This week we discuss the Suns three-game winning streak, improved defense and Channing Frye. We also chat about the trade deadline and explore one specific idea for up-grading the Suns. Hosted by Bryan Gibberman and Seth Pollack and presented by Arizona Sports 620 and SB Nation Arizona.
The allure of copious cap space has mollified anxious Suns fans during the last two less than stellar seasons by offering them the opportunity to indulge in quixotic musings involving the likes of D12 and DWill in purple and orange. But in order to woolgather, one requires wool. So exactly how much wool, err cap space, are the Suns going to have?
For a while now, I have seen people bandying around different impressions of exactly where the Suns payroll number will be this summer. Some have been general, some have been more discrete. I decided to conduct my own research to try to solve the arcanum of the Suns cap space. There are, I’m sure, luminaries on this forum that are well versed in the nuances and minutiae of the salary cap, however, I’m sure that there are others who still see it as somewhat nebulous and esoteric (like me) and could use a pellucid expatiation to provide clarity to exactly where things stand.
The intended purpose of this analysis is to provide information that can be a useful reference tool. Therefore, in a slight departure from my usual predilection, I will aim to keep the remainder of this post as limpid and laconic as possible (I’m sure that drew at least one cheer). I also apologize in advance if anything I report is erroneous. Please feel free to fact check my work.
Frolic forward my friends.
First some vocabulary - I know I generally write in pretty transparent terms, but some of these words are not clearly defined in everyone’s mind.
Salary cap – This is the limit a team can spend on contracts for players, but of most importance for this discussion, free agents. With the soft cap system, there is a buffer between the cap and luxury tax. The Suns can take advantage of this to create more cap space by using their exceptions. The 2011-12 salary cap is 58,044,000. The salary floor (80% of the cap) is $46,435,200. The luxury tax is $70,307,000. The 2012-13 limits will not be set until July, but I have seen reports ranging from $60-61 million. I will use $60,000,000 for the purpose of this analysis.
Renounced Players – A team renouncing a player surrenders their ability to use the Larry Bird, Early Bird, or Non-Bird exceptions to re-sign that player. Renounced players do not count towards a team’s salary cap. A renounced player can still be re-signed, but the team must have money to do so under the cap, or use a minimum salary exception.
Cap Holds – These basically make a team’s free agents still count against its cap number. That way a team can’t circumvent the rules and sign other free agents, then go over the cap to re-sign their own free agents.
Draft Pick Cap Holds - A team’s unsigned draft pick counts against its cap number. This number will range depending on where they pick. For 2011-12, it ranges from $4,286,900 for the #1 pick, to $1,963,600 for the #9 pick, to $1,519,400 for the 14th pick. This would be the cap hold number, but according to Sham Sports, rookies generally receive 120% of this number.
Minimum Salary Exception – A team can sign players over the cap using their minimum salary exception. Since the cap will be set below the luxury tax level, this assumes the Suns will be willing to spend above the cap as long as they are below the tax threshold.
Amnesty – This clause allows a team to waive a player and clear his contract off their books so it doesn’t count against their cap number. This can be done during the offseason, not during the season. The player must still be paid.
Tables via ShamSports (Warrick/Morris 13/14 and Morris 14/15 – team option, Gortat/Dudley final year – player early termination option, Childress/Frye final year – player option, Lopez/Morris final year – qualifying offer):
Total salary if all options are exercised, including cap holds.
$31,582,000. That’s the starting point. That doesn’t include Lopez’s salary. It assumes he has been renounced. It would also assume the Suns renounce all of their cap holds (bye Brooks). The Suns would have 7 players under contract – Gortat, Childress, Frye, Dudley, Warrick, Morris, and Telfair.
Telfair – Only $550,000 of the second year of his contract is guaranteed. The Suns can waive him within 7 days of the season ending if they elect to, which would give them back $1,017,500 in cap space.
