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Welcome to Part 2 of the Phoenix Suns Trade Deadline primer!
In Part 1 on Monday, we covered tons of ambitious, realistic and last-resort trade targets for the Suns to consider ahead of the 2023 NBA Trade Deadline. Trading Jae Crowder is obviously a must, and addressing needs like ball-handling, shot creation and size/rebounding at the 4 would be helpful too.
Today, we’re building off that with more “out of the box” trades, including some crazy three-team deals that might test your sanity and push your Suns fandom to the brink.
Enjoy, and as always, follow the ground rules: Be kind, remember that this is a thought exercise, and if you don’t like a trade, make a better one yourself then!
The “Thinking Outside The Box” Suns trade targets
Bogdan Bogdanovic/Clint Capela/John Collins
We’ve covered Double Bogey before, as well as Deandre Ayton sign-and-trades involving Capela. DA is still the better individual player, but given his regression as a rim protector, perhaps the Suns could make up for a slight drop-off at the center spot by finding a rim-runner who fits their playing style better, as well as another scorer and shot creator in Bogdanovic.
Averaging 15.4 points per game this season, Bogdanovic is a career 38.2 percent shooter from long range, handles the ball well and can create his own shot, ranking in the 98th percentile in points per possession on isolation plays, per The BBall Index.
There’s no question Phoenix would miss DA’s midrange touch and insane efficiency around the rim, as well as his ability to defend on the perimeter. But the Suns have been able to turn even average centers into models of efficiency on both ends over the last few seasons. Capela is above-average, and they have the depth to soften that blow between Bismack Biyombo and Jock Landale.
According to NBA.com, opponents are shooting 6.2 percent worse on shots at the rim when defended by Capela. Against Ayton, they’re only shooting 0.1 percent worse, which is a steep decline from his last two years (5.8 percent and 6.7 percent worse). Capela also provides gravity as a rim runner, ranking in the 99th percentile in points per possession as the roll man in pick-and-rolls.
Would the Hawks, who are in need of another midseason shakeup, be interested in upgrading at center while adding Crowder’s shooting, veteran experience and toughness?
If the Hawks would prefer to unload John Collins’ contract and deal with Bogdanovic’s upcoming player option, the Suns might be a team to keep an eye on. As we covered in Part 1 of our Suns Trade Primer on Monday, ESPN’s Zach Lowe believes an offer of salary filler and a first-round pick could get the job done.
Expanding Lowe’s deal to include DA and Capela, the math still works out nicely with Crowder thrown in:
If the Suns were smart, they’d continue starting Cam Johnson after landing Collins. Cam’s floor-spacing would open things up for a rim-roller like Capela, while Collins would bolster the bench with size, athleticism and rebounding.
However, with Collins’ 3-point efficiency dipping to a dismal 25.9 percent this year, this is the less enticing option. He can’t create his own shot, he’s still owed $51.9 million over the next two years with a $26.6 million player option for the third year, and he might be the kind of trade acquisition that gets flipped in the offseason after a brief trial run.
Considering the Suns’ biggest needs are in the backcourt, this option really only makes sense if the team is fully convinced it needs to move on from Ayton.
Christian Wood/Dorian Finney-Smith
That’s right, folks: We’re settling the Deandre Ayton-Luka Doncic chatter once and for all by putting them on the same team.
Yes, this is the stuff of absolute nightmares for Suns fans, trading their No. 1 pick to another Western Conference team — let alone this Western Conference team. But if it bolsters their lineup and improves their shot at a title, who cares?
Of course, there’s no guarantee this deal does that, but Christian Wood is having a tremendous season, and this isn’t the first time we’ve listed DFS among our Suns trade targets. Even better, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported on Monday that the Dallas Mavericks are open to moving Finney-Smith in a trade for a “star-caliber player.”
