According to Adrian Wojnarwoski, the Phoenix Suns are going for the whole enchilada

We here at Bright Side have been touting LeBron James to the Phoenix Suns for a while now, and we believe that the Suns offer the best combination of present and future for LeBron.

Link: WojBOMB

Armed with an offer that no else in the NBA can make - a chance to partner with Carmelo Anthony on an instant championship contender - the Phoenix Suns are planning an aggressive pursuit of LeBron James on Tuesday, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Suns officials understand the bid will be something of a long shot, but are determined to get a meeting with James to convince him how the possibilities of two full max contracts, a roster stocked with talented, young players and the chance to pick the superstar free-agent partner of his choice ought to make Phoenix one of his most appealing suitors.

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The Suns' flexibility allows for James to pick any free agent - this summer or next - for himself. It could be Anthony or Chris Bosh this summer, Kevin Love next summer.

If its pairing LeBron with Kevin Love (via trade this year, or free agency next summer), Carmelo Anthony (free agency) or Chris Bosh (free agency), the Suns have the assets and cap room to not only make it work but give LeBron his best combination of young talent in his entire career.

The Suns would instantly become a title contender with LeBron and any second star and have so many assets they could surround him with young talent for the rest of his career.

The Suns currently have four players 20 years old and younger (Warren, Ennis, Goodwin and Len) and half dozen mid-20s players. No one on the roster would be older than 29 next year (Gerald Green).

Make it happen, McBabbaRobacek!

Bogdan Bogdanovi?, the 27th draft pick, is a good long-range shooter and a capable defender.
If his improvement stays constant he won't be stashed overseas for long (unless McStunna has other ideas for him), although there are many aspects of his game that need work.

Position: Shooting guard

Age: 21

Last season Euroleague stats (those matter, the ABA league really isn't close to NBA level)

Games played: 23 (723 minutes)

Points average: 14.8 (340 total)

Field goals: 42.6% 2FG, 37% 3FG, 75.4% FT

Rebounds: 3.7 (3 Deff, 0.7 Off)

Assist/turnovers/steals: 3.7/3.4/1.6

Measurables

  • Height: 6´6?
  • Weight: 205 pounds
  • Wingspan: 6´11?
  • Standing reach: 8´8?
The dull stats out of the way, let's delve a bit deeper into the "poor man's Ginobili" the Phoenix Suns drafted with their 27th pick.

Offense

At 6´6? he is perfectly sized for a shooting guard, and coupling this with his solid frame (that needs a few pounds of muscle though) it means he can get his shot off against pretty much every guard or wing defending him. He's not the most athletic guard on the floor and not the speediest (we've got Goran for that), but he should be able to hold his own once he gets used to the NBA tempo.

Like most of European guards, Bogdan has good fundamentals and footwork, enabling him to get his shot off quickly and accurately from pretty much anywhere with his feet planted. He's got a swift stroke and a high release point as well, adding to the difficulty of defending him. Pointing out his percentages, which are not that good, they need to be considered against the role he had in Partizan this year. For most of the season he was the primary (some say only) offensive threat and opposing defenses were for the most part focused on him and making his shots difficult.

His numbers dropped later in the season, when the starting PG for Partizan (Leo Westermann) went down with an injury and Bogdan was required to step into the PG role. While this is not his strong point, it was obvious he actually handled it pretty good because of his good court vision, ball handling and passing. This is definitely a plus considering the current Suns team incarnation thrives on guards with drive-and-kick capabilities. That being said, he is still young and often makes mistakes and bad passes under pressure, hence the quite high turnover count.

His first step really isn't that quick, his speed not meep-meep and most of his drives come off screens, but when he gets to the rim, he can finish with both hands, although he does seem to shy away from contact, something that will not do in the NBA. Watching some highlight videos, his playing style brings to mind one of the best European players of all time never to play in the NBA, Dejan Bodiroga. Problem is, Bodiroga was a virtual jump-shot and free throw machine, something Bogdan really needs to work on (his efficiency inside the arc is troubling for a guard) and he could finish through contact like a man possessed.

