Ryan McDonough and team have done an amazing job of putting together a winning team on a shoestring budget. But does that help or hurt the Suns in trying to acquire better players in the trade market?

The tried and true maxim of making money through investments is to buy low and sell high. In theory, the goal is to find some undervalued asset, invest, and then watch as it increases in value, selling it at the top of the market. It works for almost everything. But does it work for an NBA roster? Is it possible to be too good at finding undervalued assets?

I wanted to quantify how much the Suns were paying for their wins this season and see how good of a bargain this team really is. Here's a chart showing each NBA team and how much they are paying per win so far this season.


As you can see, the Suns are a hell of a bargain, relatively speaking. It's no surprise that the teams with best records end up being the best deals, but look how much those other teams in the top 10 are paying! Only the Hawks are spending less on total salary. In the top 5, the next closest team to the Suns is spending an additional $5,000,000. Not too shabby. And think about this: that number includes Emeka Okafor's $15,000,000 contract. If you subtract that, the Suns are far and away the best deal going in the NBA right now.

So what does this tell us? First of all, that Lon Babby, Ryan McDonough and Jeff Hornacek have done a bang up job of A) assessing and acquiring undervalued talent, and B) getting the most out of that talent on the basketball court. Most of us knew this without the data and the rest of the NBA is finding out every time they say, "Who?" when Miles Plumlee dunks on them, PJ Tucker snares a rebound or Gerald Green hits a game winner.

This is good news, right? We've got a front office that, after several years of misses and instability, is not only good at picking talent, they're good at picking cheap talent! It's the best of both worlds: lots of wins coming in, not a lot of money going out. Except we all know one thing: this roster probably isn't a championship contender just yet. The Suns need to get the vaunted "missing piece" that's the subject of so much speculation in comment threads. They need to acquire someone to put them over the top and in the same breath as the Heat, Thunder and Pacers.

Here's where the Suns' success in the bargain bin becomes a little more troublesome. Below is a chart of each Suns player and their value to the Suns expressed in Dollars Per Win Share. For the uninitiated, Win Shares are like PER in that they are a single value measurement of a players' on-court contributions, except instead of "efficiency", they try to value how many wins a player has contributed to the team. Head over to basketball-reference.com for a full explanation.


Due to space, I can't show you how this compares to the rest of the league, but suffice to say, the Suns' rotation players as a whole are smokin' deals. All of the Suns' regular rotation players are in the top half of the league in terms of dollars per win share. Even the Suns' two "worst" deals, Channing Frye and Dionte Christmas, are great deals by this measure. By way of quick comparison, Jared Dudley clocks in at $2.8M/WS, Marcin Gortat at just over $3M/WS, and Luis Scola at $3.4M/WS. The Suns clearly got a whole lot more bang for their buck in the off-season.

The problem with this becomes: how on earth do the Suns get equivalent value for any of the players on their roster? And how well do these players' value translate to potential trade partners?

In a hypothetical trade for just Kevin Love in order to make salaries match, the Suns would have to send either A) Emeka Okafor and a combination of players making less than $3.8M or B) some other combination of players making about $12-$18M (and of course, draft picks). If you're the Suns, option B is clearly out of the question as it would entirely decimate the roster. But if you're Minnesota, how is option A appealing without a lottery pick? "Hey, season ticket holders, in place of your top 10 power forward, here's some, um... efficiency! And some picks, that may or may not pan out." (They can't even get both Morris twins because the money doesn't work.)

And, then let's assume for a second that the Suns are looking at options outside of trading for a player on a max deal. Let's take Thaddeus Young since we're all about the power forwards around here these days. Now, if the Sixers are willing to accept Channing Frye, maybe a Markieff Morris and a draft pick, then I feel like that deal gets done. But what if they don't want Channing Frye? How do the Suns hit that $6-$10M window to make the salaries work without giving up Goran Dragic? Is a Thad Young worth a Goran Dragic? Is anyone?

Now I know there are ways around some of this. Minnesota could include another player to make a potential deal work or I may be undervaluing Channing Frye in the eyes of the 76ers.

But I also think that the Suns' asset situation isn't as rosy as one might think. No doubt, McDonough and company have done an excellent job in putting together a valuable roster on the cheap. But those deals might be so good that flipping that value for something "equivalent" in both the eyes of the Suns and potential trade partners may be more difficult than one thinks.

It appears that the signing of Leandro Barbosa is the first step toward filling some pretty big shoes for the next several weeks.