Whether or not Ayton is that doesn’t matter; all that matters is whether Dallas thinks he is. If that’s the case, Wood, Finney-Smith and a first-round pick would do nicely:
Wood isn’t the most mobile defender, but he’s holding opponents to 6.4 percent worse shooting at the rim. He’s also enjoying a career year in the pick-and-roll with Doncic, averaging 18.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game on .535/.385/.737 shooting splits. He’d thrive running pick-and-rolls with Chris Paul, Devin Booker and Mikal Bridges.
As for Finney-Smith, the Suns saw firsthand in the playoffs last year how he can burn teams for leaving him open. He’s only making 34.6 percent of his 3s this year, but over the last three seasons before that, he made 39.5, 39.4 and 37.6 percent of his triples. Add in his underrated defense, and the Suns are getting major help at the 4 behind Cam Johnson, with an extra asset to help address their needs in the ball-handling department.
It’s not the sexiest trade package, but the fear of trading Ayton to the Mavs shouldn’t stop the Suns from making maneuvers to improve. Still, Wood being an unrestricted free agent complicates things, and there’s a better expansion on this idea later, so let’s not dwell too long on this one.
This is the ultimate “WHO SAYS NO?” trade where everyone screams “NO!” all at once.
The Golden State Warriors would never do it because of what Draymond Green means to their defense, their franchise and fanbase, not to mention his legacy there as a four-time champion and former Defensive Player of the Year. The Suns would never do it because they’d be trading their No. 1 overall pick and 24-year-old franchise center for a 32-year-old who’s looking for his next payday this summer.
BUT, is it really crazy to think Green would address some areas of need in Phoenix?
Rebounding? Check. Perimeter defense and rim protection? Check. Ball-handling and high-level playmaking, particularly in the short roll? Check. Basketball I.Q.? Check. Championship experience? Check. Able to log small-ball minutes at the 5? Check. Gets along with Book? Check.
The Suns could start Biyombo or Landale in name, but just imagine being able to resort to a Death Lineup of Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson and Draymond Green. Imagine Phoenix having Green’s tenacity and DPOY-caliber intangibles on the defensive end, especially when opponents are shooting a staggering 15.8 percent worse at the rim against him.
The Warriors would longer have to worry about giving Green his new payday, which is a legitimate concern with Klay Thompson also due for an extension soon. According to Heavy’s Sean Deveney, league sources believe the Dubs need to trade him before the deadline or risk losing him for nothing. They haven’t balked at paying hefty luxury tax bills in the past to contend for titles, but with general manager Bob Myers’ future unclear, bringing in a younger, star-caliber center makes sense, especially with all of Golden State’s doubts about James Wiseman.
This will never, ever happen, especially with the trade deadline eight days away, but it makes more sense than it probably should.
It’d be fairly surprising if the Portland Trail Blazers dealt Grant in the middle of a borderline All-Star season, full stop. But with the 28-year-old week eligible for a contract extension before the trade deadline and Rip City sitting two games below .500, maybe it’s not as implausible as it seems?
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst agrees, speculating: “Keep an eye on Jerami Grant in Portland. If he doesn’t sign an extension by deadline week, teams are going to sniff there.”
Assuming he doesn’t get that extension, let’s go ahead and sniff there:
Trading Grant away for a cap relief package like this, rather than just extending him or re-signing him this summer, would send a bad message to Damian Lillard. Then again, is ownership willing to dive deep into the luxury tax with the kind of extension he’ll want, especially to retain the core of a team that’s not even currently occupying a play-in spot?
As we covered in Part 1, the Blazers are interested in Jae Crowder for some reason. Give them some expiring salaries and two first-round picks, and suddenly the Suns are even more dangerous on both ends of the court.
Grant has frequently been mentioned here as a sensible Suns trade target, and that’s especially true now that he’s averaging 21.3 points per game on .488/.422/.797 shooting splits. His struggles with creating as the No. 1 option on the Detroit Pistons make him a lethal No. 3 or No. 4 guy, which is what he’d be again in Phoenix.