Bogdan's best weapon by far is the catch-and-shoot and coming off screens where his range comes in handy and he'll let it fly from pretty much anywhere on the floor. Even if it's a bad shot. Even if it's a bad, contested shot and the shot-clock is nowhere near the bottom. Another thing, if he's not tuned in, he can force plays that aren't there and be on the whole very careless with the ball and passing it to non-existent teammates or directly into opponents hands on cross-court diagonal lobs. Let's hope time and experience cut that down to a minimum.

Defense

Here again, his size is a good thing, his wingspan even more as he's able to defend multiple positions. He's also quite quick going laterally and coupling that with his good footwork and understanding of the game, he is good at staying in front of his man, fighting through screens (although NBA bigs will be a problem if he doesn't bulk up) altering shots and also at not getting pump-faked out of his socks (cue one of my all time favorite pump fakes. Disclaimer: it's Gogi in a rockets uniform).

His defensive capabilities are somewhat hindered though by the mental aspects of his game, the above mentioned spacing out at times. And there doesn't seem to be a lot of drive to compete defensively, probably because up to now he was used primarily as a scoring threat, which in a young guard from the Balkans usually translates to: I don't need to play defense, really. But the fundamentals are there, if he's willing to put in the effort.

Summing it up

Bogdan Bogdanovi? is on track to becoming a contributor in the NBA, if he stays the course of his improvement, works on his mid-range and free throw shooting as well as bulking up and being prepared to go to the rim harder, as he has the size to do it. And he will need to put in heavy minutes into decision-making and reading the game as well as being more engaged on the defensive end.

Fit for the Suns

The current Suns roster would benefit from a confident long range shooter that would space the floor and put up solid numbers across the board, the only problem is that same roster is quite busy at the guard-end and it will take improvement in all aspects of his game for him to actually crack the rotation. But the potential is definitely there and I'm excited to see what he'll make of it.

Agree or not? Discuss.

Poll
Will Bogdan Bogdanovic make it in Phoenix?

  456 votes | Results

T.J. Warren didn't receive much hype here before the draft. Adreian Payne, Nik Stauskas and Gary Harris were generally preferred choices, but Warren's list of achievements and potential as a 20-year old is impressive. The Suns landed themselves an elite scorer at #14 with "Scorin'" Warren.

Going into Thursday night's NBA Draft, Suns fans held high hopes for a franchise-changing trade, or draft pick, or both. Instead, the Suns hung onto their  #14, #18 and #27 picks, and selected three players with impressive resumés.

Can any of those selections prove to be franchise-changers? Maybe not, but the Suns used their first selection on a big-time scorer from an elite NCAA conference in ACC Player of the Year T.J .Warren, a player who brings a skill set last season's team was missing.

The 2013-14 Suns were built around the 3-point shot. Their #8 finish in 3-point % and #2 finish in opponents' 3-point % were central to the team's 23 win improvement from the 2012-13 squad. Still, too often, the Suns' potent offense settled into an over-reliance on the 3 with a lack of other offensive options, and they lost leads in the process.

Markieff Morris displayed a solid, much-improved mid-range and post game, Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe could finish at the basket well, but the Suns were in dire need of another threat closer to the paint. There's nothing wrong with shooting a lot of 3s in the modern NBA, but other options are essential for success.

Anthony "T.J." Warren specializes in getting looks from 15 feet and closer, then nailing them. In scoring 24.9 PPG last season at NC State, Warren made 58% of his 2-point attempts, and went to the FT line 6.5 times per game. He does this with a bag of tricks that includes nifty footwork and a killer floater. It won't be as easy to do what he does on the next level, but a lot of those slick moves will transfer just fine.

A diversification and expansion of the Suns' offensive arsenal will involve crafty players who can play close to the basket; Warren is that. The knocks on him are that he's a "tweener", and that he lacks the perimeter game to be an effective NBA small forward. I'm not buying either as a fatal flaw for this talented, hard worker.

