Robert Sarver is typically hated by most Suns fans, and might be holding Phoenix back from landing LeBron James. But Sarver might not be a big as a cheapskate as you might think.

The Phoenix Suns are looking more and more like realistic suitors in the LeBron James free agency sweepstakes every day.  They are in a unique position, as they have cap space for both James and (with some maneuvering) an additional max free agent, as well as the ability to keep the core of last year’s team together.  Phoenix is arguably the best situation for James, but one of the frequently made arguments against the Suns is majority owner Robert Sarver and his notoriously cheap reputation.

Mr. James, I implore you not to count out Phoenix because of Robert Sarver.

Sarver certainly doesn’t have many huge fans around these parts, but I’m going to argue that he’s not as cheap as you might think (Heresy! After proposing a Goran Dragic trade earlier this week and now this, I am sure I am now the most hated man on BSotS). Let's take a look at how he has evolved as an owner during his tenure.

A Rocky Start

Sarver’s first few years as owner were admittedly…questionable.  He jettisoned a boatload of first-rounders, wouldn’t pay up for Joe Johnson, and traded Kurt Thomas, along with two draft picks, in what has to go down as the most blatant salary dump in NBA history.  These were all finance saving moves.

It wasn’t a good start for Sarver, but take into consideration that he was taking advice from Bryan Colangelo, Mike D’Antoni, and Steve Kerr.  Colangelo is heralded for some big moves throughout his career, but is for the most part vastly overrated as an executive. D’Antoni’s big splash was to sign Marcus Banks to a $21 million dollar contract.  He also played a tight rotation, with rookies hardly ever getting playing time, so he wanted nothing to do with draft picks.  Kerr was mostly forgettable during his tenure, though he struck gold (got lucky?) by replacing Shaquille O'Neal with Channing Frye in the summer of 2009 to drive the Suns back to the Western Conference Finals.  Sarver certainly earned that cheap reputation in his early years, but he didn’t exactly have the best executives surrounding him.

But we tend to forget that Sarver showed a willingness to spend after that.  From 2008 to 2010, he paid luxury taxes for the team.  The Oklahoma City Thunder have never paid the luxury tax. Sarver has not been afraid to dole out big contracts; they’re just usually misdirected on players like Hakim Warrick, Josh Childress, and fan favorite Michael Beasley.

Don’t forget that max offer to Eric Gordon, either.  It seemed like the necessary price at the time, but would have turned out to be a typical Sarver contract had New Orleans not matched.  Sarver was again taking the advice of a bad GM, this time in Lance Blanks, but he at least demonstrated that he had abandoned his penny-pinching ways (As a side note, let the record show that Sarver insisted on signing Dragic over Raymond Felton, despite strong support for Felton among the Suns front office).

Edit: As MarkSmith pointed out in the comments, Sarver also offered A'mare Stoudemire a $96.6 million dollar contract in the summer of 2010. It was a few million short of the $100 million dollar contract he eventually received from New York, but more importantly, Sarver had the foresight to include minutes/games played requirements Stoudemire had to meet to guarantee the money. Crisis averted.

A Changed Man

Now, Sarver has a respectable GM in Ryan McDonough running the show.  We have yet to see McDonough spend any of Sarver’s money on any big free agents, but there’s no reason to be discouraged.  They have already stated their planned all-out assault on LeBron James.  If that doesn’t work out, however, look for the Suns to still spend big this offseason.  During an interview with Arizona Sport’s Gambo, Sarver expressed his hope and intent to go over the salary cap.

"One of the interesting benefits we have this year is the cap hold right now on Eric is less than his market value.  We’re in a unique position this year if we can attract the right free agents or make the right trades, we have a chance to go significantly above the salary cap this year."

--Sarver, on KTAR/ArizonaSports620's Burns and Gambo show on June 26

Clearly, Sarver correctly sees Bledsoe’s cap hold as something of a boon, which allows the team to spend up to the cap, and then resign Bledsoe.  He’s willing to spend the money, but also expressed caution to spend it wisely:

"One of the lessons I’ve learned is you can’t just spend to spend.  You got to make sure you’re putting all of the right people in there, and not using all your powder on stuff that’s going to get you mediocre."

At least Sarver can own up to his mistakes.  He has spent a lot in the past, albeit on poor contracts.  Sarver will undoubtedly spend that cap room with more prudence this time around, but he won’t shy away from spending big if he has to.  McDonough will help in this regard.

Sarver has definitely grown as an owner. Coming out of the gate, he exercised plenty of cost-cutting moves. He eventually realized you have to spend money to be good in the NBA, although he didn't at first know how to properly do so.  He's learned the value of draft picks and youth as well, retaining all three of his picks this year.  He just needed a little time to learn the ropes.

