s zeroes across the board!
The 29-year-old Richardson isn’t worth a first-rounder at this point, but the San Antonio Spurs could snag two seconds and their choice between Crowder, Saric or Shamet:
Alex Caruso/Coby White
If the Chicago Bulls are actually, legitimately, truly waiting for some team to offer them two first-round picks for Alex Caruso…well, they’re about to be actually, legitimately, truly disappointed by the zero offers they get.
There’s a 99.9999 percent chance this is just the worst example of NBA bartering we’ve seen in a while, setting the price astronomically high before returning to a more respectable middle ground. Since the Bulls are another team that’s reportedly interested in Crowder — for God only knows what reason — the Suns shouldn’t rule this once forsaken possibility out.
If Chicago wants Crowder, it’s because the front office believes this team can continue turning its season around. The Bulls are on the precipice of play-in territory, and Bossman could help with that. He’d also alleviate that crowded backcourt rotation. Here, Phoenix calls Chicago’s bluff and offers a lottery-protected first-rounder, which still might be too much.
Then again, apparently there could be a bidding war for Caruso’s services, so the lottery protection makes a first-rounder more feasible — on Phoenix’s end, at least.
Caruso’s 5.6 points, 3.3 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game hardly leap off the page, but he’s a solid team player who knows his role, defends with intensity and shoots 38.7 percent from 3. He’s also under contract for just $9.5 million next season, plus a non-guaranteed $9.9 million the year after that.
The other alternative is Coby White, a college teammate of Cam Johnson’s who’s putting up 8.2 points in 21.2 minutes per game. His 3-point shooting has dipped this year, but he could just need a change of scenery. Action Network’s Matt Moore reported the Suns and Bulls have already discussed a Coby White-Jae Crowder trade.
Although there was no traction to that deal, it’s worth keeping in mind. White’s $7.4 million contract doesn’t work straight up for Crowder, so another piece like Goran Dragic or Derrick Jones Jr. would have to be included — making the loss of a first-rounder a little easier to swallow.
With that being said, White is a restricted free agent this summer, and with Cam Johnson also being a restricted free agent in the coming months, White may not be worth investing in for the long haul.