Warren grew his game from the 5th leading scorer on his team as a freshman at 12.1 PPG into becoming the leader of last year's Wolfpack, by a country mile, at 24.9 PPG. Warren carried a weak team (his 31.3 PER was next followed by Jordan Vandenberg's 15.3) to the NCAA Tournament by scoring in every way imaginable.

While his usage rate rose from 19.5 to 35.5, his TS% dipped only slightly, from .638 to .574, despite Warren being the focus of every opponent's defense. This wasn't a quality NC State team outside of Warren. He was just about all they had going, and he produced enough to take them to the postseason, while Warren topped #2 pick Jabari Parker for ACC Player of the Year honors.

In Thursday night's press conference, both GM Ryan McDonough and head coach Jeff Hornacek expressed their intention that Warren is a pure SF, who could possibly play PF in small ball lineups, but no "tweener." The 6'8" (with shoes), 220 lb-er with a 6'10" wingspan would compete with P.J. Tucker and Marcus Morris for playing time, assuming both those players return.

Warren's scoring abilities were deemed "elite" by McDonough, who said, "He has a unique ability to put the ball in the basket. He's got good size and strength, but more importantly, he has terrific instincts and a fantastic touch around the basket. We feel like he has a lot of the things you can't teach. He still needs to keep working on his outside shooting, but we think he has a chance to be a pretty special offensive player."

Hornacek addressed Warren's supposed defensive shortcomings by saying, "A lot of these guys are big scorers in college, I think the coaches are telling them 'don't get in foul trouble,' and they may look terrible defensively on tape, but then when you get them live and see....In one of our drills, it was a mix. One time he guarded a point guard, next time it was a forward, next time it was a center who tried to back him down. He stopped all three of them pretty easily."

A player who possesses great instincts, touch and a reputation for strong work ethic, as he lost weight and improved his conditioning between his freshman and sophomore seasons at NC State, Warren needs to continue to expand his range. Fortunately, he'll be coached by Hornacek, who maximizes his players' shooting abilities.

Warren may never be a 3-point sniper, but won't have to be when on the court with a playmaker and other floor-spacers. No, the Suns will need him to be what he is: A versatile, crafty scorer from all over the floor.

Welcome to Phoenix, T.J. Warren. You're exactly what the Suns need.

Any number of 20 different teams would likely love to have Eric Bledsoe. The only teams who don't want him would be those with All-Stars or young studs already in place.

But as of yet, no team has openly leaked interest in Bledsoe. Yes, I used the term "openly leaked" because that's how it is these days. Teams don't hold media scrums to list out their targets. They simply let someone know on the sly, via text or phone, who they want.

Or, the agents leak interested teams to media folks. Sometimes it's to drum up business, and sometimes it's lies, lies, and damn lies.

But still, there's been no outward word of who wants Bledsoe.

So let's just take a look at the landscape to see who can extend him an offer sheet in July. Remember, Bledsoe is a restricted free agent who will be courted via offer sheets by teams with enough cap room. Alternately, teams without enough cap room can initiate a trade with the Suns, as long as Bledsoe wants to sign with them and the Suns want the assets back.

For now, let's focus on the former - teams with cap room to make an out right offer sheet in early July. Teams who make an offer must have the open cap room to do so. Barring significant trades to shed salary, these are the only teams with enough open cap room on July to get his signature.

Screen_shot_2014-06-29_at_6.53.47_am_medium

You will note that the recently-bereft Miami HEAT are not on this list. That is not an oversight. While all their players but Norris Cole and Chris Anderson have opted out, leaving "55 million in cap space", the HEAT have cap holds on all of them that they won't be renouncing. Cap holds on Wade, James and Bosh alone far exceed the cap. So no, the HEAT have 0 cap space for free agency unless the Big Three re-sign for the midlevel. And, they just drafted PG Shabazz Napier for LeBron.

Back to reality.

Out of that group with real cap space, only the Lakers, Mavericks, Pistons and Bucks could use an upgrade at point guard. The Toronto Raptors are close behind, at $10 mill of space. Of those five, only three teams appear to be "interesting" to a young feller like Bledsoe.