Does he want to return to that sort of role? That’s open for debate, but there’s no question that winning is fun. This would require Cam Johnson to slide back into a bench role, but a six-man core of CP3, Book, Bridges, Grant, Ayton and Johnson would really batten down the hatches for a deep playoff run.
The creative, off-the-wall, contentious 3-teamers
They called me a madman.
A few notes before we dive into some truly wacky three-team trades:
- As always, these trade scenarios are a thought exercise. We’re striving for objectivity, but no trade will make everyone happy. A player’s inclusion doesn’t mean I necessarily want him to be traded or even think he should be dealt; it’s simply an attempt to be realistic about their current value while trying to balance multiple teams’ needs in hypothetical scenarios.
- That is especially important to remember for the Ayton trades, and there are quite a few of them. We’re not trying to feed into any narrative, but rather, simply acknowledging that he’d be the most likely core piece to be on the move. Even with Ayton’s ability to veto any deadline trade, he’s attractive to outside suitors given he’s only 24 years old and is already a borderline top-five center. Mikal Bridges won’t be dealt for anything less than a superstar, the Suns can re-sign Cam Johnson to a cost-effective deal in restricted free agency, and this team has always seemed to abide by a “system approach” to the center spot. Their actions over the last few years indicate they’d rather not devote max money to a center who can’t create his own offense. That makes Ayton the most logical trade candidate in terms of value, the potential return he’d bring in, and being able to replace some of what he provides.
- If you don’t share the much-debated opinion that they can replicate about 80 percent of what Ayton does on a cheaper salary, you probably won’t enjoy these trades. But they’re designed around fit and the total package Phoenix would receive, not just the guy they’d replace DA with. Fair warning!
Poeltl’s rim protection has slightly fallen off this season, with opponents only shooting 4.0 percent worse at the basket against him — a sizable drop from 8.2 percent last season. But he’s still been better on that front than Ayton, and the Spurs being a significantly worse team factors into that decline. Put him on a contender again, and the underrated defense he’s shown over the last few seasons might come roaring back quickly.
No one in San Antonio should be untouchable, but Josh Richardson (expiring $12.2 million contract) and Doug McDermott ($13.8 million salary for next season) feel downright expendable. The Spurs are wisely monitoring the trade market for the right Poeltl deal, but it’s hard to see them realistically doing better than a pure talent upgrade who fits their timeline like Ayton.
San Antonio is rebuilding, and a young nucleus of DA, Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson could be fun. Cam Payne is included to help Tre Jones out at the point guard spot. The Utah Jazz, meanwhile, snag qwhite a shooter in McDermott, as well as an unprotected first-rounder from Phoenix:
The Suns downgrade with a less mobile center, but they still get a superior rim protector who will be cheaper to re-sign in free agency than a guy on a max deal. Poeltl’s 11.8 points, 9.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.2 blocks and 0.8 steals per game on 62 percent shooting don’t scream “potential All-Star,” but they speak to his diversified skill-set.
Phoenix also lands some much-needed shot creation and even some playmaking with Clarkson, who’s putting up a career-high 20.9 points, 4.3 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game. He’s a walking heat check who could help if he just keeps up his current .450/.350/.823 shooting splits.
Finally, even if Richardson’s only shooting an average 36.2 percent from 3, they add him as a Landry Shamet upgrade, as well as a Spurs 2025 first-rounder via Atlanta. Even if it doesn’t land a superstar, that’s not a terrible package for DA, Payne and a first-rounder, especially since the Suns could still tinker around the edges of the roster by dangling that pick with some combination of Crowder, Shamet and Dario Saric.
Another alternative? Going bolder and adding Jarred Vanderbilt to the mix:
Vanderbilt has long been a top trade target around these parts for his versatile, lockdown defense, as well as the rebounding boost he’d provide. As a defensive playmaker, he ranks in the 92nd percentile in steals per 75 possessions, 87th percentile in deflections per 75 possessions, and 81st percentile in defensive field goal percentage at the rim vs. expected.