So, Mr. James, please don’t count out Phoenix because of Robert Sarver.  He had a bit of rocky start, and it took him a while to figure out how to spend money correctly, but he’s on track now.  He’ll even let you pick the max free agent of your choice.  And he’s at least better than Dan Gilbert.

Looks like Eric Bledsoe has a suitor, but is it a suitor he wants?

According to Marc Stein of ESPN, we have our first big tire-kicking of Eric Bledsoe coming from Milwaukee.


It will be interesting to see how this one plays out. I can't imagine Bledsoe wanting to play in Milwaukee, but money talks louder than anything else.

The Suns will almost certainly match any Bledsoe offer, so don't start worrying about losing one of the Suns best players.

However, a signed offer sheet to either Suns RFA Tucker or Bledsoe could mess up the Suns desired timing. The Suns would like to re-sign Bledsoe and Tucker last, after any and all free agents and trades. Bledsoe's cap hold is currently $6.5 million while Tucker's is $2.8 million, but if either signs an offer sheet above that and the Suns match the offer, their cap hold is replaced by his new salary.

Speaking of P.J.

Tucker is apparently having a hard time getting an offer sheet.


Again, the Suns would like to re-sign these guys last, not first.

Let's hope the market really stays dry for them for another week or so, and then they get all the money they deserve (and the Suns match).

In order for Miami's plan to work, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade must take 40-50% pay cuts. Recent rumors have Chris Bosh being uninterested in taking such a pay cut, which might lead to his exodus from Miami.

I started thinking about this a couple of days ago, but haven't had a chance to formulate it into a post until now. As it turns out, others are coming to the same conclusion as well.

With the Bulls, Rockets, Mavs, Lakers, Cavs, Suns and potentially others chasing James, Anthony or both, there are more teams than there are LeBrons and Melos (only one of each). Once James and Anthony have made a decision, the teams that lost out will be lining up to create a market for Bosh.

--Ken Berger,

The market for Chris Bosh might take him out of Miami, which makes Miami's talent pool around LeBron James a lot more shallow than it already is. And it begs the question, if that's going to happen why would LeBron go back to Miami? He's not winning a ring with Dwyane Wade and Shabazz Napier.

"Roster. Roster. Roster. Talent. Talent. Talent. LeBron wants a super talented roster thats ready to win NOW."

--Brian Windhorst, ESPN, LeBron beat writer for nine years, on KTAR's Burns and Gambo show on July 1

Windhorst went on to say that Miami still had the best roster for LeBron, citing that Dwyane Wade was still a proven winner while the Suns are two years away from contending. His assumption included Chris Bosh in the equation, though he didn't mention Bosh by name.

Let's delve into that a bit more, Brian.

The Bosh file

Miami's Big Three have already opted out of their deals. LeBron has since floated his insistence on a full max deal, starting at $20 million per year. Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade are also eligible for max starting salaries of $20 million.

For those of you who need help, that's $60 million on three players. With a salary cap of $63 million and Norris Cole and Shabazz Napier (the only other players under team control), the HEAT would have no money left to round out a 13-man roster with any real talent. And we already saw last month that Bosh and Wade are not enough anymore to help LeBron win championships. The team would only have the MLE to offer a singular talent, but then could just fill another starting spot and the whole bench on minimum salaries.

So someone has to take less than their max, in order to leave room for President/GM Pat Riley to work. In fact, considering an NBA roster requires at minimum 12 players, the operative phrase is "someones have to take big pay cuts, like 40-50% pay cuts". Those someones are Bosh AND Wade.

Recent reports have Bosh being less than excited about that possibility and, as Ken Berger points out, he has no reason to do that. Why take a ton less money only to come up short again, unless Miami gets lucky on several low-cost free agent signings?

Bosh as Suns Plan B?

If LeBron does stay, would Bosh be the next best thing to add to the Suns roster? He could be signed off the street AND the Suns could keep every one of their guys for another year. Adding Bosh to the Suns 2013-14 Suns, as well as the first round picks, and the Suns could plan for a deep playoff run with a bright future.

But don't get your hopes up. Houston is even more ready for a deep playoff run with Bosh, and has the money to pay him what he wants.

But that's exactly what Berger is saying. There's lot of teams with money spend, and too few players to spend it on.

Miami's options

Of course, Pat Riley could decide the writing is on the wall and do an about-face to keep LeBron. He could cut bait with Bosh and use that money to replace him.

