Lon Babby has recently said that the Suns must start to build through the draft. And with half the teams in the first round willing to trade their picks -- and some of those willing to sell them outright -- the Phoenix Suns HAVE to take the bull by the horns and buy a second draft pick.
The Suns need to get younger. The more youth they add, the better.
Trading up from 13 might not be in the cards. To move up takes more than money. The Suns don't have player assets that other teams really want right now, or that the Suns are willing to part with. And the Suns can't take on money until a week AFTER the draft.
But the Suns do have $3 million in cash burning a hole in their pocket. Each team can include up to $3 million in cash this summer in trades (total, not per transaction).
They need to use that $3 million to buy another draft pick. Why settle for Waiters (or Rivers) if you could have Waiters AND Perry Jones? Or Rivers AND John Henson? Or Jeremy Lamb AND Quincy Miller/Arnett Moultrie/Fab Melo,etc?
Let me explain how far $3 million in cash can take the Suns this June.
See this comment by cap guru Larry Coon yesterday in a chat:
"The only things that count against team salary are player salaries (and cap holds, which are there to reserve space for anticipated future player salaries). A trade of cash for a draft pick is a $0 for $0 transaction from a salary cap perspective.
I can easily see teams selling lower picks this year, but there are some competing issues. On one hand, with the looming increases in luxury tax penalties, teams might not want to commit guaranteed money to questionable players. This will encourage teams to sell picks, but maybe discourage teams from buying them. The other factor is that the cash-in-trade limit is now $3 million per year, rather than $3 million per trade. Combine all these factors, and I think we will continue to see draft picks being sold, but the prices will be lower."
Usually, teams use cash to make a trade work under the salary cap. Well, that's only necessary when both teams are over the cap. The Suns, as of July 1, are way under. So cash is immaterial. That makes the $3 million completely available for the purchase of draft picks.
Well, who's selling? Just about half the league at this point.
Note Larry's comment again:
I can easily see teams selling lower picks this year, but there are some competing issues. On one hand, with the looming increases in luxury tax penalties, teams might not want to commit guaranteed money to questionable players. This will encourage teams to sell picks, but maybe discourage teams from buying them.
With a roster full of middle-talented, middle-aged players, the Suns WANT youth on long contracts. That makes them a buyer.
The other factor is that the cash-in-trade limit is now $3 million per year, rather than $3 million per trade. Combine all these factors, and I think we will continue to see draft picks being sold, but the prices will be lower.
Sounds to me like the Suns can easily outbid their competition, if it comes down to cash.
In the past, when teams could include $3 million per transaction, the Suns sold their mid-20s picks for $3 million each, back when Sarver wanted to spend that money on salary and lux tax.
This time, the tables can be turned.
And this draft is deep. There are few all-stars, but the depth of real NBA players is there. Talent in the early 20s is comparable to last year's teens and even this year's teens. Talent in the late teens is comparable to the 8th pick onward. There is talent to be had.
And the Suns NEED to take advantage. If the Suns don't come out of this draft with 2 new talents with upside for the price of a few greenbacks, then they will regret it.
With the 13th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, the Phoenix Suns drafted Markieff Morris, a power forward from Kansas. Morris had an up and down rookie season, but he looks to be a solid player and part of the team's rotation moving forward
Is it possible that history could repeat itself this year, and the Suns could again select a power forward with the 13th pick in the draft?
At first glance, taking another power forward doesn't make much sense for the Suns. Taking another power forward could stunt Morris' growth. Also under contract at the four are Channing Frye and Hakim Warrick. There isn't much room for someone new there.
Suns general manager Lance Blanks has also said that the Suns are very impressed with the wings in this class, and the Suns certainly need young talent at the two and three. A shooting guard in particular seems to make the most sense for the Suns.
But that doesn't mean the Suns aren't at least considering a big man at 13.This year's lottery is very deep at the power forward forward position, with as many as seven power forwards projected as possible lottery selections. However, with possible lottery promises to shooting guard prospects Dion Waiters and Austin Rivers and the rise of center Meyers Leonard, there is a good chance one or more of these power forwards will slide to the Suns at 13.