I mean really. Would YOU sign with a team in Detroit or Milwaukee unless you had no other options? I'd rather take a little less and work out a contract with Phoenix if those are my only bidders.

Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers need to make a splash and they've basically only got three guys sure to be on their roster in October: Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and rookie Julius Randle.

Nash is on the books for $9.7 million and has been adamant that he will not retire. However, the Lakers could conceivably convince someone to trade for him, but they would have to give something up to entice a team to take on Nash and all they have is Randle and their 2017 first round pick. Not happening.

Sure, the Lakers could use Bledsoe. But they just drafted Jordan Clarkson (purchased, from second round selection) who Kris Habbas had rated as high as 17th overall on his Big Board for nbadraftinsider.com and most outlets had Clarkson in the top 30 on their Boards. Along with PG Marshall still under cheap contract, the Lakers might prefer to fill their center and small forward positions first.

In fact, there's a rumor this morning from Ramona Shelbourne of ESPN that their first targets are Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James. Secondarily, if they lose out on the top two, the Lakers are also expected to have a strong interest in Washington free-agent forward Trevor Ariza, Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, Detroit center Greg Monroe and Phoenix forward Channing Frye, according to Ramona's sources.

No mention of Bledsoe yet.

Dallas Mavericks

The Mavericks just swapped old point guards, and now have Raymond Felton on board to man the ship, with Devin Harris behind him.

Think they need an upgrade there? So do I.

The Mavericks have the cap space and probably the inclination. The only thing holding them back is whether they really want to tie up money in a Bledsoe offer that the Suns might match while they pursue the same suspects that the Lakers want: LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.

Seems to me that Bledsoe will be waiting around for a few weeks to see who loses the James/Anthony race and then can only hope those teams turn their attention to him.

Toronto Raptors

The Raptors are also shaded in red because they have close to the right amount of money and a free agent point guard (Kyle Lowry) who might be on the move. Also, the Raptors lost out on Tyler Ennis last week. Wouldn't it be ironic if it was Tyler Ennis that put the Suns in a bind on Bledsoe.

The Raptors could easily release John Salmons and add another $6 million to their cap space, giving them more than enough money to lure Bledsoe. They have a great cap situation, just won 48 games, and could really use Bledsoe to continue that hot run they started last year.

The downside for the Raptors is tying up money during free agency while the Phoenix Suns think about matching, and the Suns have told everyone they will match any reasonable offers.

Another downside for them is committing max money to Bledsoe. Their next biggest contract is DeMarr DeRozan, whose contract is under $10 million/year. Wouldn't they rather just re-sign Lowry for about what DeRozan makes and be done with it?

Phoenix Suns

The Suns won't bid against themselves. It's not smart to outbid yourself, without knowing what the competition is. The beauty of restricted free agency is that no one can take your guy without your permission. They must either convince you to do a trade, or you have to refuse to match their offer.

The Suns have said all along that they will match any offer.

The only way I see that changing is if (a) Bledsoe begs to leave and (b) the Suns can get comparable value back in trade. No way the Suns take a "future first" or "future second" to agree to a sign-and-trade. No way they take back bad contracts. The Suns will want a booty worthy of Bledsoe.

I see Bledsoe being part of the secondary free agent market, and maybe not even hearing of a strong rumor until mid-July unless the Suns and Bledsoe come to a mutual agreement on a less-than-max contract to pre-empt the competition.

In a radio interview with John Gambodoro of Arizona Sports just before the 2014 Draft, Suns managing partner Robert Sarver expressed an expectation that the Suns would spend big this summer in free agency.

The Phoenix Suns enter the free agency period, which starts on July 1, with a ton of cap space available to spend on free agents this summer.

But with a limited talent pool from which to choose, do the Suns plan to spend it?

"Yeah I think we will spend it," said the man with the money, Managing Parter Robert Sarver told John Gambodoro on Thursday. "Hopefully we will spend a lot more than that."

--Arizona Sports (KTAR), on the Burns and Gambo show

Wait, what? How can you spend more than the the salary cap?