Amnesty Candidates – Warrick ($4,000,000) and Childress ($6,500,000) seem like the only possible candidates. With the way things are unfolding, the Suns just might save their amnesty another year to create cap space for the summer of 2013-14 in what appears to be a better group of free agents. This also brings into question whether Sarver would be willing/able to absorb this kind of loss.
Rookie Contract – Let’s assume the Suns pick 9th and sign their draft pick to a deal starting at $2,356,320. As mentioned this could vary widely. If the Suns win the lottery, they could be on the hook for a little over $5 million. Reducing the cap space like that would be a shame.
*Edit - these numbers do not reflect mandatory cap holds to reach required 12 roster slots. Cap numbers will be approximately $2-$2.5 million lower than listed. See discussion in comments below for further details.
There are still other considerations. The Suns could spend all their cap money in free agency (unlikely) and fill out the roster with minimum salary exceptions. What is more likely is that at least one of the players whose contract is expiring will be re-signed (i.e. Steve Nash). Depending on how they approach this, that would in effect make the cap space smaller e.g. Nash signs a one year $10,000,000 deal, the cap space is more like $16,000,000.
The Suns still have options here. Why couldn’t they give that deal to Nash, front load a contract to a free agent this offseason (maybe even including waiving Telfair to maximize the first year of the deal), fill the roster out with minimum one year deals, and save the amnesty provision for next summer? Maybe they have one of their pieces already doing that, and are still in a position to have $25-$30 million under the cap to go after two big free agents and re-sign Gortat next summer (since he has an early termination clause that I’m sure he’ll invoke)?
Hopefully that helps clear up the cap space issue (it did for me). Essentially, the number is variable and dependent on what the Suns choose to do. Depending on what they do, and how you choose to look at it, the number could be anywhere from close to $34,000,000 all the way down to less than $16,000,000. Quite the disparity, it’s no wonder I was a little bit perplexed.
One last thing (and thank you all for your patience), here is a list of other teams with cap space this summer from Passport Hoops. I did not compile this myself, so I cannot attest to its veracity with a high degree of certainty. It appears that the free agent class this summer is not only fairly threadbare, but is also a victim of the supply and demand principle – low supply of players PLUS a large number of competing teams with a high demand.
All of these teams have the ability to compete with the Suns for what is left of the free agent class. There has also been speculation that some of these teams (e.g. Dallas, Boston) may be interested in clearing more cap space to become even more of a factor in free agency.
The Suns may be more apt to dip their toes in the free agent pool this summer than dive in, but let’s forecast they land a starter this offseason (e.g. Batum) and still have the capacity to sign two more starters in the 2013-14 offseason while retaining Gortat. They may not rebuild overnight, but I can see a path that leads the Suns back to prominence after just one more down season. Then again maybe they will rebuild overnight, here’s hoping….
The fine folk at SB Nation Arizona have published their weekly power rankings of your Phoenix Suns players. This week's rankings covers the three-game winning streak since the All-Star break. Steve Nash, who has dominated these rankings all year long, is once again in the number two spot behind Marcin Gortat.
I don't think I agree with putting Nash behind Gortat in this one. Steve dominated two of the three games with his passing (17 assists against Minnesota) and scoring (20 points against the Kings). His defense and even rebounding are looking up as well.
Marcin, of course, has also played well. He's defending and boarding with more energy which makes sense given the long rest period, but his offense is still very Nash-dependent. We've also seen Robin Lopez take more minutes from Marcin thanks to his improved energy level and of course, bigger size.
In the long run, Gortat playing 30 to 33 minutes is going to be much better than having him play 37 or 40 per game. With this schedule, that's just not sustainable.
Overall, and this isn't a knock on Gortat, I just though Steve impacted the games more and should be in the top spot. But hey, that's just me.
Big props continue to go to Grant Hill, Jared Dudley and Channing Frye. These three guys are playing at the level I expected them as early in the season. If they had been playing this well in January, the Suns would be a .500 team and maybe a tad bit better. Oh, well.
