After missing out on every early shooting-guard target (draft prospects Dion Waiters, Austin Rivers, Terrence Ross and Jeremy Lamb plus veterans Eric Gordon and O.J. Mayo), the Phoenix Suns implemented a safe fallback plan with a flexible two-year deal to Shannon Brown.
While Brown gets a reasonable $3.5 million for this season, what makes the deal a slam dunk is the structure in year two. The second year is under the Suns' control: keep Brown again at $3.5 million OR release him and have only $583,333 count against the cap in the next three years, thanks to the new "stretch" provision on released players. That's a great insurance policy right there.
After the Brown signing, the Suns have about $47 million committed to 2012-13, but only $42 million committed to the 2013-14 salary cap (before including draft picks). Warrick and Telfair come off the books, and as stated above Brown can count as little as half-million. That leaves at least $16 million to spend next summer on draft picks, amnesty claims, lop-sided trades or straight free-agent signings.
So it makes sense for the Suns to save their bullets. All the best free agents this summer are gone - at least, the ones deserving multi-year deals.
Now the Suns have a great deal of flexibility, this year AND next.NBA teams are already feeling the pinch of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement - particularly the increasingly punitive costs of exceeding the luxury tax threshold ($70 million this year) that start ramping up a year from now. At that point, teams over the luxury tax are severely limited - inability to receive signed-and-traded players, smaller exceptions, increasingly higher luxury taxes and even a hard cap for those above the "apron" (four million over the luxury tax threshold).
The New York Knicks already declined to match offers to 23-year olds Jeremy Lin and Landry Fields and the Chicago Bulls just may do the same with Omer Asik, all because the third year of those deals would cost the tax-paying team as much as $45 million apiece in salary plus taxes in the third year!
That's just the trickle before the dam blows. Soon, many of the best NBA teams will be walking a tightrope between spending-to-contend and abandoning ship. Salary-dumping will happen. Under-the-cap teams like the Suns will get draft picks for taking on bad contracts, and some of those deals will include highly coveted players.
The Suns are in the driver's seat, as long as they maintain their patience. The Houston Rockets are staying as flexible as possible (to the extreme), and even the Dallas Mavericks are following the same model. Just like the Suns held onto Steve Nash as they turned over the roster around him, the Mavericks are swapping players all around Nowitzki.
The Suns, Rockets and Mavericks - and any teams like them - will struggle to win games as they wait for the big-spenders to start purging. Then it's an arms race to get the stars as they shake loose.
The Suns have 10 draft picks in the next three years. Even the second rounders are valuable, because a team taking on a salary in a one-sided trade has to give something back to make the trade legal and often that's a terrible draft pick.
The Suns also have $8 million in expiring/non-guaranteed deals at the moment (Sebastian Telfair, Hakim Warrick and Shannon Brown), soon to be $11-12 million once the Suns sign a couple of fringe players to round out the roster.
Depending on the final roster, the Suns will likely also have $7-8 million unspent cap space, perfect for a trade partner who wants to lower their own cap number this year.
The Suns have good contracts - midlevel players on midlevel deals - who can produce on any team in the NBA for several years. In particular, Marcin Gortat, Goran Dragic and Luis Scola are all arguably more valuable than their contract.
And finally, the Suns owe nothing to nobody. After years of having to reconcile their heads with their hearts (Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Amare Stoudemire), the Suns can operate as a business from now on. Make trades when and where they are good for basketball reasons, without worry of community-wide repercussions.
So we can spend all summer projecting the win total of the 2011-12 Phoenix Suns, but that's secondary to rebuilding this team to a title contender.
The Suns need to get lucky.
As a wise person told me once: good luck is simply the intersection of preparation and opportunity. The Suns are preparing themselves. Let's hope they recognize the right opportunity when it presents itself.
The Phoenix Suns' summer league team not only got the win in tonight's finale, they played their best, most balanced game.
Markieff Morris put on a show tonight scoring 25 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Morris not only shot the ball more efficiently, going 10-17, he also made some really nice strong moves to the basket, showed great footwork in the post, and also made some very difficult shots over defenders that didn't look like they had a chance.
But the story of tonight's game belongs to Kendall Marshall. Marshall brought his A-game on offense tonight scoring 15 points off of some strong drives to the basket and also some threes. Marshall shot 6-10 from the field overall including 3-4 from downtown.