Knowing this, the Suns are doing their due diligence and bringing in some of these talented forwards, according to Jonathan Givony of Draft Express.
Perry Jones, Terrence Jones, Arnette Moultrie and John Henson will work out against each other tomorrow in Phoenix (#13 pick).— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) June 15, 2012
Three of these names are guys we have already taken a look at as possible draft selections for the Suns. Jim Coughenour broke down Kentucky's Terrence Jones, East Bay Ray took a look at Baylor's Perry Jones III and 7footer wrote about North Carolina's John Henson. Moultrie is an athletic rebounder from Mississippi State who is projected to go in the 15-20 range. All are long and athletic, and each has their strengths. It should be an interesting workout (too bad the media won't have any access to it).
What do you think Bright Siders? Are the Suns eying another power forward at 13? Or are they just making sure they get all of their bases covered? Which of these players would you like to see on the Suns the most?
It appears as if Givony may not have been entirely correct. Here's a Tweet from Paul Coro talking about the workout:
#Suns held a big workout in size & scope today. John Henson, Tyler Zeller, Meyers Leonard, Arnett Moultrie, Perry Jones & Jared Sullinger.— Paul Coro (@paulcoro) June 16, 2012
So no Terrence Jones, but Zeller, Leonard and Sullinger also attended.
**EDITOR'S NOTE ... PART 2*
Further clarification by Coro regarding today's workout:
A tweak to the previous tweet. Vandy SF Jeffery Taylor participated in the #Suns workout today, not Ohio State PF Jared Sullinger.— Paul Coro (@paulcoro) June 16, 2012
To recap, today's big-laden #Suns workout gang was John Henson, Tyler Zeller, Meyers Leonard, Arnett Moultrie, Perry Jones & Jeffery Taylor.— Paul Coro (@paulcoro) June 16, 2012
The first installment of this series rambled through the Central Division of the Eastern Conference. This episode hits a little closer to home, peering into the plans that may potentially perturb prospective playoff positioning for the Suns.
Extensive BSotS draft coverage continues to provide a look at players the Suns may select with their 13th pick, but this preview series will take a brief glance division by division (6 total) to offer insight on the machinations of the Suns' opponents in preparation of the impending free agency period. In our continuing effort to be your primary provenance for all that is NBA, and especially Phoenix Suns, the subject of this offering will be a look at the Southwest Division with a slant at how the actions of these teams may affect the maneuverability of the Phoenix Suns.
Special thanks to contributors from SB Nation sister sites that were gracious enough to provide input.
Take a flying leap for more...
**Only guaranteed contracts and player options are being computed into cap numbers for the purpose of this analysis. Cap holds, exceptions, etc. haven't been figured into this number to determine an exact value. This is just to get a general idea of where each teams stands relative to the salary cap, which is expected to be in the neighborhood of $61 million. Salary information courtesy of Shamsports.
San Antonio (50-16)
Draft Picks: 2nd round 59th overall
Cap Number with Options: ~$50.7 million for 11 players (Ginobili, Parker, Jackson, Splitter, Bonner, Leonard, Joseph, Blair, Neal, Mills, and Byars).
Options: Blair (Partially Guaranteed). Neal and Byars (Unguaranteed). Mills (Player Option).
Free Agents: Duncan and Anderson (Unrestricted). Green (Restricted).
J. R. Wilco from Pounding the Rock answered the following questions:
In your recent roundtable discussions, power forward (primarily) and back up point guard (secondarily) were listed as areas that needed the most improvement. Are there any specific players the Spurs may be targeting in free agency or trades to address these needs?
Every fan base tends to come to identify with the way their team does things beyond the fact or degree to which they are successful. So it's always eye-opening to interact with fans that follow other NBA teams because the assumptions that lie beneath the questions they ask, reveals something about how their own team does things.
For example, when you ask me if there are any specific players the Spurs may be targeting, while I realize that must be a fairly logical question for you to ask about almost any other team, I have hardly anything concrete to respond with. That's because the Spurs organization is so incredibly tightlipped, that even if there was someone (and you'd have to assume that there is, but that's really the most you can do) there's no possible way that I would know about it because of how secretive they are about those things.