As a rebounder, he’s in the 88th percentile in offensive rebounds per 75 possessions and the 91st percentile in defensive rebounds per 75 possessions. He wouldn’t start over Cam Johnson, but he’d be an incredible depth piece for whenever the Suns need stops. He’s also under contract for next season at a bargain price of $4.7 million.
The Spurs get Ayton and a happy little reunion with Rudy Gay; the Jazz get expiring contracts with Crowder and Richardson while pocketing two first-rounders; and the Suns get a rim protector with Poeltl, a Swiss Army knife defender with Vanderbilt, some shot creation with Clarkson, and a bench shooter with McDermott.
Let’s replace the Jazz with the Minnesota Timberwolves as the third team, squeezing D’Angelo Russell — a rumored target we covered in Part 1 on Monday — into the mix. With the way D-Lo is playing, it wouldn’t make much sense for the Wolves to dump him, but his player option and upcoming free agency could complicate matters.
The Spurs once again get Ayton in this 3-teamer, while the Timberwolves get Crowder, Payne, McDermott, Richardson and two first-round picks, recouping some of their losses from the disastrous Rudy Gobert trade that cost them four firsts:
Meanwhile, the Suns snag Poeltl, Russell as their backup point guard, and Kyle Anderson to make the money work. D-Lo shouldn’t be the Suns’ long-term answer at point guard beyond the CP3 era, but as a backup and stopgap starter? There are worse options than a guy who’s averaging 17.6 points and 6.3 assists a night on a career-high 46.1 percent shooting from the field and 38.6 percent shooting from deep.
“Slo Mo” isn’t a glamorous addition, but he’s a smart, seasoned addition who could provide some size and Swiss Army knife versatility to the 4-spot behind Cam Johnson. His 8.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game would provide balanced contributions across the stat sheet, and he’s hitting 44.3 percent of his 3s this season. Anderson is under contract through next season at a meager $9.2 million.
The problem here is, would the Timberwolves really punt on the season by downgrading from Russell to Jordan McLaughlin or a banged up Cam Payne as their starting point guard? The hope is they’d appreciate freeing up cap space with Crowder and Richardson’s expiring salaries. Combined with not overpaying to keep Russell, they’d have wiggle room to be more aggressive in free agency. Snagging two first-rounders also allows them to be more active in the draft or on the trade market.
However, it’s difficult to envision a team currently in the thick of the playoff picture out West dumping their starting point guard and not getting one back in return.
One fundamental truth: If John Collins can’t do better than the 25.9 percent he’s currently shooting from beyond the arc, he and Ayton would never work in the same frontcourt. They’re both rim-rolling big men, the spacing would be cramped, and Collins isn’t the answer as a DA replacement at the 5 because of his defensive flaws.
So how about getting Poeltl to man the center spot, Collins to hopefully bounce back on a new team, and Richardson and a first-rounder for the trouble of trading Ayton away?
Admittedly, we’re not as sold on Collins’ value around these parts. But if the Suns are allegedly interested, and the Hawks still have interest in Crowder, we can at least defend the logic behind a deal like this.
The Spurs surrender two first-rounders since they’re essentially getting Ayton for non-essential players and expiring contracts. Atlanta gets their 2025 first-round pick back from the Dejounte Murray trade, and San Antonio sends Phoenix their own pick in 2026.
The Suns would pocket an extra first-rounder to use in another trade, add Poeltl and Richardson, and put Collins to work as a bench 4 or small-ball 5, capitalizing on his ranking in the 83rd percentile in points per possession as the roll man.
However, Collins’ fit with Phoenix isn’t ideal. Since this trade fails to address Phoenix’s need for extra ball-handlers and shot creators, this alternative makes more sense:
The Suns would have to cut someone to make this trade work, but landing Poeltl at center, Bogdanovic as an offensive creator off the bench and Justin Holiday, who’s been a trade target here in the past, makes for a decent haul.
