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A lot of time has passed since the Phoenix Suns last won a playoff game, and not one player remains on the active roster that has endured each of the last three years in the Suns lineup.

Goran Dragic was a Sun in 2010, but he took a detour to Houston where he developed into a full-fledged starter and returned last summer with a big contract in hand. Channing Frye was a Sun in 2010 and signed a contract to remain in Phoenix, but he missed all last season with a heart ailment that may or may not heal in time to continue his NBA career. No one else from that 2010 team remains a Phoenix Sun.

While both are likely to help the Suns rise from the ashes beginning next season, neither is guaranteed or even very likely to wear the home uniform when the Suns host another playoff game.

As the crickets chirp in the desert during this free agent period, the Phoenix Suns appear to have fully embraced the rebuilding effort.

Rebuilding efforts have some basic tenets to follow.

Don't spend stupid money

It's tough to sit on the sidelines while money is flying left and right, but a smart team invests cap space in acquiring young talent with upside rather than spending it on a free agent. Rarely does an NBA free agent fit the profile of "young, with major upside".

The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) allows teams to keep full control of players on cheap contracts for up to 4 years, which usually puts them at 24-26 years old by the time they can field offers from rivals. At that age, if a player is really good then they get a new contract worth a lot more than they've ever made before, sometimes putting them into the overpaid category with the stroke of a pen.

The ones available on the cheap are those that disappointed their original team on some level, or they would have been signed to a large extension before ever hitting the market.

Good examples of the need to refrain from spending stupid money: Michael Beasley. Tyrus Thomas. Al Jefferson. O.J. Mayo. Just about any 5-year mid-level deal.

"Rebuilding" and "long-term contracts for 25ish year old players" do not go hand in hand.

Use cap space on short-term rentals, ideally to get a young asset

A perfect example of this is the Eric Bledsoe/Caron Butler acquisition, set to be introduced at a presser later today. The Suns used some of their $10 million in cap space to absorb a large one-year contract (Butler) in order to get a young player who might just outplay any contract the Suns give him (Bledsoe).

They used another 884K of that space to absorb Malcolm Lee's final guaranteed year for the right to move up a spot in the Draft and take Archie Goodwin before some other team did.

They used the rest of the $10 million available to guarantee the final year of Tucker and Brown's contracts.

Altogether, the Suns used the $10 million on expiring contracts. This accomplished two primary goals:

  1. $19 million in expiring contracts, including Gortat, to use as trade assets during the season when a team needs to clear it's 2014 books and will give up a young asset to get that and
  2. $19 million in cap space next summer if not used in trades beforehand

Wait for the trade market, after all the spending dies down

The Suns are in the trade market. Since the end of the season, the Suns have added six players (Len, Goodwin, Lee, Oriakhi, Bledsoe, Butler) while only subtracting two (Hamed Haddadi, Jared Dudley). They need to pare down the roster by training camp.

To this point, teams would rather just sign players on the open market than give up assets in trade. The only trades that have gone down so far are those involving sign-and-trades, where at least one team has cap space to absorb money.

Within a few days, all teams will be roughly capped out. At that point, the real trade market will open wider.

Who knows what the Suns will do, but it appears that dollar-for-dollar trades are up next on the agenda.

A rebuilding team does not need disgruntled veterans. While Goran Dragic is still young enough to ride out the rebuild, the same cannot be said of Marcin Gortat and Luis Scola. The Suns may hold onto them for while, but I doubt they keep these players around for an entire season.

Stay tuned.

5191348d339ab

Today, July 10th, marks the official end of the 2012-13 NBA season. This means that from this point onward, the league will operate under stipulations and guidelines enforced for the 2013-14 NBA year. The NBA released the official salary cap number for the season, as well as several other important figures to keep in mind. Let's take a look at these numbers and how they affect the Phoenix Suns (all of the figures described below are explained in detail in Larry Coon's CBA FAQ).

2013-13 Salary Cap Numbers

The salary cap for this league year has been established at $58.679 million, up from last year's figure of $58.044 million. The luxury tax threshold is $71.748 million, meaning that teams with payrolls above that level incur severe financial penalties under the new CBA (such as last year's LA Lakers and the upcoming season's Brooklyn Nets). This figure is unlikely to affect the Suns anytime in the near future.

What is more relevant to this Suns team though, is the salary floor. The 2013-14 salary floor is 90% of the cap, meaning all teams have to have a minimum payroll of $52.811M before the season begins.