I guess the best I can do is to share with you something that's come to be known as The Wilco Maxim: any rumored deal is not possible in reality because the Spurs only make acquisitions that no one expects. So if there's significant media buzz surrounding a particular trade, free-agent signing, or waiver wire pick up, you can be relatively certain that San Antonio will not be involved.
That said, I'd love to see a deal happen to bring Roy Hibbert to town. Duncan and he have a great relationship, and S.A. dealt with Indy during the last postseason (on the George Hill for Kawhi Leonard deal) and trading partners that do deal that BOTH teams benefit from, often continue to to business with each other.
Is there any evidence as to what type of deal the Spurs are working on with Duncan (years and money)? Is he amenable to a "hometown discount" that would help the team improve in other areas in the coming years?
While there is no particular evidence about a deal that Duncan would sign, the general consensus is that he will do another 2 to 3 years at something between 50 to 75% of his current salary, depending on how intensely the glasses you wear are tinted rose. But it wouldn't be too overly optimistic to think that he would give a significant hometown discount seeing as how he's restructured deals before to make it easier for the team to sign other guys. Also there's the factor that his career can't continue indefinitely, and he wants another championship so badly that he just might decide to take a big pay cut for the betterment of the team.
Green is a young player that showed a lot of improvement this season before falling out of favor in the Western Conference Finals. It will be interesting to see what kind of interest he receives in free agency. The Spurs depth, considered a valuable asset, vanished as the playoffs wore on. The Spurs will likely retool around their core, but don't appear to covet the same the same prospects as the Suns, since power forward and backup point guard appear to be their focal points. Then again, if you apply The Wilco Maxim (and I do love a clever aphorism), who the hell knows what the Spurs are doing?
Are some of the Suns' new clandestine practices (think pre-draft workouts) attempts to change the front office culture into one that is generally more marked by furtive dealings and misdirection? The coming weeks may be revealing and muddling concomitantly, but for some reason Lon Babby doesn't strike me as the Keyser Soze type.
I am also a proponent of applying the nadir of the Tim Duncan contract standard to Steve Nash. 2 years at 50% of his current salary would be a 2 year $12 million deal. I'm interested to see what Duncan actually inks to.
Memphis Grizzlies (41-25)
Draft Picks: 1st round 25th overall
Cap Number with Options: ~$62.5 million for 9 players (Randolph, Gay, Gasol, Conley, Allen, Cunningham, Pondexter, Pargo, and Selby).
Free Agents: Haddadi (Unrestricted). Mayo, Speights, Arthur, and Hudson (Restricted).
Tom Lorenzo from Straight Outta Vancouver answered the following questions:
The Grizzlies are hitched to a core of 4 players who are scheduled to make $54 million dollars next year, but in most estimations are not capable of putting this team over the top. How likely is it (maybe a percentage) that the Grizzlies move one of these 4? Gay has been involved in lots of trade rumors recently, what kind of return does Memphis expect for a player who is obviously quite talented, but at the same time is scheduled to make $54 million the next 3 years and has zero all-star appearances?
Well, if the Grizzlies do decide to move one of the four, it's absolutely going to be Rudy Gay. There's no question about it. Gay is the one of the "Big 4" who doesn't quite fit into our current system. But, let me say this about trading Rudy Gay; he's a highly skilled basketball player and one of the most underrated defenders in the game, and this is NOT a salary dump by any means. Sure, taking back $54 million over the next three years is a lot of money to absorb, but the rumor-mill is churning out some highly favorable deals. The Timberwolves are rumored to be interested for Gay in return for Derrick Williams and the 18th pick in this year's draft. The reports out of Toronto have the Raptors interested in giving Andrea Bargnani/Jose Calderon, Ed Davis and the 8th pick in this year's draft for Rudy Gay.
