The NBA named Goran Dragic the Western Conference Player of the Week after the Phoenix Suns guard led his team to a 4-0 record from Jan. 27 through Feb. 2. Dragic averaged 26.8 points and 6.0 assists...

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One of the best assets in the NBA is Emeka Okafor's expiring, insured contract, and one of the league's most innovative GMs has it in his back pocket for trade.

Phoenix Suns fans have wanted to get some value out of Emeka Okafor since he was acquired, along with a first round pick, from Washington in the Marcin Gortat trade.

As it turns out, the Wizards pick may end of up being the best draft pick the Suns own this year (2014). The pick is only top-12 protected (meaning the Wizards keep it if they lose a lot of games), but in the terrible Eastern Conference the Wizards are a 90% lock to make the postseason before being trounced by one of the top teams in the East.

Even so, if the Wizards fall completely apart and end up keeping the 2014 pick, the Suns will eventually get their first round pick in a subsequent season no later than 2018. There is continued protection (top-12 in 2014/15, top 10 in 2016/17) until 2018, but that's it.

Still, it may turn out that Emeka Okafor is the best asset in that trade.

Just like the Suns turned Luis Scola into two starters and another #1 pick (likely #30 in 2014), the Suns hope to turn Emeka Okafor into something more than a contract.

Okafor has been injured all season, leaving many to wonder if the Suns would just let his contract expire this summer leaving max cap space to sign someone else.

But as of last Wednesday, the Suns started getting 80% of Okafor's remaining 2013-14 salary covered by insurance. That means the Suns are only on the hook for 20% of his salary for the rest of the season.

That also means that any team to which the Suns trade Okafor would basically be getting him for the cost of minimum salary player.

In return, the Suns could absorb a large contract (up to about $19.5 million full season value) in a simple 1:1 trade if need be. That kind of cap space allows an underachieving, big-spending team to save themselves some huge money this season. Some examples of huge expiring contracts on teams that could want to save money this season are Pau Gasol ($19.2 million, Lakers) and Kris Humphries ($12 million, Celtics).

There are a lot of other players on expiring deals, but it's not readily apparent who will want to trade off their assets in the East given how easy it is to make the playoffs.

I personally don't see Pau Gasol fitting into this system right, but I could see Humphries being a good rebounder off the bench in supporting minutes.

Neither of those players whets my whistle though.

I am not a trade machine guru, but for those of you who are, there are a few tenets I believe will be important to consider in any machinations:

  • the incoming player must be on an expiring contract OR be 25 or younger. There's no way the Suns invest big, long-term money into middle-aged supporting player (I see you, 27 year old Jeff Green who makes $9+ million a year) who is overpaid for their efforts.
  • The Suns will only sacrifice 2014-15 cap space for a young player on the upside.
  • the incoming player must be appreciably better than anything on the Suns roster at their position. It's only "fortifying the roster" if the incoming player is a lot better than what the Suns already have. There's no point forcing the issue, and upsetting chemistry, if it's a level swap of talent.
  • the incoming player must clearly fill a gaping need

Please don't make trade suggestions that don't really help the now AND the future. The Suns won't do anything to shackle them this offseason unless they get a star, not a role player. No way the Suns make it harder to acquire a max-salary player like Kevin Love or an upcoming restricted free agent.

And remember: McDonough and Babby got two starters and a future #1 for a one-year rental on Luis Scola. Don't buy low.

The trade deadline is February 20. That's four days after the All-Star game. Likely, the Suns will hold out until after the ASG to acquire a star who may already be an All-Star (ie. Love) before jumping at any lesser offers beforehand.

The Lakers would not trade Gasol to Cleveland for just Bynum. They wanted a draft pick too. But the Suns won't give anything up but Okafor, so it's up to the Lakers to lower their demands and the Suns to fail to find anything better.

The Phoenix Suns own a trade chip large enough to save a struggling team from paying oodles and oodles of luxury taxes this season.

Emeka Okafor is out for the season, but his $14.5 million expiring contract is 80% paid by insurance for the remainder of the season. Couple that with another $5 million in open cap space, and the Suns have the ability to save someone millions of dollars of salary expenses AND reduce their cap number below the luxury tax threshold.