As a result of the increased salary cap, the maximum player salaries have also increased. The following figures are the various max salaries a team can pay free agents:

Years in NBA Max Salary as % of Cap Maximum Salary
0-6 25% of cap $13,701,250
7-9 30% of cap $16,441,500
10+ 35% of cap $19,181,750

The average NBA salary for the 2012-13 season was $5.325 million. The estimated average salary for the upcoming season, which is also the "Early Bird" exception amount, is $5.565 million.

The Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception (for teams above the cap but below the tax threshold) for 2013-14 will be $5.150 million. The Taxpayer MLE (for teams above the tax apron) will be $3.183 million. The Room MLE (for teams below the cap) will be $2.652 million and the Bi-Annual Exception (a separate exception for teams below the tax apron). All of these exceptions are higher than they were in 2012-13.

2013-14 Phoenix Suns Cap Numbers

So how do the new salary cap figures affect this Suns team? After the Eric Bledsoe trade, the team is currently looking at a 2013-14 payroll of $54,315,564 (not including Diante Garrett) BEFORE draft picks Alex Len, Archie Goodwin, and Alex Oriakhi (who may or may not make the final roster) are signed.

According to the 2013-14 NBA Rookie Salary Scale, Alex Len (#5 overall pick) will have a first year salary of $2,910,600 and Archie Goodwin (#29) will make $887,00. If Alex Oriakhi (#57) makes the team, he will likely earn a minimum salary of $490,180.

With all three rookies' projected pay scales included, the Suns will have a payroll of $58,603,344, which leaves them right at the salary cap line (with only about $75K in cap room).

Pending any trades, the Suns do not have the cap room to pursue any major free agents (nor should they). However, they can use the the Room Exception to sign an additional player. Including Len and Goodwin but not Garrett and Oriakhi, they already have 15 players on the roster so I don't expect them to go above the cap to add another player unless they make a move to send a player or two out first.

Suns' Cap Situation in the Future

Although there is A LOT of time between now and the 2014 offseason, it is important to keep in mind that future financial flexibility (as opposed to right now) is important for the Suns going forward. With the team already at the salary cap line for this season, let's take a look at what cap situation projects to look like next year.

The Suns currently have three expiring contracts on the team: Caron Butler, Marcin Gortat, and Shannon Brown. Markieff and Marcus Morris have team options for the 2014-15 seasons that may or may not be picked up, as does Kendall Marshall. Channing Frye has a 2014-15 player option for for $6.8 million that he will most likely pick up. Michael Beasley's salary of $6.25 million will be non-guaranteed (I think only $3 million is guaranteed).

Another important aspect to consider is Eric Bledsoe's contract. He will be heading into the season on the final year of his rookie deal and will most likely receive an extension from the Suns front office this summer. If he and the Suns can't agree on a deal, he will become a Restricted Free Agent at the end of this season, given that the team extends his Qualifying Offer to him. If I had to guess, I'd say that Bledsoe will enter the season with a contract extension already in hand, one that may be somewhere in the vicinity of the deal Goran Dragic received last summer ($30 million over 4 years).

If the Suns go through the season with the current roster completely untouched, they will only have a guaranteed 2014-15 payroll of $22,168,499 - if they renounce their rights to the Morris brothers, Marshall, and Bledsoe, they will only have Dragic, Scola, and Frye (assuming he picks up his Player Option) on the books, along with the $3 million they will owe Beasley.

However, the likelier scenario involves the Suns moving any combination of Scola, Gortat, and Butler at some point this season, giving Bledsoe a new contract either this summer or next, and perhaps picking up the team options on at least one of the Morris brothers or Marshall. In this case, the Suns will most likely be looking at a 2014-15 payroll of around $30-40 million before signing any draft picks, which would leave them with enough room to be a major player in 2014 free agency (they would have about $20-30 million in cap room). Larry Coon revealed that next year's salary cap is estimated to be a good bit higher at $62.5 million.

Obviously, this is all speculative since these projections are rather premature. As mentioned, anything could happen between now and 2014 - we could shed long-term salary such as Scola or Frye, we could add long-term salary, etc. Nevertheless, the Suns will seemingly have a good deal of cap flexibility in the future, even after they extend Eric Bledsoe. The only major long-term contracts are Dragic (on a very fair contract), Scola (strong candidate to be moved), Frye (his salary may be a bit high but there is always a market for a guy like him - just look at the return Toronto got for Andrea Bargnani), and most likely Bledsoe (remains to be seen).