ESPN's Mark Stein reported today that Eric Bledsoe will undergo surgery to repair his knee, and will be out indefinitely.

Bledsoe injured the game against the Clippers on Dec. 30, although he returned to that game. The knee swelled up, however, keeping him out of the last four games. Now he is going to be out for much longer.

John Gambadoro is reporting that the injury is a torn meniscus.

Just heard from another reliable source it is a meniscus tear for Bledsoe that will require surgery.

— John Gambadoro (@Gambo987) January 9, 2014

Of course, it's important to get it fixed now, and it's best to miss time while the Suns face their easiest month of games to date. After playing one of the league's toughest schedules so far, the Suns now get to see all those East teams over the coming weeks.

In the meantime, the Suns front office has rightly decided that Ish Smith is not a guaranteed, shut-the-door long term answer as the third guard in a four-guard lineup (behind Goran Dragic and Gerald Green, ahead of rookie Archie Goodwin).

So, Leandro Barbosa is a smart pickup. While he doesn't know the offense - make no mistake, this is a totally different offense than the Nash days - he does know how to play with Goran Dragic and Channing Frye, three-fifths of the Suns much-loved second unit from the 2010 WCF run. All we need now is Louis Amundson to come walking (err, riding) through that door.

Barbosa may have only made one shot against the Timberwolves in his second Suns debut, but he did flash his signature speed and got to the basket almost at will. If nothing else, he provides more stability in the lineup.

But he's no Eric Bledsoe. Neither is Ish Smith. If Bledsoe is gone for the foreseeable future, the Suns will have to pull another rabbit out of that hat to stay in the playoff chase.

The Phoenix Suns’ optimism for improvements coming as an eastern road swing continues is all but shot. In fact, a major reinforcement won’t be coming for a while. ESPN’s Marc Stein...

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The NBA All-Star Game history is rife with snubs, stupid fan votes, and other general silliness. Normally, I don't care. This year, I can see the purple and gold sh*t train coming and I'm pissed!

We all know Goran Dragic should be in the All-Star Game. I don't need to convince you. You've watched him play this year.

Yes, I'm the most bias writer on the planet when it comes to Dragic. I've loved the kid guy since he was a rookie. I defended him when he was being called "Tragic" and losing time to Sean Singletary. I railed against Lance Blanks for stupidly trading him AND A PICK to the Rockets for Aaron Brooks. I was thrilled when Robert Sarver stepped in and brought Goran back.

More NBA All-Star Game Silliness

I love the kid guy as a person and a player and it's been a JOY to watch his progress and see him turn into an ALL-STAR PLAYER.

On the flip side we have Kobe Bryant. I don't "hate" Kobe. I respect his career and his talent. I just hate everything he stands for from the smug look on his jutting jaw to the the Los Angeles Lakers uniform he wears.

This year, my love for Dragic and my Kobe fan hate are on a collision course of epic proportions.

Kobe is currently leading the voting for West All-Star guards despite "playing" in six games. That's no surprise. Fan voting is dumb. Jeremy Lin is 4th on the votes list and Ricky Rubio is 10th. Goran Dragic is not on the list at all.

I get why. It's just dumb.

Fortunately, guys like Dragic can usually get in on a coach's selection. The coach gets to pick two guards and has two "wildcard" picks he can use on any roster position. Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard will get in. So will James Harden. From there, Dragic has a decent shot, especially with injuries to Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul and a "down-ish" year for Tony Parker.

Goran is even getting All-Star love from the ESPN broadcast. He's winning. The Suns are winning. It's a great story. He's playing great. He's an All-Star. Period. (Stay tuned to this channel for a more rational and evidence-based argument for Dragic...but you don't need it. We all know it.)

BUT here's what's going to happen. Kobe Freaking Bryant is going to return from his latest injury just in time to take a spot from Goran. Sure, it could be Paul or Westbrook who returns in time to screw Dragic out of millions in salary bonuses for getting into the ASG, but we KNOW it will be Kobe.

Why do we know this? Because I've been a Suns fan since 1972 and the Lakers ALWAYS screw the Suns.

It hasn't happened yet and I'm still pissed. When it does happen. My fury will not be contained.

Date: March 22, 2010 Place: Oracle Arena; Oakland, California Set-up: It was a classic run ‘n gun affair between the two teams. The Phoenix Suns trailed the Golden State Warriors 122-119 with...

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