The Hawks once again get their 2025 pick back from San Antonio, while Holiday — a career 36.4 percent shooter from long range — gets a chance to fight for rotation minutes. It feels like we can still do better though, especially with Bogdanovic likely to opt out of his $18 million player option and both Poeltl and Holiday being unrestricted free agents this summer.
Now we’re starting to get a little spicy.
Ayton’s still teaming up with Gregg Popovich in San Antonio, while the Pacers land the expirings of Crowder and Richardson, Cam Payne, and two first-rounders from the Spurs. The Suns welcome their new starting center, a Shamet upgrade, a Payne upgrade and another shooter in McDermott:
This move frees up more minutes for Benedict Mathurin and Chris Duarte, and it allows the Pacers to be more aggressive in free agency with two expiring contracts (and Payne’s non-guaranteed deal) replacing the $28 million owed to Buddy Hield and T.J. McConnell next season. Indiana has rarely been a free-agency destination, so perhaps they’d prefer to just stand pat with this group, but Hield is certainly not off limits, and pocketing two future firsts for expendable pieces is never a bad idea for a rebuilding franchise.
The Spurs once again shell out two first-rounders since they’re only giving up spare parts to land DA, and aside from Poeltl and McDermott, the Suns upgrade at both backcourt spots off the bench.
Hield can’t create his own buckets, but he’d be a terrific weapon for the second unit as a spot-up shooter. The 30-year-old wing is hitting 42.5 percent of his 8.9 long-range attempts per game this season, including 40.3 percent of his pull-up 3s, 43.2 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3s and 53 percent of his corner 3s.
These three teams can make the math work without McConnell and Payne included, but McConnell is one of the most underrated backups in the league and should be on Phoenix’s radar.
McConnell would be the cherry on top, since he can get downhill (100th percentile in drives per 75 possessions), playmake (100th percentile in high-value assists per 75 possessions), rack up steals (98th percentile in steals per 75 possessions) and knock down the occasional 3 (43.3 percent on just 0.6 attempts per game). Averaging 7.5 points, 5.1 assists and 1.1 steals in 19.7 minutes per game, he’s a crafty finisher, smart passer and gritty perimeter defender who’d fit Phoenix like a glove.
Are you sick of Jakob Poeltl yet?
I swear we’re almost done with this rubric, but it’s one of the more effective ways to A) Make sure the Suns get an available, starting-caliber center in a three-team Ayton deal and B) Force the Spurs to pony up the draft picks for whatever bigger target Phoenix is after.
This one is admittedly underwhelming, depending on how you feel about Terry Rozier and Jalen McDaniels.
In this deal, the tanking Charlotte Hornets happily accept expendable pieces like Richardson and McDermott as long as it nets them two first-rounders from San Antonio.
For the Suns, we covered these two guys in Part 1, but to rehash: The Suns have been linked to both Rozier and McDaniels, they’ve both been shot down by the Trade Reaper. But they’d both still make sense as long as Phoenix doesn’t envision Rozier being their long-term solution at the 1-spot.
That becomes tricky given the $48.1 million he’s owed over the next two years, plus a non-guaranteed $26.6 million for the third year, but the Suns could always wheel-and-deal later if he doesn’t work out. For the short-term, a guy averaging 21.7 points, 5.1 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game in a starting role could definitely help the second unit as a high-end backup. He’s an underrated playmaker and perimeter chaser on the defensive end, so unleashing him on opposing bench units would be unfair.
As for McDaniels, the lanky 6-foot-9 wing is averaging a career-high 10.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game. He’s only 24 years old, could supply some depth at the 4 and wouldn’t break the bank to re-sign as an unrestricted free agent this summer.
…Did I mention that Jakob Poeltl ranks in the 94th percentile in field goal percentage at the rim? Or that he’s in the 95th percentile in offensive boards per 75 possessions, 90th percentile in defensive rebounds per 75 possessions, and 94th percentile in screen assists per 75 possessions??
