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The 2022 NBA Trade Deadline is over, and the Phoenix Suns’ roster is locked in for another hopeful Finals run.
Or is it?
While the Suns won on the margins by trading for Torrey Craig and Aaron Holiday in two separate deals on Thursday, the trade deadline doesn’t mean the end of players moving around the league. There’s still buyout season to consider, which means the potential is there for Phoenix to make another upgrade on the fringes.
To be fair, there’s a chance the Suns are done. By using Dario Saric’s Disabled Player Exception to absorb Holiday’s contract, waiving Abdel Nader and releasing Justin Jackson from his 10-day contract, Phoenix’s roster stands at 15 players (not including Ish Wainright’s two-way contract).
However, Elfrid Payton feels like a superfluous piece to keep around as the Suns gear up for another deep playoff run, and waiving him would free up another roster spot for a player on the buyout market. After spending $5 million on JaVale McGee over the summer, the Suns also still have a chunk left of their Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception to use.
As The Four-Point Play’s David Nash points out, the amount in question depreciates every day. They’re also currently $2.9 million under the luxury tax, which is another factor to consider should they sign someone on the buyout market.
Even so, the means still exist for this team to add someone on the buyout market if there’s mutual interest.
The question is, who fits the bill? At this point, we’re mostly speculating about who will become available, but let’s take a look at some logical names for the Suns to target should they reach a buyout with their respective teams before the March 1 deadline.
Full disclosure: This is probably wishful thinking. It was surprising the Suns were unable to swing a deal for this veteran sharpshooter, and even more surprising still when the Houston Rockets held onto him past the deadline.
Unfortunately, there have been rumblings that Houston values what he’s brought to the table as a veteran leader for this young group, and with the Rockets not getting the first-round pick they required to move him, there’s a good chance they simply hold onto Gordon for the rest of the season.
The remaining two years and $37.8 million left on his contract (plus a non-guaranteed $20.9 million for 2023-24) make it hard to see him and the Rockets coming to an arrangement on a buyout.
However, if for some miraculous reason it actually happens, the Suns should be first in line to try and reunite him with Chris Paul in Phoenix, as we’ve covered here before. He’s shooting a blistering 42.7 percent from 3-point range on 5.2 attempts per game, and even at age 33, his ability to play on or off the ball would be huge for Phoenix. When defenses hone in on stopping Paul and Devin Booker in the playoffs, having a third guy who can reliably create his own looks would make this team unfair.
Just don’t count on a buyout coming to fruition if the Rockets valued Gordon enough to keep him, especially with so much money left to account for on his deal.
After the Toronto Raptors traded Goran Dragic and a protected first-round pick to the San Antonio Spurs for Thaddeus Young on Thursday, it didn’t take long for the reports of an imminent buyout to come pouring in:
Phoenix wasn’t listed among the teams interested in the Dragon’s services, and it looks like there will be plenty of competition between the Dallas Mavericks, Milwaukee Bucks, Chicago Bulls and LA Clippers. The Mavs make perfect sense, since Dragic would get to play with his fellow Slovenian star (Luka Doncic) and former coach (Igor Kokoskov) there.
However, if there were one team that stood a fair chance of competing with the allure of a Team Slovenia reunion, it’d have to be the Suns, right? Not only because they’re the best team in the NBA right now, but because there’s history there — not all of it good, but more than enough to make the prospect of returning and winning a title here worth it.
Dragic is ostensibly a better option than all of the Suns’ backup guards except Cam Payne, given that he can create for himself and for others, and that he can play with or without the ball. It wasn’t that long ago he was a Sixth Man of the Year candidate with the Miami Heat, who desperately missed him during their Finals loss in 2020.
However, nobody knows how much he has left in the tank at age 35, especially since he hasn’t played all season due to a standoff with the Raptors. With Payne still around, Holiday joining via trade and Payton still on the roster, the Suns may think they’re set behind Chris Paul.
So yes, Holiday’s arrival all but rules this one out. Just let us dream of a Phoenix-Dragon reunion ending with a storybook-ending title run for a little while longer.
Consider Gary Harris — a more defensive-minded alternative to Eric Gordon on the wing — a more realistic buyout target. Currently wasting away on a 13-win Orlando Magic team, Harris has done okay for himself, averaging 11.7 points in 29.5 minutes per game while shooting 44.4 percent from the floor and 38.8 percent from 3.
The Magic probably needed to find a trade for Harris given his $20.5 million expiring contract. It feels unlikely he’d want to sign on for a few more losing seasons in Orlando during free agency this summer, which means the Magic could lose him for nothing, unless they’re able to use his Bird rights to navigate the uncertainty of a sign-and-trade. As such, Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer listed Harris as a likely buyout candidate.
