With regard to the two-time MVP and 2012 All-Star Steve Nash, you can guess that the Suns will be given an opportunity to match or exceed any offer that Nash likes from Toronto or New York, but the likelihood gets slimmer every day. While Nash is being courted in Manhattan, the Suns are courting a whole different set of players in Los Angeles and Phoenix.
Who is on the Phoenix Suns' immediate radar? Apparently, the Suns are focusing on young players with a great deal of talent who have yet to realize their full potential as an NBA player. Each player has an upside, with varying degrees of NBA success on their resume.
Players contacted so far by the Suns, via the wonderful world of twitter:
SF/PF: Michael Beasley
C: Robin Lopez
Other names had previously been reported (Chris Kaman, Jared Jeffries to name a few) but nothing new has come out since initially logging their interest on July 1. We will add more names as the Suns get down their list.
For now, we know the Suns' priorities are to shore up the PG and SG positions with youth. It's unclear how far the Suns will go with regard to money, but they are at least putting on a good show. SG Eric Gordon got in to town last night for dinner and is being courted further today, while Dragic gets into town on Gordon's heels for the same treatment.
SG Eric Gordon is looking for a max offer (4 yrs/58 million) and PG Goran Dragic is looking for $10 million per year. Would the Suns sign both? Probably not. Will the Suns sign either? Who knows.
Gordon's current team, New Orleans, is already floating that they would match a maximum offer despite having just drafted SG Austin Rivers at #10 overall last week.
Goran Dragic may be more accessible, as talk with Houston broke down yesterday when Dragic wouldn't accept $8 million per year to return without hitting the wine-and-dine circuit. Dragic wants more money and his agent thinks he can get it from another team. Dragic wowed the NBA for 28 games last season, averaging 18 and 8 and basically hitting every big shot for the Rockets during their improbable playoff push.
Even despite the money, the problem with a matchup in Phoenix is the presence of rookie PG Kendall Marshall. Dragic will want big minutes for four full years (the most years the Suns can offer), and has proven in Houston that the more minutes he plays the better he is. Yet, do the Suns want Marshall to play only 15 minutes a game? My gut says no.
The backup plans on those two players?
The Suns initially expressed interest in O.J. Mayo on Saturday night, but no meetings have been scheduled yet with any teams. Mayo seems to be several teams' backup plan at SG, and has already said he's expecting more than the mid-level next season. By wanting more than midlevel, he's limiting his options to teams well below the salary cap. Hello, Phoenix.
Just this morning, Alex Kennedy of hoopsworld.com tweeted that the Suns have expressed interest in swingman Terrence Williams. I've always loved his potential, but the young man has now been buried on no less than 3 different teams in his short career - New Jersey, Houston and now Sacramento. When he got run, he produced. He can pass, rebound, score and defend. But he never earned respect from his coaches and quickly moved on.
O.J. Mayo, Terrence Williams. Just like Michael Beasley. Would any or all of these players realize their potential in Phoenix? Not likely. But then again, you can't win if you don't play. The Suns need to get lucky and you have to bring in the underproducing players and give them a chance, or you'll never know.
Note: Apparently, the Suns' primary competition for Beasley and Williams is the Detroit Pistons. That's how far the Suns have fallen, folks. Competing with the likes of Detroit, rather than San Antonio or Dallas.
Raymond Felton is scheduled to visit Phoenix later this week, clearly the Suns' primary backup plan to Goran Dragic as the interim starter until Kendall Marshall is ready to start. Felton has a reputation of being out of shape, and basically played his way off of Denver AND Portland the last two seasons after flourishing in Mike D'Antoni's system in New York. Felton, who is also NY's backup plan to Nash, might cost $7 million or so but might take a 2 year deal. His last deal was 3 years, $21 million when he was younger and had fewer problems.
No idea when or if Ramon Sessions would visit the valley, but John Gambodoro just tweeted yesterday that Sessions is on the Suns' radar after Dragic and Felton.
Free agent point guard Steve Nash spent Sunday, the first day on free agency, being courted first by the Toronto Raptors and later by the New York Knicks. These two teams appear to be the top suitors for Nash because (a) they are willing to come up with enough money to be "respectable", (b) Nash loves both cities and (c) Nash is their top priority.
