As the NBA free agency signing season winds down, the Phoenix Suns find themselves in a unique position of having a completely full roster capable of making the playoffs while also having the second most cap room in the entire NBA.
Let's take a look at the cap sheet as of this morning, August 3, 2014.
That's 12 guaranteed contracts, plus two more players committed to the team but just not under contract yet.
The total cap space available of $12.25 million includes the cap holds for Eric Bledsoe ($6.57 million) and Tyler Ennis ($1.5 million). Once Bledsoe is signed, the Suns available spending money will go down accordingly.
You may be surprised to see that first round draft pick Tyler Ennis, #18 overall, has not yet signed his rookie contract with the Suns. T.J. Warren was signed in early July, but Ennis still has not been signed.
The delay is not entirely uncommon. #1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins just signed his contract a week ago, while the Denver Nuggets just signed the second of their two first round picks, Jusuf Nurkic, three days ago after having signed Gary Harris weeks ago.
So there's likely nothing to see here. However it should be noted that unsigned rookies can be traded immediately, but once they sign a contract they cannot be traded for 30 days. It's possible that GM Ryan McDonough's itchy trigger finger is waiting out the trade market before putting the pen in Ennis' hand.
There is no other advantage to keeping Ennis unsigned. His cap hold and rookie salary are nearly identical.
Teams must spend 90% of the salary cap on player contracts during the 2014-15 season. If the team never reaches that threshold ($56.76 million), the leftover money must be distributed among the signed players at the end of the season.
If Bledsoe is signed for $12 million per year and Ennis signed for $1.5 million, the Suns will be nearly at the minimum threshold.
Last year, the Suns kept $5+ million available all season just to be able to absorb incoming contracts if an ideal trade presented itself. None did.
This year may be more of the same. As long as Bledsoe is unsigned, the Suns still have $12.25 million to use to absorb salaries. After that, the available money will be in the $4-6 million range.
Once such scenario (total conjecture on my part): If Minnesota does dump Kevin Love for prospects (Wiggins and Bennett), the Wolves might decide to also trade C Nikola Pekovic ($12 million per year) away for prospects as well. The Wolves already have Gorgui Dieng waiting in the wings to take Pekovic's place. Maybe the Suns, who need low-post scoring and rebounding, would rather Pekovic over someone like Greg Monroe, who is asking for more salary and could cost more outgoing prospects to obtain. Still that's a huge commitment (4 yrs, $48 million) to a slow center who doesn't quite fit the Suns mold. But that's just one illustration of why to keep salary cap space open.
The Suns now have proven NBA players at every position. Some positions are even a logjam. There's no way Gerald Green, Archie Goodwin and Marcus Morris will get the minutes they've earned through hard work and, in Green and Mook's cases, proven NBA play last year.
The Suns will likely make a trade before the 2014-15 season starts. But now that we've hit August, summer vacations will start taking place before pickup games in September and then preseason in October. McDonough, President Lon Babby, Assistant GM Pat Connolly and Assistant GM Trevor Buckstein all need some time to recharge their batteries. August is traditionally the month in which to do that. Don't expect a lot to happen in August.
By the way, if the Suns don't make any more moves other than signing Bledsoe and Ennis,
One of the BSotS improvement ideas was to have the latest salary cap numbers somewhere on the home page as something you can always find.
The best we can do is this:
It's right under 'Sections' on the main toolbar, and will link to all the latest salary cap stories like this one. Any time the Suns make a move, we'll post an updated story and get it to the top of this list.
A rivalry requires both teams to take successful shots. Shots have been fired for both teams for two years now and a potentially epic battle is on the horizon...
Lisa Leslie, Tamecka Dixon, and DeLisha Milton-Jones all popped the champagne this week as their historic 18 game winning streak from the 2001 Championship season remained in tact. However, the 2014 Phoenix Mercury slid in right behind them.
Losing is never ideal, but in this regard the Mercury can look back historically at what they accomplished.