The only way to spend more than the cap is to keep Eric Bledsoe and P.J. Tucker. Read on.

The Salary Cap Primer

For teams that are under the salary cap, the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) provides a ceiling of player salary commitments each year. For the purposes of signing new contracts, a team cannot spend more than that ceiling to sign a new player.

For example, if you have $10 in your pocket, you can't buy a new set of 'Beats by Dr. Dre' with cash. That's the idea of the cap. You can buy nine items off the dollar menu at McDonalds (because you have to figure in sales tax) but you can't buy nine Happy Meals.

Trades work the same way, You can't trade $10 for a $50 bill if all you have under the cap is $10. You can't even trade $10 for $10.10 if all you have under the cap is $10. The cap is the cap.

Loop Holes

Fortunately, the NBA devised some loopholes called 'cap exceptions'. For teams who start the summer UNDER the cap, like the Phoenix Suns, there are only two exceptions at their disposal:

  • Bird Rights
  • the 'Room' Exception, which is $2.5 million in first-year salary, available to those right at the cap

Let's talk about these further.

Bird Rights

Named after the guy this exception was designed for, Larry Bird, this exception allows the incumbent team to re-sign its own free agent to a market-price salary without regard to the salary cap.

In other words, let's go back to that $10, and let's assume you were renting your 'Beats by Dr. Dre' for $100 per year. You would be allowed to renew that rental at that price, even though it's more than $10. You would not be allowed to buy a brand new set, but would be allowed to keep the old set at whatever the going rate.

Terrible analogy, I know, but it explains the point.

In the case of the Suns, this rule applies to three players whose contracts expire on Monday: P.J. Tucker, Eric Bledsoe and Channing Frye.

The Suns can re-sign those players at market prices, without regard to the cap. However, its not that easy.

Cap Holds

Here's the trick. Before the players are re-signed, there is a 'cap hold' on them. The cap hold is a factor of their last contract, and is generally designed to be bigger than their market value. The idea here is so you're not allowed to buy those nine dollar menu items and THEN renew your lease on the Beats headphones. You're supposed to have to choose.

In Channing's case, his cap hold is bigger than anything he will get on the open market. So, the Suns will have to choose between him and another player or players.

But in Bledsoe and Tucker's cases, their cap holds are smaller than their market value. So the Suns don't have to choose. The Suns can spend a lot of money, and THEN re-sign them to deals bigger than their cap hold after having already signed other guy(s).

How much can they spend?

Spending right up to the cap

If the Suns decide to completely move on from all non-guaranteed players and all their free agents, they could spend as much as $36.14 million in first-year salaries for new players on the open market starting July 1. This would put them RIGHT AT the new cap, not exceeding it this year.

Note: this article talks mostly about free agents, but trades work the same way. Players change, but the cap doesn't. The net added salary from trades cannot exceed the total cap.

Screen_shot_2014-06-28_at_8.07.49_am_medium

The Suns have nine players, including two draft picks, with guaranteed contracts in 2014-15. But those nine players only cost just over $30 million in 2014-15 thanks to mostly rookie-scale contracts.

To spend all that money on new players, the Suns would have to renounce their Bird Rights (ability to exceed cap to keep them) to all three of Bledsoe, Tucker and Frye. That's giving away three starters from last year's team, but if the Suns decide there are better options out there, they can do that.

So, if LeBron James says "hellz yeah, as long as you gimme the max and sign another big-name guy for the other 10 mil I don't want Bledsoe, Tucker or Frye", the Suns can say, "Cool, cool, cool. Let's do it!"

Exceeding the cap

But by keeping Bledsoe and/or Tucker, the Suns can spend more money than any other scenario.

"This would be a good year for us to do that," Sarver said, of exceeding the cap, "Given the situation with the cap holds. We have an opportunity with the right players to spend that."

--Arizona Sports (KTAR), on the Burns and Gambo show

Likely, even a LeBron James will want the Suns to be able to keep one or more of Bledsoe, Tucker and Frye.

The likely "working number" for the Suns, in order to retain their Bird Rights on all three guys, is just over $17 million.