Now, sure, it's not as if we're getting Blake Griffin in a deal, but there is plenty of value to be had for Gay. And, really, it's not as if we need to move him. I'm one of the few who thinks that if you put the right pieces around our core of 4 (Tony Allen, Marreese Speights, a 3-point shooter, a backup point guard, etc.) we can make a deep run -- possibly a NBA Finals run. Look, we still haven't had a full season with all four players. We lost Randolph for most of last season and Gay for the final months of the 2011 season. I'd still be interested in seeing what these four can do with a full season together -- especially since Marc Gasol has elevated his game and Mike Conley has become a much more effective point guard.
What is your overall impression of O.J. Mayo and his future as a player in this league?
Ah, O.J. Mayo. Well, I'll say this much, you're not going to see him in a Grizzlies jersey again. It's just not going to happen. First, well, someone is going to pay him more money than the Grizzlies would be willing to pony up. Second, he's already said that he wants to play point guard "somewhere else" next season, so, he's already thinking about moving on. Which is fine. I think the thing with Mayo is -- and I truly mean this -- he's going to have a much better post-Memphis career, probably turning into one of the top 6th men in the league. Mayo needs a change of scenery. It's been clear for years now that the Grizzlies just didn't think he fit in their future plans. I mean, they traded him twice, only to have the deals be rescinded at the last minute -- for Josh McRoberts and for Anthony Morrow. He's a talented player, probably needs someone to boost his confidence a little, and he needs to go someplace where he's wanted. I think if the mental game gets straightened out, he can really be a very good player in this league.
I concur that it would be nice to see what this still relatively young Grizzlies team could do with another opportunity, but keeping their core intact severely restricts their ability to add pieces in free agency. Do they have enough? It's going to be hard to build a bench saddled with their cap situation.
Mayo is a young, intriguing prospect that will garner attention from several teams. I project him as one of the free agents most likely to get overpaid relative to what he has achieved so far in the league. Will he be able to live up to the contract he receives?
Dallas Mavericks (36-30)
Draft Picks: 1st round 17th overall, 2nd round 55nd overall
Cap Number with Options: ~$54.5 million for 9 players (Nowitzki, Odom, Marion, Haywood, Carter, Beaubois, Jones, Wright, and Azubuike).
Options: Odom and Carter (Partially Guaranteed). Wright (Unguaranteed).
Free Agents: Terry, Kidd, Mahinmi, West, Jianlian, and Cardinal (Unrestricted).
Josh Bowe from Mavs Moneyball answered the following questions:
Go cheap, young and potentially under the radar. The Mavericks slashed a ton of payroll for this off-season and if they can't get a big-time free agent, Mark Cuban isn't going to fill the gaps by potentially overpaying older veterans (think Andre Miller, Gerald Wallace, etc.) There are rumors of Jeremy Lin but New York will most likely keep him. Goran Dragic would be a nice, young and cheaper alternative if Williams signs elsewhere and instead of offering Roy Hibbert 13+ million a year, Cuban could offer over half that to Omer Asik, the young back up center in Chicago. If anything, Cuban will keep payroll reasonable for a chance at Dwight Howard in 2013. Also, don't be surprised if can't get Williams, he throws money at Eric Gordon and hopes New Orleans wants to move on.
How much fuel does the Jet still have in the tank (he'll be 35 in November), and is he still looking to get paid or is fit (and winning) going to be more important for him in choosing his next destination?
JET still has tremendous value as a shooter/scorer off the bench and a part time point guard. Problem is, he's been a No. 2 scorer for his entire time in Dallas and that part has almost certainly passed him by. The real mystery is Terry's intentions. He's made comments about how he's "auditioning" for the NBA this year, yet JET always speaks very fondly of Dallas in all situations. But Cuban needs payroll so Terry is most likely headed elsewhere unless he wants to take a massive paycut in both years and salary.
Cheap, young, and potentially under the radar. Amazing how the Maverick plan sounds eerily similar to the Suns if you exchange Williams for Nash... It sounds like the Mavs may be competing for the same free agents as Phoenix if Williams doesn't accept their offer/entreaty. Whatever the case, I think it's safe to say the Mavericks will be a decidedly different team next campaign.
Houston Rockets (34-32)
Draft Picks: 1st round 14th overall, 1st round 16th overall
Cap Number with Options: ~$43 million for 12 players (Martin, Scola, Dalembert, Lowry, Fisher, Patterson, Morris, Budinger, Parsons, Smith, Fortson, and Simpson).