"We learn from every game regardless of whether we win or lose," Penny Taylor said the other day. The streak was not in their minds publicly, but had to weigh on them as it got closer. These things do that.
For 46 days the Mercury were nearly untouchable. They dominated the schedule laid in front of them defeating everyone that stood in their way winning 11 games by 10+ points or more. Along the way they strung together 16 straight wins that fits them under the 2001 Sparks (18 wins), but above the 1998 Comets (15 wins) for the second longest winning streak in WNBA history.
Who the team they lost to, and how, is more important than the loss itself. Eventually the Mercury were going to lose another game. They had a target on their backs with a grueling schedule heading into the playoffs.
If the Minnesota Lynx had not done it the next four games after would have really tested the Mercury against the 2012 WNBA Champion Indiana Fever, best team in the East Atlanta Dream, the San Antonio Silver Stars, and those same Lynx coming back to town a week later. There are no cupcakes on the Mercury's remaining schedule.They put in the work to earn home court in the playoffs in general, now the goal has to shift to the Lynx for the No. 1 Overall seed in the Western Conference.
Right now the Lynx are just 1.5 games behind the Mercury with a much softer schedule down the stretch. A team can only play the games on their schedule so the Mercury have the advantage with the lead in the standings and control of their own fate, but it will be earned.
"That's playoff basketball," said head coach Sandy Brondello after the loss. "Like two competitive teams going at each other and you know obviously not everyone is happy with all the calls that are out there, but that's just playoff basketball. Sometimes you just have to be able to execute in those situations. I didn't think we executed as well as we could, and play with a little bit more poise."
Staying healthy is a key. At full strength the Mercury are one of the toughest teams in the league without question.
Health has been the theme with the Mercury-Lynx mini-rivalry that has developed over the past few years. On paper both teams are stacked with great players, former No. 1 Overall Picks, All-Stars, youth, veterans, and a blend that can win a championship. On paper, however, there has been a lot of "DNP's" next to key names.
Last season the Lynx owned the Mercury to a tune of seven straight wins, two in the Western Conference Finals, and a total annihilation of a team with championship aspirations.
This year the Mercury took down the Lynx two straight times (the first two wins of the streak) exacting some measure of revenge. Then came this loss. In the seven losses last season the Mercury were without Penny Taylor six times, Brittney Griner twice, and Diana Taurasi for one. They were short-handed and then at full strength, they won. Health is a theme here and for both of those loses the Lynx were without Rebekah Brunson, minus Simone Augustus for one.
These dynamic and talented teams cannot get all their titans on the court at the same time to clash.
"The Mercury are consistently holding teams down," Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve. "We'll have to look at the video and see what we can do better for next time..."
When the Mercury traveled north to face the Lynx the focus and goal was not to extent a potential record breaking streak. It was to measure themselves against a team, the defending WNBA Champions, who have been the measuring stick in the league for past three to four years. They did not do that, which is more of the point of the game than the streak ending.
While this is one loss and at the same time a more important loss than most, which implies it is two things; not important and important at the same time.
On the court there are areas the Mercury can improve on, but the proof is in the pudding that when they are healthy they are a great team. The improvements are isolated to the dynamic and dominant Minnesota Lynx. Coach Brondello does not need to throw everything off her desk, wipe the walls clear of strategy, and reinvent the wheel. Her system works tremendously with a fully healthy roster against 10 other teams. Every team in the NBA improved to beat the Miami Heat. Every team in the NFL once improved to defeat the New England Patriots. Every movie production improves to defeat the box office.
The system is fully engrained into the team as tattooed clues on Lenonard Shelby. They are just jumbled, like they are tattooed for Leonard, when the Lynx are the opposition.
Every year for the past three years the Lynx have been in the WNBA Finals winning two and losing once. They have an MVP Candidate. They have as much (if not more) talent than the Mercury. They have a coach that has maximized the talent on hand.
The Mercury do not need to reevaluate themselves to win a random Tuesday night game against the New York Liberty... Their improvements are exclusively for that team to the north. in the playoffs.