Screen_shot_2014-06-28_at_8.13.02_am_medium

That $17 million still gives them a lot of money to spend while retaining their ability to exceed the cap to re-sign Bledsoe, Tucker and Frye to salaries larger than their cap hold.

But it won't get you a max player.

However, there's no reason to think Frye will get more than $9.6 million in 2014-15 from ANY team, so it's quite possible the Suns will renounce his Bird Rights if they need more than $17 million in early July. They could still re-sign Frye, but just using whatever room is left under the salary cap at the time.

So, a reasonable number to sign some combination of new players AND Frye to market price would be just under $27 million, while retaining the right to exceed the cap Bledsoe and/or Tucker.

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That's enough to sign LeBron James (for example) off the street and still come back after that and re-sign Tucker AND Bledsoe to market prices.

Or, the Suns could sign a couple of $10 million/yr free agents THEN re-sign Frye THEN Bledsoe AND Tucker, in that order.

And there's more!

Once the Suns have reached the cap with signings and/or trades, they will get access to this thing called the 'Room' Exception.

If they still don't have enough players under contract, they can sign spend up to another $2.5 million in salaries over and above what they've already spent.

Adding all these exceptions together, the Suns could end up having exceeded the cap by as much as $10 million per year.

Will they do it?

Sarver's lessons

"You can't spend to spend," Sarver said, possibly recalling the summers of 2010 and 2012. "You've got to make sure get the right people in there. You can't use all your powder just to use it."

--Arizona Sports (KTAR), on the Burns and Gambo show

Sarver says he's learned some lessons the hard way over the years.

  • In 2004, he chose Steve Nash and Quentin Richardson over the #9 pick in the draft (traded for a future #1) and over extending Joe Johnson at what turned out to be a reasonable price.
  • In 2005 and 2006, he let his interim GM, Mike D'Antoni, tell him to sell of more draft picks so they could spend money on veterans they ultimately didn't use
  • In 2007, he told his new GM (Steve Kerr) to dump little-used but expensive Kurt Thomas. The trade saved $18 million in cash, but cost the Suns two unprotected first round picks and began their decline
  • In 2008, he traded Shawn Marion for Shaquille O'Neal to try to recapture their title aspirations, and then dumped O'Neal a year later when the Suns went down hill.
  • It should be noted that during 2007-2010 the Suns were TOP 10 SPENDING team in the NBA. Over the luxury tax line every year. Sarver spent money, he just didn't spend the most of anyone and didn't always make the best decisions with the money.
  • In 2010, he let Amare Stoudemire go and tried to make up for it by overpaying a bunch of free agents. This after (reportedly) scrunching his front office budget so much his GM and Asst. GM walked. This after the Suns made the WCF.
  • At this point, he started to turn in a new direction...
  • From 2010-12, he started investing in the behind-the-scenes improvements for the team, including an advanced scouting and camera system for player tracking. He also ate some player contracts in order to move on from bad investments.
  • In 2012, he traded should-have-retired Steve Nash and Robin Lopez for draft picks. But instead of rebuilding entirely, he let his GM sign Michael Beasley and make a max contract offer to Eric Gordon. The team won only 25 games that year.
  • In 2013, the franchise was finally reborn. A good GM was put in place and the President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby had the cap sheet in order. Sarver ate Beasley's contract that summer as well.
  • Now in 2014, he's ready to spend again.
He says he's learned some lessons.

"Two big things I learned," he said to Gambo. "Sometimes if you have something really good, you think the grass is greener somewhere else. You try to get better but you also have the chance of getting worse in trying to get better."

His second lesson was interesting.

"How you look at situations always depends on what seat you personally sit in," he said. "As an owner, I'm better at balancing out the desires of the coach, the GM and the owner. Right now versus short term vs long term."

--Arizona Sports (KTAR), on the Burns and Gambo show

So now he understands that it's a delicate balance between improving the team and making it worse. And now he's ready to listen to a good front office giving him advice.

Let's see how this incredibly important summer unfolds.

In McBabbaRobacek I trust. I have to.

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