Options: Dalembert and Smith (Partially Guaranteed). Budinger, Fortson, and Simpson (Team Option).
Free Agents: Camby, Williams, and Dragic (Unrestricted).
Tom Martin from The Dream Shake answered the following questions:
What are the Rockets likely plans regarding Goran Dragic (who is an unrestricted free agent and many Suns fans have a soft spot for) with Kyle Lowry still under contract? Who do you think is the better point guard?
I think they'll try their darnedest to hold on to Dragic, but I'm not sure how much they'll be willing to spend. For fans, this has turned into something of a make or break summer, and if the front office shares that mindset, you'd think they would try to use the cap space they have to go get somebody better than Goran. But if that's not the case and if they're still willing to take the familiar bit by bit route, I think they'll make Goran a very good offer. Should he accept it, I think it will be under the circumstances that he can legitimately compete for a starting job. That's going to further piss off Kyle Lowry, apparently, so it's looking like it will come down to one or the other. Lowry is the better point guard right now, but Goran's size, quickness and shiftiness may allow him to eventually turn out to be the better player.
The Rockets have lots of talented players, and look to add two more promising prospects drafting 14th and 16th, but no superstar. Will the Rockets ever get their star, and is that still the goal in Houston?
I certainly hope they get their star, but unless they pull off a trade for Deron Williams or Dwight Howard, I doubt they'll do so through the trade market or free agency any time soon. This team has been filled with almost-moments the past three years: they almost make the playoffs, they almost sign big free agents and they almost pull off a big trade... except, nothing ever actually happens. Houston will get its star eventually, but the FO might have to see some losing seasons before that happens - something they're apparently unwilling to sit through.
Another team professes desire to compete for their own free agent (Dragic) when he hits the market. A recurring theme as free agency creeps closer is that quality talent is hard to come by at less than a premium price. There's no fallacy with Houston's possible retention of Dragic either, since a) their propitious cap situation doesn't deter the proposition and b) a second starting caliber point guard gives them additional trade ammunition.
New Orleans (21-45)
Draft Picks: 1st round 1st overall, 1st round 10th overall
Cap Number with Options: ~$39 million for 11 players (Okafor, Ariza, Jack, Aminu, Smith, Henry, Ayon, Vasquez, Thomas, Watkins, and Dyson).
Options: Ayon, Thomas, Watkins, and Dyson (Unguaranteed).
Free Agents: Gordon (Restricted).
Will Hibert from At the Hive answered the following questions:
Recent indications seem to point to New Orleans matching any offer for Gordon. Is this your take and where would you put the percentage that he remains a Hornet?
That sounds about right. Monty Williams and Dell Demps have had nothing but praise for Eric Gordon, with Monty recently getting a little frustrated with the constant questions regarding Gordon's desire to be a Hornet, saying that Gordon has given him every indication that he wants to remain in New Orleans. To put a number on it, I'll go with 90%. Demps and Williams have repeatedly said that they plan on building around Gordon, but things could change with a talent like Anthony Davis falling in their lap.
If the Hornets were to match on Gordon, select Davis, and get another player with the 10th pick (possibly a point guard), most would consider that a pretty successful off-season. Do the Hornets aspirations stop there, or will there be more action taken to propel the franchise back to competing immediately?
Frankly, if Davis is going to be as good as I believe he will, I think the team could do nothing else and still become competitive. Of course there is very little chance that Demps and Williams will actually do this. I think they will try to be as competitive as possible next season, without sacrificing the future. The team is going to be young next year no matter what happens, but we saw how hard Monty had a skeleton crew playing this season, and an influx of talent like the one New Orleans will see this summer will make his job that much easier.
Not to intimate that Will's 90% is a peremptory dictum, but for Brightsider's still clinging to hopes of Gordon in purple and orange - competing with other suitors in a 10% pool isn't exactly a sanguine prospect. The Suns face the very stark reality that the Hornets, owners of the West's worst record, could hurdle them in the standings depending on the circumstances of the next month.