Let's pretend LeBron gets his max and Wade takes a pay cut to $12 million. That's $35 million for LeBron, Wade, Napier and Cole. The HEAT would have $28 million to spend in free agency, but would need to spread that among FOUR starters (Wade is no longer a starter for a championship team) and 2-3 bench players. $28 million is not much when you have to pay market prices for talent because you've got only two players on rookie scale contracts.

With role players Spencer Hawes and Jodie Meeks getting $6-7 million/year deals, $28 million won't go very far.

But there's even more problems with this plan. You first have to replace Bosh's talent with someone nearly as talented who can shoulder some of LeBron's load. You cannot expect players of Meeks and Hawes talent to carry the team to the promised land even for a few minutes at a time every game.

Carmelo Anthony is the best available talent, but he's pretty close to re-committing to NY for $129 million and would have a tough time succeeding in a lineup with both LeBron AND Wade.

Pau Gasol is still out there on the market. But he's not a Bosh replacement. He hasn't carried a team before, and he's a few years too old to be that game-changing #2 talent. The fact is that 28-year old Pau Gasol ain't walking through that door. (even then, the 28-year old Pau Gasol would be too rich for this team's blood)

After Melo commits, the best remaining individual talent on the market is quickly coming down to restricted free agents. Greg Monroe. Lance Stephenson. Eric Bledsoe.

All would be great for Miami, but all want at least $12 million per year. And all require an offer sheet, to which their respective current teams have three days to match. Why would Indiana allow Stephenson to go to arch-rival Miami? Why would the Phoenix Suns allow Bledsoe to go to Miami? Even Greg Monroe, who's being squeezed out of the Piston front line, would likely get matched.

And Miami has nothing to offer in a sign-and-trade.

Edit: Lance Stephenson is unrestricted. Miami could sign him outright. Yet he still poses the same problem as adding Melo - he doesn't have a clear playing position because the wings are already LeBron and Wade, and you can't win a championship having LeBron as your full time PF around those two.

Nothing to offer

That's the thing. By making your team completely fungible every four years, you're ensuring that you're paying market price for every talent on the roster.

Miami has none of the cheap deals beyond Norris Cole and Shabazz Napier, who happen to play the same position. And neither of them are starting-caliber for championship team. Miami has to pay market prices for every other player on their roster. They cannot build a contender under those circumstances.

Today's NBA requires a handful of guys on rookie contracts, who are underpaid for their contributions. That's just the way it is. Super-teams can only be built around two or three market priced stars, a couple of market-priced midlevels and then the rest on strike-gold reclamation projects and/or rookie deals.

Meet your 2014-15 Phoenix Suns.

Coming off a 48-34 campaign, the Suns have seven players still on their rookie deals, and another one (Bogdan Bogdanovic) waiting in the wings whenever the Suns need him. Only one player is likely to get a a $10+ million/year market-priced contract (Eric Bledsoe) this offseason.

The Phoenix Suns have everything Miami doesn't (youth and depth) while still winning 48 games in the tough Western Conference.

Back to Bosh

LeBron wanted Riley to improve his team in the early stages of free agency before committing to return. Yet not only has Riley not signed any players, there is growing belief that Bosh won't stay at a cut-rate deal anyway.

So why would LeBron return to Miami?

Teams interested in Phoenix Suns small forward P.J. Tucker are hesitant to offer the restricted free agent because of fears Phoenix will match, according to Yahoo! Sports’ marc J. Spears. A...

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Sreekar Sreekarovic, Scott Howard, and Bryan Gibberman are back for the 3rd installment of Bright Side After Dark. We talk about LeBron James a lot.

For some reason you're listening, so we're back for round 3.  Come listen to the podcast the critics are calling "a podcast" and raving that "it has three people on it".

On a special 4th of July edition of the Bright Side After Dark podcast, Michelle's dog, Comet, runs away. The Rippers no longer want Jesse in their band. D.J. ends a relationship with a rich boyfriend. we dive into the exciting tease that is the LeBron James to the Suns rumors, talk about Steve Nash's 2012 July 4th departure, and offer whatever "internet favors" are.

As per usual, Gibby tried to murder all of the fun but we reigned him in with a bit of verbal jousting. 

If that isn't enough to pique your interest the know we also talk about sacrificing Sreekar's life to put LeBron in Phoenix.  It got weird.

Take it from Rollin Mason:

@sreekyshooter @ScottHoward42 @Gibberman10 If you don't listen to Bright Side After Dark then fuck you.

— Rollin Mason (@StrummerVillage) July 1, 2014

If you feel like having some fun listening to three dudes talk about the Suns and laugh at each other - click the link below:

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