Channing Frye and Emeka Okafor count nearly $21 million against the Suns cap this season and both may be free agents on July 1. Okafor's contract expires on June 30, and Frye can opt out of his final year as well. That means the Suns cannot include them in trades.
The Phoenix Suns want to rejoin the NBA elite in the very near future, and they have assets to burn - cap space to take on salary, youth on rookie contracts and six first round draft picks in the next 15 months.
Any incoming All-Star free agent or trade acquisition would join two rising stars at the guard positions - Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe - and a coaching staff that maximizes the skill sets on the roster. The Suns were supposed to win less than 20 games last year, but got 48 wins instead. Even more impressive, when both guards started the team went 23-11.
It's no wonder the Suns now see themselves as a premier destination for difference-making free agents, and a premier trading partner thanks to their available assets.
Could the Suns entice LeBron James to leave Miami for a younger team that could be a contender with his services?
Could the Suns entice Minnesota to trade them Kevin Love for their bevy of assets?
Could the Suns do both?
Very unlikely. In fact, incredibly unlikely. But as least the Suns are in the game. They are major players in that game.
Trade season re-opens for every team the day their season ends. For 14 NBA teams, including the Suns, that was last Thursday. The Suns could conceivably concoct a trade for Kevin Love right now, since Minnesota is also out of the hunt. They could even fold in lotto-bound Detroit in a three-team trade (hypothetically shipping Josh Smith to Minny, Love to Phoenix, and Suns assets to both places to even the score).
But trades are rarely made right now. Many people will point to the NBA Draft as the time trade season really begins. However, as you put together your trade packages, there are few Suns players you have to leave out because they cannot be traded.
Okafor cannot be traded. The last day on which he could have been traded was in February at the trade deadline. After that, players with expiring contracts - or those that could expire at the player's discretion - cannot be traded before their contract runs out.
Teams are free to make trades again once their season has ended, but cannot trade players whose contracts are ending or could end due to an option or ETO.
Okafor is not a trade chip. Moving on.
Frye could become an unrestricted free agent if he wants this summer because he has a player option for next season at $6.8 million. He has until June 23 to decide whether to pick that up - three days before the June 26 NBA Draft.
At that point, one of three things will have happened:
- Frye will decide to stay with the Suns for one more year, picking up his option, and hoping to sign an extension before next June 30. If he does this, he can be traded afterward.
- Or, Frye will opt out, to become a free agent. The Suns will hold his Bird Rights, and could re-sign him with cap space. If he does this, he cannot be traded.
- Or, Frye will sign an extension now (in conjunction with opting out of 2014-15 to sign the new contract), for at least two years, and for no less than the amount he's already scheduled to make in 2014-15 ($6.8 million). If he does this, he cannot be traded for at least six months.
Extensions to contracts that are not rookie scale contracts (i.e., veteran extensions) may be signed up to June 30, the day before the player would have become a free agent.
A contract that contains an Early Termination Option (ETO) cannot be extended if the ETO is exercised (ending the contract early). A contract with an option can be extended if the player opts-in. A contract with an option can also be extended if the player opts-out, as long as the extension adds at least two new seasons onto the contract (excluding any new option year) and the salary in the first year of the extension is not less than the salary in the non-exercised option year. See question number 58 for more information on options and ETOs.
While Frye would really love to take door #3 - signing an extension now - that's probably the least likely scenario. The Suns love Frye's contributions, but it's hard to commit to multiple years of at LEAST $6.8 million per year.
Most likely, the Suns will want the market to set the price, either this summer or next summer.
If Frye opts out this summer, by June 23, then he becomes a free agent. The Suns can retain his Bird Rights by accepting a cap hold of $9.6 million in place of the $6.8 million. That means the Suns will need to keep $9.6 million under the new cap until his contract situation is resolved.
But that cap hold effectively negates the value of Frye's Bird Rights. Bird Rights allow a few things: ability to exceed cap by re-signing, higher raises and one more year. There's no way the Suns will want to give Frye bigger raises than anyone else can offer, or more years. And the Suns will want that cap space gobbled up by a hold that's probably twice as big as the Suns will want to pay him per year.
If Frye opts out, the smartest thing the Suns can do it renounce their Bird Rights to him. The Suns can still re-sign Frye, but not to anything exceeding the cap and not for bigger raises.
If you want to re-sign Frye to a 3 year contract for $5 million per year, for example, you don't need Bird Rights to do it.
No telling what Frye will do, but if he opts out the Suns will likely try to re-sign him to a lower annual salary while not having that big cap hold during early free agency.
In the meantime, the Suns cannot trade Frye.
Eric Bledsoe and P.J. Tucker
Most of us know the Suns cannot trade Bledsoe or Tucker unless it's a sign-and-trade as a restricted free agent. However, I keep hearing comments from Bright Siders about one or both of them being included in a Love deal.
That could happen, but only in a sign-and-trade and only after July 1. There won't be any Draft deals with Bledsoe or Tucker in them.
The Suns have publicly claimed they will match any offer for Bledsoe, unless he signs a lesser deal directly with the Suns beforehand. The Suns would love to get him on a contract without the RFA offers, but rest assured that would only be for a contract equal to or smaller than anyone else can give him.
P.J. Tucker wants to return, and he's already talking about going to summer league on July 11 "as long as his contract is worked out". My guess is he signs something reasonable as soon as the clock strikes 12:01 on July 1.
Either way, neither can be included in a trade until after July 1, and even then only in a sign-and-trade situation.
Ish, Dionte and Shav
All three are on non-guaranteed contracts for 2014-15 season with varying guarantee dates but the Suns have a minimum of the first two weeks in July to include any or all in a trade with the receiving team having the option to release them. They add up to about $3 million in non-guaranteed deals between them.
This really helps in trade talks, since the salary cap is everything.
Everyone else on the team is fair game in a trade.