The Sacramento Kings are not that bad of a team. I mean that. DeMarcus Cousins is a beast, Tyreke Evans is a beast, and Isaiah Thomas, well he has his moments when he isn't tossing the ball into the second row. The three, along with Marcus Thornton proved formidable against a Suns in the first half, overcoming turning a 4 point deficit to take a 10 point lead. The Kings strong armed the Suns for 11 first half offensive rebounds, converting into 11 points.
But in the second half, the Suns strapped on their big boy pants, as the second unit Suns played much better than they did in the first half. The Suns slowly chipped away at the King lead until DeMarcus Cousins lost his mind and committed a flagrant foul on Channing Frye by way of elbow to the neck. Frye converted both free throws, and the Suns were up 53-52.
After 2 Tyreke Evans free throws, the Kings were back on top briefly, 61-59. A 9-0 Suns run, featuring buckets by Gortat, Dudley, Frye and Nash brought the tally to 68-61 Suns. And that is when the Suns second unit redeemed themselves after an awful first half appearance.
The Kings went nearly 2 minutes without a bucket, Marcus Thornton went temporarily insane and Shannon Brown and Jared Dudley hit 3's as the Suns went on a 9-2 run.
Sacramento got within 3 in the waning moments of the 4th, but the Suns hit their next 5 shots to close out the Kings.
The Suns held the Kings to 38% shooting. The Kings starters were especially awful: Evans 8-18, Cousins 7-20, Thornton 9-23, Thomas 3-13
The Suns big two of Frye and Gortat out-rebounded the Kings bigs, Cousins, Thompson, and "guard" Evans 27-24
The Kings were terrible from 3, (2-13), while the Suns hit for 5-12
The Suns bench outscored the kings bench 30-18
Robin Lopez put in a strong performance, playing 17 minutes, scoring 7, grabbing 5 boards, and blocking 2 shots.
The Suns finished off a 6 game homestand 5-1, and are now 10-9 in the gorgeous confines of U.S. Airways Arena
Quality game from the Suns. If you tossed the 2nd quarter out of the mix, the Suns win this game comfortably. Gotta feeling Alvin Gentry shredded the second unit members at half time after their performance in the first half. Shannon Brown still plays out of control and makes some super stupid decisions at times, but you can tell he is feeling more confidence with his shot and role on the squad.
Steve Nash is plain freaking smart. What do we think of the recent trend of floaters he takes? It's a good shot for him, you can tell he has worked on it, and masters of the obvious like myself are thinking...Brilliant, he can beat his man and when his roll partner is taken away, he's left open in the paint from 5-10 feet out. If he takes it to the hole, he'll get blocked, bludgeoned or both. Instead, he drops the lil' floater in the lane.
Channing Frye is proving he doesn't need to shoot a respectable percentage from the field in order to stay on the court. It's clear Frye is consciously trying to take the ball inside. It's also clear he's putting in a huge effort on the boards and on the defensive end of the floor. He has the size and length to be a defender. He has the desire to shed his "soft" label. And he's clearly not stressing about missing shots.
Markieff Morris was putrid tonight offensively. Freakin' putrid. But, the kid still grabbed 6 boards in his 17 minutes. He's getting the open looks, they aren't falling. He's rushing his shot at times, and other times he's just laying bricks. The key is he's getting good playing time. He'll find his shot, he'll be a good PF in the NBA.
Grant Hill is quietly going about his business, D'ing up the oppositions best player every night, hitting clutch shots as he did tonight in the 4th, and being a quiet MVP on this squad. Sure the engine doesn't run without Nash, but the Camaro morphs into a Ferrari when Hill is doing his thing. He's healthier now than at any time in the first half of this season.
Next up, a true test. OKC, Dallas, Memphis, Minnie, Utah, the Clippers.