As it stands, I think the Suns will be well equipped heading into the 2014 offseason with a high draft pick and significant financial flexibility to make strong moves to accelerate the rebuild either next year or the following. Although immediate expectations should be tempered, it's understandably easier for Suns fans to be excited about the future now than it has been in the past couple years.

However, with great cap flexibility comes great responsibility. In the wrong hands, cap room isn't necessarily an asset - we all remember how the team's precious cap space in 2010 was squandered on the likes of Hedo Turkoglu, Josh Childress, and Hakim Warrick. Having said that, the direction of this franchise's future in now in the hands of Ryan McDonough and Lon Babby. Let us see how they handle the Suns' cap situation going forward.

Poll
What kind of contract extension do you expect the Suns to give to Eric Bledsoe?

  260 votes | Results

5191348d339ab

Today, July 10th, marks the official end of the 2012-13 NBA season. This means that from this point onward, the league will operate under stipulations and guidelines enforced for the 2013-14 NBA year. The NBA released the official salary cap number for the season, as well as several other important figures to keep in mind. Let's take a look at these numbers and how they affect the Phoenix Suns (all of the figures described below are explained in detail in Larry Coon's CBA FAQ).

2013-13 Salary Cap Numbers

The salary cap for this league year has been established at $58.679 million, up from last year's figure of $58.044 million. The luxury tax threshold is $71.748 million, meaning that teams with payrolls above that level incur severe financial penalties under the new CBA (such as last year's LA Lakers and the upcoming season's Brooklyn Nets). This figure is unlikely to affect the Suns anytime in the near future.

What is more relevant to this Suns team though, is the salary floor. The 2013-14 salary floor is 90% of the cap, meaning all teams have to have a minimum payroll of $52.811M before the season begins.

As a result of the increased salary cap, the maximum player salaries have also increased. The following figures are the various max salaries a team can pay free agents:

Years in NBA Max Salary as % of Cap Maximum Salary
0-6 25% of cap $13,701,250
7-9 30% of cap $16,441,500
10+ 35% of cap $19,181,750

The average NBA salary for the 2012-13 season was $5.325 million. The estimated average salary for the upcoming season, which is also the "Early Bird" exception amount, is $5.565 million.

The Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception (for teams above the cap but below the tax threshold) for 2013-14 will be $5.150 million. The Taxpayer MLE (for teams above the tax apron) will be $3.183 million. The Room MLE (for teams below the cap) will be $2.652 million and the Bi-Annual Exception (a separate exception for teams below the tax apron). All of these exceptions are higher than they were in 2012-13.

2013-14 Phoenix Suns Cap Numbers

So how do the new salary cap figures affect this Suns team? After the Eric Bledsoe trade, the team is currently looking at a 2013-14 payroll of $54,315,564 (not including Diante Garrett) BEFORE draft picks Alex Len, Archie Goodwin, and Alex Oriakhi (who may or may not make the final roster) are signed.

According to the 2013-14 NBA Rookie Salary Scale, Alex Len (#5 overall pick) will have a first year salary of $2,910,600 and Archie Goodwin (#29) will make $887,00. If Alex Oriakhi (#57) makes the team, he will likely earn a minimum salary of $490,180.

With all three rookies' projected pay scales included, the Suns will have a payroll of $58,603,344, which leaves them right at the salary cap line (with only about $75K in cap room).

Pending any trades, the Suns do not have the cap room to pursue any major free agents (nor should they). However, they can use the the Room Exception to sign an additional player. Including Len and Goodwin but not Garrett and Oriakhi, they already have 15 players on the roster so I don't expect them to go above the cap to add another player unless they make a move to send a player or two out first.

Suns' Cap Situation in the Future

Although there is A LOT of time between now and the 2014 offseason, it is important to keep in mind that future financial flexibility (as opposed to right now) is important for the Suns going forward. With the team already at the salary cap line for this season, let's take a look at what cap situation projects to look like next year.

The Suns currently have three expiring contracts on the team: Caron Butler, Marcin Gortat, and Shannon Brown. Markieff and Marcus Morris have team options for the 2014-15 seasons that may or may not be picked up, as does Kendall Marshall. Channing Frye has a 2014-15 player option for for $6.8 million that he will most likely pick up. Michael Beasley's salary of $6.25 million will be non-guaranteed (I think only $3 million is guaranteed).