Each team represents an opportunity for the Suns to facilitate a sign-and-trade to help Nash make more money while going to a team of his choosing.
To take a look at the sign-and-trade possibilities for the Suns, hit the jump...
Sign-and-trade Nash to Raptors for Jose Calderon ($10.5 million, 1 year) and 1-2 more young assets
The Toronto Raptors reportedly made an offer to Nash for 3 full years at somewhere north of $10 million per year. While the Raptors can fit this contract into their current salary structure, they'd much rather rid themselves of incumbent "Nash-lite" PG Jose Calderon (much the same way that Hakim Warrick is "Amare-lite"). Calderon's contract has only one year remaining at $10.5 million.
The Raptors have previously been unsuccessful in trading Calderon, yet have him on the block again to create extra space for summer moves. There has been no specific discussion of a sign-and-trade for Nash with the Suns, but that may only be a matter of time. Why max your cap with Nash when you could basically replace Calderon with Nash, then add yet another guy like Ersan Ilyasova or Nicolas Batum to boot?
For the Suns, there is value in bringing back Calderon as they lose Nash. For one thing, Calderon could share the PG duties with rookie Kendall Marshall for a year. Certainly not a long-term answer, he is a very good one-year PG option who can pass, shoot and provide matador defense while Marshall establishes himself in the NBA.
For another, it stands to reason that the Suns can wrangle another prospect out of Toronto for making it so easy to bring Nash to Canada for a net expense of about $1.5 million (Calderon makes $10.5 million, Nash asking for $12 million).
Don't expect DeMarr DeRozen or Andre Bargnani over even rookie Terrence Ross to be added to a deal, but maybe the Suns could whittle young PF Ed Davis out of them or a future #1 pick, or both?
Sign-and-trade Nash to New York Knicks for Fields, Douglas, cash...and 1-2 more as-yet-unnamed assets
Now let's look at the New York Knicks situation, which absolutely requires a sign-and-trade to bring Nash to the big apple. The Knicks cannot offer Nash more than $3 million per year (the mini-MLE) on their own. In fact, reports out there say the Suns and Knicks have already discussed the parameters of such a sign-and-trade.
Reportedly, the key figure coming back to the Suns would be 23-year-old SG Landry Fields, who has been no better than a 5th-best player on a contender. Yet Fields is young, tall (6'7"), a good defender and a good 3-pt shooter who could come on the cheap (ie. 3-4 million per year). While this move adds yet another mid-level guy to the team, his presence would conceivably provide more defense on the wing as a Hill-type defender who happens to be almost half the age and half the price. Having Landry Fields also saves the Suns the effort of finding (and possibly overpaying) a backup SG on the open market who can do what Fields does.
Other assets coming back to the Suns would reportedly be short combo guard Tony Douglas, non-guaranteed contracts and $3 million in cash. Very underwhelming, to be sure. Yet, that only projects to add up to an $8 million salary for Nash and Nash would likely require more money to be swayed away from Toronto.
Sounds to me like New York would have to include another contract, and we all know how much the Suns front office loved 6'6" combo guard Iman Shumpert in last year's draft. Why would the Knicks part with Shumpert? Two good reasons off the top of my head: (1) Shumpert is injured, not projected back into the lineup until January and (2) the Knicks really, really, really want Nash.
If the Knicks get Nash, that means they want to win NOW. Waiting until January for Shumpert to rehab from knee surgery won't help that cause too much. However, that's perfect for the Suns. 2012-13 is shaping up to be a throw-away transition year anyway. Shumpert has good, long-term upside as a defender and scorer who can vaccilate between PG and SG. Because he defends so aggressively, he appears more attractive than, say, O.J. Mayo or even Austin Rivers.
Of course, these last 'git er done' pieces are just speculation.
Toronto has not yet offered a sign-and-trade at all. And New York has not yet offered any more than Landry Fields and filler.
But the writing IS on the wall, and the bidding war is just getting started. Let's hope the Suns get SOMETHING good out of this.