If he does become available on the buyout market, the Suns should be all over this 3-and-D off-guard. He doesn’t have the scoring or shooting prowess of a guy like Gordon, but he’s still only 27 years old, has stayed reasonably healthy this season and could spread the floor while locking people up on the other end. The Suns would represent a nice change of pace in the win column for Harris, and they’d be able to outbid some suitors using what’s left of their MLE.
Again, another unlikely candidate, but one that’s worth at least mentioning. The Four-Point Play’s David Nash covered in full detail why Kenrich Williams would be such an attractive addition to this Suns team, and even with Craig joining the party at the deadline, you can never have too many Swiss Army knife wings.
However, the Oklahoma City Thunder were reportedly holding out for a first-round pick in any deal involving “Kenny Hustle.” They didn’t get it, but it shows how much they value the 27-year-old wing…especially since he’s only on a $2 million, non-guaranteed contract for next year, which will make him a trade candidate once again at next year’s deadline.
If the heavens open and OKC cuts Kenny Hustle loose, this is a no-brainer. Just don’t count on the Thunder doing so when they can still hunt for trades over the summer or at next year’s deadline.
Tomas Satoransky is another potential buyout candidate, according to Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer. The arrival of Aaron Holiday seemingly makes this more complicated, but Sato is basically a 6-foot-7 playmaker no matter where you plug him in. He’s a point guard trapped in a massive body who could put that wingspan to use by logging minutes at multiple positions. If Shamet continues to struggle, having an alternative definitely wouldn’t hurt.
It’s been an undeniably rough year for the 30-year-old Satoransky. He averaged just 15 minutes per game during his time with the New Orleans Pelicans, his 2.8 points and 2.4 assists on 29.9 percent shooting (including 16.6 percent from 3) are cringeworthy, and he’s been traded from the Pelicans to the Portland Trail Blazers and then again to the San Antonio Spurs in the last 48 hours.
But this may be a classic case of a serviceable role player simply needing a change of scenery. He wouldn’t be asked to do much in Phoenix, but his secondary playmaking, basketball I.Q. and career 35.6 percent shooting from long range indicate a player who could be steady if he were called upon in a pinch.
The Blazers’ CJ McCollum trade, combined with their other moves and Damian Lillard’s ongoing absence due to abdominal surgery, suggests this team is ready to bottom out for a higher draft pick. They’re only one game out of a play-in spot in the West, but don’t count on them pursuing it.
If that’s the case, Ben McLemore seems like a prime buyout candidate on that $1.7 million veteran minimum salary of his. He’s no Eric Gordon or Gary Harris in terms of the services he’d provide, but he does one thing very well still: shoot the 3-ball.
McLemore is only shooting 39.2 percent overall from the field, and there’s a reason he’s bounced around to five different teams in his nine-year career. But he’s hitting 3s at a 37.8 percent clip this season, and you could expect that number to rise with all the open looks he’d get in this Suns offense.
There have been no indications that a buyout is coming for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, but given that the Washington Wizards seem to be having a fire sale aside from Bradley Beal, would anyone be surprised if he suddenly landed on the market?
KCP is making $13 million this season, but his $14 million salary for next year is non-guaranteed. A buyout may feel unlikely, but it’s not impossible, and if he finds himself looking for a new team, the Phoenix Suns would love to add that kind of 3-and-D skill-set to their wing rotation.
The arrival of Craig mitigates the “need” for such a player, but you can never have too many wings. Caldwell-Pope is a respected defender, has championship experience and has shot 36.8 percent, 41 percent and 38.5 percent from 3-point range over the last three seasons.
Not the sexiest option, but DeAndre’ Bembry’ is more useful to the Suns than an injured Abdel Nader was (and probably a healthy one too, given how Nader’s season went early on), and he’d provide more positional versatility than Payton does.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Brooklyn Nets are cutting Bembry loose in the wake of their James Harden-Ben Simmons blockbuster:
Bembry’s 5.8 points and 3.2 rebounds per game are mediocre, but he was highly efficient in his limited role in Brooklyn, shooting 56.8 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from 3.
Those numbers came on an admittedly small sample size, but as a rangy wing who can knock down open looks and defend multiple positions, Bembry is yet another player option that description who would make Phoenix’s wing rotation the most stacked in the NBA.
Again, Aaron Holiday’s arrival really puts a dent in this possibility, and this is an admittedly unappealing option. Seeing what the Suns have in their new third-string point guard might be preferable to taking on an embattled, chippy personality like Dennis Schroder, whose fanbases seem to turn on him rather quickly.
However, there’s no denying how effective Schroder was during his time in OKC alongside Chris Paul, and there’s no question he can score. If the Rockets decide to cut him loose after snagging him from the Boston Celtics, his 14.4 points and 4.4 assists per game this season indicate a steadier option compared to Elfrid Payton and possibly even Holiday…even if his 34.9 percent shooting from distance isn’t particularly comforting.
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