That's why you heard about a possible Pau Gasol trade yesterday, for nothing more than Okafor's contract and the Suns' cap space.

Gasol makes $19.285 million this season in the last season of his deal. The Lakers have sunk to the third worst team in the West and project to drop all the way to the bottom of the West WITH Gasol.

So why trade him for nothing? Two reasons:

  • A trade for Okafor would save the Lakers $6-7 million in real salary dollars plus the luxury tax multiplier
  • Another small trade to dump salary (about $3 million) would drop the Lakers below the lux tax threshold entirely, freeing them from the spectre of the 'repeater tax' in future seasons and saving even more money this season
  • Being worst in the West still only gets you the 4th or 5th pick in the draft. The Lakers would be better served going worse than 13-22 the rest of the way (which is their current projection)

But that doesn't mean the Suns really want Gasol. It means the Lakers really want the Suns to want Gasol.

According to John Gambodoro of ArizonaSports.com and KTAR (620 AM and 98.7 FM) who's been clued in to the Suns for years, Gasol is one of a number of options the Suns are considering.

Screen_shot_2014-02-03_at_6

Lots of teams want to save money and get under that tax threshold. The Lakers are just one of them.

Screen_shot_2014-02-03_at_6

Gambo's not a mathematician and never purported to be, but he hit on the reason for the trade: money. Between the savings they are currently getting on Okafor (80% paid by insurance) that would go away, plus the extra $5 million in cap space used up, I'd guess Gasol would be at least a $10 million half-season rental difference from Okafor.

Sounds like Suns owner Robert Sarver is willing to spend money to make a good playoff run.

But the Suns would rather get something better than a half-season rental that might not get them further in the playoffs than they currently can get.

Screen_shot_2014-02-03_at_6

They'd rather get a young star who they could lock up for years. Someone like Kevin Love. But Love probably won't be available until after the season. Minnesota still projects to finish strong, though they keep finding ways to lose too many games.

In the meantime, expect a lot more rumors out there over the next 2.5 weeks as teams want to use up the Suns' $20 million in cap space (Okafor + $5 million in free space) and get a first rounder or two back in the process.

if the trade is lopsided toward the other team, it was likely leaked by that team or the player's agent. Don't assume everything you read is actually being hotly considered by the Suns as reported.

But they DO want to do something. If you want to be the oracle, start looking at struggling teams' expiring contracts or really good players on fairly short deals. I'm still a fan of Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, for example, in case Chicago wants to clear the books.

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Should the Suns acquire Gasol for Okafor's contract?

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The Phoenix Suns want a star. Is that Pau Gasol?

According to Marc Stein, the Phoenix Suns are thinking about acquiring Pau Gasol in exchange for their cap space.

Logic would dictate that, if a deal such as this goes through, the Suns would NOT include any other assets.

But logic would also dictate that acquiring nothing but Gasol would potentially mess up the Suns rotation, benching Miles Plumlee and telling Alex Len to wait till next year.

My sense is that the Lakers would like this to happen, and that they would love to get a first round pick from the Suns too. I just don't see that happening.


The Phoenix Suns have emerged as a potential trade suitor for Los Angeles Lakers center Pau Gasol, according to sources close to the process.

Sources told ESPN.com that the Suns, among the options being weighed as part of their well-chronicled desire to acquire an established player as they make an unexpected playoff push this season, have been exploring the feasibility of trading for the Lakers' four-time All-Star.

...

The Lakers engaged in similar trade discussions in late December and early January with Cleveland in a proposed deal that would have sent Gasol to the Cavaliers for the partially guaranteed contract of ex-Lakers center Andrew Bynum, who then would have been waived to help L.A. save roughly $20 million in salary and luxury-tax obligations.

Those talks, though, broke down because of the Lakers' insistence on receiving another asset of value in addition to the significant financial benefits, only for L.A. to see Cleveland successfully switch gears and trade Bynum to the Chicago Bulls for Luol Deng.

Go back to your Super Bowl watching, folks. Nothing to see here.

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