In all seriousness, Bojan Bogdanovic was a Suns trade target going all the way back to last September. Even on a different team, following his recent extension, he’s still trade-eligible, and he’ll have plenty of suitors. The Detroit Pistons have the luxury of letting this bidding war play out for his services, but if they want two first-rounders, this move gets the job done.
Expiring contracts like Richardson and Crowder don’t really help with the Pistons’ aspirations of being a playoff team again next season once Cade Cunningham is healthy. They don’t need to deal Bogdanovic, but cashing in now, while the 33-year-old’s value is at an all-time high, might be more prudent. Expiring salaries give them more cap space to overpay for veteran free agents who can help this young group blossom.
Averaging a career-high 21.4 points per game on .487/.416/.881 shooting splits, Bogdanovic’s pure firepower and ability to create his own shot could take Phoenix’s offense to a whole new level. Aside from the shooting, he’s also a capable, consistent driver, ranking in the 81st percentile in drives per 75 possessions and the 83rd percentile in rim shot-making. His 5.2 free-throw attempts per game wouldn’t hurt either.
Bogdanovic is a minus on the defensive end, but he competes, and with Cam Johnson coming off the bench, that’d be a pretty solid six-man core for the playoffs. The error for margin with Bogey is slimmer without an elite 5 anchoring the defense, but Poeltl is no slouch either. Plus, the Suns would still have Saric, Shamet and other picks available to make an additional depth move.
I SWEAR WE’RE ALMOST DONE, BUT DID YOU KNOW JAKOB POELTL RANKS IN THE 89TH PERCENTILE IN POINTS PER POSSESSION ON POST-UP PLAYS?
In our penultimate Poeltl trade, the Suns add him, McDermott and a first-rounder from San Antonio, along with Eric Gordon — one of the longest-running Suns trade targets of the last two years. San Antonio gets Ayton, while the Houston Rockets get a 2025 first-rounder via Atlanta, along with expiring contracts in Richardson and Crowder.
It’s not a perfect haul for anyone involved, but the Rockets get the first-rounder they wanted for the 34-year-old Gordon, the Spurs get a young cornerstone, and the Suns pocket an extra pick along with their new starting center and another shot creator off the bench.
Trading Gordon would’ve made more sense last year, but we’re willing to chalk up his dwindling numbers this season — 12.5 points and 2.7 assists per game on 33.6 percent shooting from deep — to being in a rough situation in Houston, where the youngsters’ development is the ugly, primary focus.
Even so, giving up Ayton for Poeltl, McDermott and Gordon doesn’t scream “title or bust” move, even with an additional first-rounder to use in a separate trade.
Okay, fine. This is the last Poeltl-centered trade. But don’t you feel like you know him better already?
It seems like we’re being flippant about DA’s short-term and long-term value in Phoenix. But turning him, Crowder, Torrey Craig and a first-rounder into Poeltl, Kyle Kuzma, Deni Avdija and Monte Morris would check a ton of boxes to prepare this team for a deep playoff run.
Craig is an unexpected casualty of the math here, as well as the Suns’ need to still cut someone to have enough roster spots for everyone (apologies, Romeo Langford).
However, thanks to the Washington Wizards’ ill-timed six-game win streak, they’re back in a play-in spot. The probability is high that their front office continues to make the mistake of thinking a Bradley Beal-led team can get you anywhere beyond a first-round exit. Beal, Kuzma and Kristaps Porzingis have been cooking lately, sure, but to what end? What is this group’s ceiling, exactly?