Another important aspect to consider is Eric Bledsoe's contract. He will be heading into the season on the final year of his rookie deal and will most likely receive an extension from the Suns front office this summer. If he and the Suns can't agree on a deal, he will become a Restricted Free Agent at the end of this season, given that the team extends his Qualifying Offer to him. If I had to guess, I'd say that Bledsoe will enter the season with a contract extension already in hand, one that may be somewhere in the vicinity of the deal Goran Dragic received last summer ($30 million over 4 years).

If the Suns go through the season with the current roster completely untouched, they will only have a guaranteed 2014-15 payroll of $22,168,499 - if they renounce their rights to the Morris brothers, Marshall, and Bledsoe, they will only have Dragic, Scola, and Frye (assuming he picks up his Player Option) on the books, along with the $3 million they will owe Beasley.

However, the likelier scenario involves the Suns moving any combination of Scola, Gortat, and Butler at some point this season, giving Bledsoe a new contract either this summer or next, and perhaps picking up the team options on at least one of the Morris brothers or Marshall. In this case, the Suns will most likely be looking at a 2014-15 payroll of around $30-40 million before signing any draft picks, which would leave them with enough room to be a major player in 2014 free agency (they would have about $20-30 million in cap room). Larry Coon revealed that next year's salary cap is estimated to be a good bit higher at $62.5 million.

Obviously, this is all speculative since these projections are rather premature. As mentioned, anything could happen between now and 2014 - we could shed long-term salary such as Scola or Frye, we could add long-term salary, etc. Nevertheless, the Suns will seemingly have a good deal of cap flexibility in the future, even after they extend Eric Bledsoe. The only major long-term contracts are Dragic (on a very fair contract), Scola (strong candidate to be moved), Frye (his salary may be a bit high but there is always a market for a guy like him - just look at the return Toronto got for Andrea Bargnani), and most likely Bledsoe (remains to be seen).

As it stands, I think the Suns will be well equipped heading into the 2014 offseason with a high draft pick and significant financial flexibility to make strong moves to accelerate the rebuild either next year or the following. Although immediate expectations should be tempered, it's understandably easier for Suns fans to be excited about the future now than it has been in the past couple years.

However, with great cap flexibility comes great responsibility. In the wrong hands, cap room isn't necessarily an asset - we all remember how the team's precious cap space in 2010 was squandered on the likes of Hedo Turkoglu, Josh Childress, and Hakim Warrick. Having said that, the direction of this franchise's future in now in the hands of Ryan McDonough and Lon Babby. Let us see how they handle the Suns' cap situation going forward.

Poll
What kind of contract extension do you expect the Suns to give to Eric Bledsoe?

  567 votes | Results

161822939

It's official. Hello Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler...Farewell Jared Dudley.


Official Trade Details

  • In a three-team deal, The Phoenix Suns acquired PG/SG Eric Bledsoe and SF Caron Butler from the Los Angeles Clippers, while sending SG/SF Jared Dudley to the Clippers and a 2014 second-round pick to the Milwaukee Bucks.
  • The second-round pick traded by the Suns is the 2014 pick received by Phoenix from Toronto in the Sebastian Telfair trade in 2013.
  • The Suns traded away Jared Dudley’s $4.25 million salary, and take on Caron Butler’s $8 million contract (expiring after the season) and Eric Bledsoe’s $2.6 million salary.

    Front Office Blurbs

    Suns President Lon Babby:

    "The addition of a very dynamic young player in Eric Bledsoe and an All-Star veteran in Caron Butler is very exciting for the Suns. At the same time, we thank Jared Dudley, a consummate professional in every respect. He takes our best wishes with him to the Clippers."

    Suns GM Ryan McDonough:

    "We are thrilled to add Eric and Caron to the Phoenix Suns. They were both key parts of the Clippers team that set a franchise record for wins last season and we are excited to add their athleticism, shooting, and leadership to our organization."


    What's Next

    There will be an official team introduction and press conference coming tomorrow, July 11th, in which the team will share more about their plans for Bledsoe and Butler this season. Likewise, we will finally get to hear from Head Coach Jeff Hornacek, as well as from the players themselves.

    In addition, the Suns can now begin talks to negotiate a contract extension with Bledsoe, who many assume was traded to Phoenix with a long-term plan in mind. The Suns will likely want to get him signed to a new contract sooner than later, if possible, before his value increases.

    Still, there are plenty of questions that remain to be answered at the moment, but hopefully we will know more after the press conference tomorrow.

    Stay Tuned.

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