Trading Rui Hachimura not only signals the Wizards are confident they can re-sign Kuzma this summer, but it’s also unlocked Avdija, a third-year forward who can do a little bit of everything:
Deni Avdija since the Rui Hachimura trade
+50 overall +/- pic.twitter.com/0EELnjJx68
— Coast 2 Coast (@Coast2CoastNBA) January 31, 2023
It’ll never happen, because the Wizards may finally be pushing toward a more competitive outcome this season, but cashing in on these guys’ value with not one, not two, but three unprotected first-rounders would help them rebuild in a hurry — especially if they ever wise up and trade Beal before his value tanks.
Continuing to operate in this dream world for a minute, imagine a starting five of Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Kyle Kuzma and Jakob Poeltl, with Monte Morris, Damion Lee, Cam Johnson, Deni Avdija and either Bismack Biyombo or Jock Landale coming off the bench. That’s pretty damn good!
Kuzma is a target we’ve covered quite a bit recently, but he can score. Averaging a career-high 21.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game, Kuz has evolved into a well-rounded player who can drive and finish in the paint, ranking in the 80th percentile in drives per 75 possessions and the 89th percentile in field goal percentage at the rim.
The Suns reportedly still have their eye on him, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the feeling was mutual.
Those suns jerseys are so beautiful
— kuz (@kylekuzma) October 26, 2022
Avdija’s 3-point shooting leaves something to be desired at 28.6 percent, but the spacing around him would alleviate some of those concerns. He’s a capable finisher around the basket and a terrific defender, placing in the 95th percentile in on-ball defense on the perimeter.
Throw in Morris, who’s averaging 10.7 points and 5.3 assists per game on 39.7 percent shooting from deep in a starting role, and you’ve got the recipe for his return to form as one of the NBA’s best backup point guards. Losing Ayton stings, but if the Suns were to do it, this type of three-teamer plugs quite a few of their remaining holes.
We don’t always have to include Ayton. This three-team deal, with picks and expirings, doesn’t feel too off in terms of value for all three teams:
The last Gordon trade felt underwhelming, but this one feels a little closer, if only because Capela comes closer to replicating what DA provides than any non-star center in the league.
Ayton represents an individual upgrade over Capela for a Hawks team that is once again underwhelming at one game below .500. A core of Trae Young, Dejounte Murray and DA shakes things up in a fun way for the foreseeable future, plus they add Crowder — a player they’ve reportedly had interest in for months.
The Athletic’s Kelly Iko reported the Rockets’ interest in John Collins, and in this three-team scenario, all it’d cost Houston to get him from Atlanta is Gordon and a future first-rounder. Tossing in the 2023 first they’re owed from the Milwaukee Bucks (likely in the 25-30 range) is no sweat for a team that has a plethora of extra picks in their war chest.
As we covered above, Capela is a terrific rim-runner, rim protector and screen setter, ranking in the 96th percentile in screen assists. He’d be the ultimate example of the Suns’ likely belief that they can get high-end production out of the center spot as long as he sets good screens, rolls hard, crashes the offensive glass and blocks shots on the other end.
And while Gordon may appear to be washed up, he’s still hitting 50 percent of his corner 3s and has experience playing next to Chris Paul. Sending him back to a contender may rejuvenate him, and it’s encouraging to see how he’d help with attacking the basket, since he still ranks in the 83rd percentile on drives per 75 possessions and the 71st percentile in field goal percentage at the rim.
Gordon can also run offense or get his own bucket when he needs to, placing in the 93rd percentile in points per possession on both isolation plays and pick-and-rolls as the ball-handler.
Admittedly, giving up Ayton for a pseudo-replacement and an aging Gordon isn’t the sexiest return. This would have to be a real “addition by subtraction” kind of move, even if Capela and Gordon check a lot of boxes.
Now we’re cooking with gas.
Ayton is once again replacing Capela in Atlanta, but this time, sharpshooter Malik Beasley is joining him from Utah. Meanwhile, the Jazz land Cam Payne to replace Jordan Clarkson, John Collins because they’ve reportedly been the “most active” team in pursuing him, and three first-rounders. Is Collins plus one draft pick for each of his departing players good enough for Danny Ainge?
IT BETTER BE, DANNY BOY, BECAUSE WHAT A HAUL FOR PHOENIX:
Again, the Suns slightly downgrade from Ayton to Capela, but the latter may be a better system fit for what Phoenix wants to do. Losing two first-rounders hurts, but the 2026 pick is top-10 protected, and as long as James Jones is in charge, the draft is a virtual crapshoot anyway. They might as well put that pair of picks to good use on a certified bench scorer like Clarkson and a defensive stalwart like Vando.
Even better, this deal still gives Phoenix the flexibility to make another depth move using Jae Crowder — say, in a package with Dario Saric and a pair of second-rounders for Eric Gordon?
Clarkson will almost certainly opt out of his $14.3 million player option to become a free agent, but the Suns would have the inside track to re-sign him (especially if they won it all), and Gordon’s $20.9 million salary for next year is non-guaranteed (unless they do, in fact, win the title).
What did it cost?…
Have you gotten over the idea of DA joining Doncic in Dallas yet? No? Well let’s see if we can help fix that with one of these mega-deals.
The Jazz are reportedly eyeing Dorian Finney-Smith, and while he’d look great in a Suns jersey, Phoenix can use Utah’s interest to their advantage. How about DFS, Cam Payne and a pair of Suns picks to the Jazz in a three-teamer that really shakes things up?
Utah gets properly compensated for the departures of Clarkson and Vanderbilt, Dallas gets a franchise center in DA and a former fan favorite in Crowder, and the Suns add a backup guard who can create offense, help at the 4-spot, their new DA replacement and extra shooting in Reggie Bullock?
Granted, Wood is an unrestricted free agent, and he’s not the defender that DA is. But the addition of Vanderbilt would help cover for some of those deficiencies, as would Phoenix’s all-around team defense that’s still managed to rank in the top 10 despite Ayton’s regression on that end.
This might not be enough for Atlanta, but Payne is a fill-in ball-handler who will be much cheaper on the cap sheet next season than Bogdanovic. They’re still getting a first-rounder for Double Bogey, plus an experienced shooter on a team-friendly contract in Bullock.
The Mavs still get Ayton and Crowder, while the Suns bolster their rotation by bringing Bogdanovic home, adding Finney-Smith’s 3-and-D skill-set behind Cam Johnson, and putting Wood in their starting center spot.
Seeing as how this is our final act, you, dear reader, deserve a real shebang for making it this far.
Spencer Dinwiddie, who’s averaging 17.5 points and 5.3 assists per game on .460/.404/.816 shooting splits this year, would be a dream fit in Phoenix, not just for this year, but next season as well, when he’ll make $21 million in the final year of his contract. Dinwiddie wouldn’t be the heir apparent to CP3, since he’ll hit free agency as a 31-year-old in 2024, but in terms of sixth man upgrades, it’ll be hard to find someone better for the next two years.
There’s been no discussion about Dinwiddie being on the trade block, but everyone not named Luka should be available to some degree in Dallas. The Suns need to give the Mavs a compelling reason to part with one of their best players. This is it.
Thor may not have gone for the head, but we won’t make the same mistake:
The biggest concern is there might not be enough young talent attached for the Hawks’ taste. Three first-rounders is a solid haul, but for Atlanta to give up Bogdanovic, Collins and Capela in the same move, there’s not much to be excited about on the player front. That Hawks may like Crowder, but that’s probably more as a supplementary piece to their established roster, not the centerpiece of a trade that slightly tears it down by adding a bunch of redundant wings.
Even Wood, the best player Atlanta gets back, is an unrestricted free agent this summer. The Hawks need a midseason change, and building around Young, Murray and De’Andre Hunter with three extra first-rounders helps, but this feels like a nonstarter unless the front office has a major shakeup planned.
From the Suns’ perspective, though? This is a deal that would actually make trading Deandre Ayton to a conference rival worth the risk.
Please leave my mentions alone as I take my rest, thanks in advance.