Not only that, but Marshall really showed his biggest strength with some great assists. He made some awesome go ahead passes to find teammates streaking down the floor to score at the other end...and we also saw more passes made after penetrating into the lane and finding the open man. Marshall finished with a summer league high 10 assists tonight to go along with his 15 points, 4 rebounds, and a team high +19 as well ... Atta boy K-Butter!
Continue reading after the jump for more on tonight's action ...
As for the rest of the Summer Suns, they did ok too. Garcia scored 12 points off 3-4 shooting, Landry scored 15 points off 5-10 shooting, Tucker grabbed 9 boards and scored 10 points off 5-8 shooting, and Sims (who never saw a shot attempt he didn't like) scored 13 points off 6-11 shooting.
But what about the three players I thought had the best chance to get a training camp invite (besides Garcia), well...let's just say they better hope they already proved what they were capable of before tonight. Garrett scored only 2 points, both off free throws, and went 0-4 from the field and also netted 0 assists. Matt Gatens was a DNP, and Lighty scored only 4 points off of 2-5 shooting.
Although for Lighty, something should be said for how he at least held Josh Selby in check a after he got off to a fast start scoring 11 points in the first quarter. Lighty was brought in shortly after and immediately made it much more difficult for him. I don't recall Selby actually scoring on Lighty while he was guarding him, but Lighty only played around 14 minutes while Selby played nearly 30, so he still ended up with 23 points. I still think Lighty has a good chance of getting a training camp invite based on his impressive perimeter defense and spot up shooting ability...but time will tell.
And with that, the Summer Suns' end their Vegas trip with a record of 2-3, and ending on a high note with a win over a pretty good Grizzlies team. Markieff was unquestionably the best player on the team, and Marshall finally showed (at least I hope) why so many people, including myself, are so high on him. Training camp won't begin until October, but Markieff and Marshall looked like they already developed some chemistry together over the last week. Let's hope they can both build on that and continue to improve as they get ready for the regular season.
For those of you who missed seeing the game live, it will be broadcast tonight at 10pm P.S.T. on NBA TV. This is one you may not want to miss.
Here is some post game audio courtesy of our own Seth Pollack:
In what has been a mostly underwhelming performance thus far, the Phoenix Suns will look to close out their NBA Summer League appearance with a win tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies at 7p.m P.S.T.
The Grizzlies are led by PG/SG Josh Selby, a former Kansas standout who has had an outstanding summer league thus far averaging 29 points per game while shooting an incredible 61% from the field...leading the entire league in scoring. Their other guards Jeremy Pargo (12 pts, 5 ast), Tony Wroten (10 pts, 5 ast, 5 rbs) and even ex-Sun Matt Janning (8 pts) have also been consistent contributors as well. The key for the Suns will be to stop the Grizzlies' back court if they are going to pull out a win tonight.
As for the Summer Suns', their biggest issue has been their lack of ability to score points on offense. So far they have averaged only 40% from the field. Worse yet, if you take away their first and only good game in which they shot an efficient 52% against the New York Knicks, they have averaged a dismal 36% over their last three games...yuck!
It's not as if they haven't been able to get open looks or even open lanes all the way to the basket...they have...but for whatever reason this team just hasn't been able to finish plays by putting points on the score board. Even the team's leading scorer and best player, Markieff Morris, has struggled shooting only 37% from the field overall.
Without going into the possible reasons for such a lackluster offensive performance, and there are many, let's just say that if the 1-3 Suns are going to close out their summer schedule with a win against the 2-1 Memphis Grizzlies, they will need to be much more efficient.
Continue reading after the jump for a brief look at the stats from both teams, as well as some players you may want to keep an eye on as they compete for a training camp invite
Here are the stats for the Suns thus far:
|2012 suns Summer League Averages|
Here are the stats for the Grizzlies:
|2012 grizzlies Summer League Averages|
We know that Markieff Morris and Kendall Marshall are already under contract with the Suns, and that Charles Garcia has already been given a training camp invite. But despite a generally bad summer league performance overall, there have been a few bright spots on the roster who could also join the Suns once training camp begins in October.
Players to watch during the last game:
Diante Garrett, PG- Garrett started off his summer league performance with a bang against the New York Knicks while filling in as the starter for Kendall Marshall who was still working out his contract. Garrett posted an impressive 8 pts, 10 asts, and 5 rebounds in his debut and helped lead the team, along with Markieff Morris, to their only win of the summer thus far. Since Marshall's return, Garrett has seen only sporadic minutes and has failed to put his stamp on the game the way he did in the first game. Still, his quickness and length, along with his ability to drive the lane and attack the basket, are impressive attributes that could warrant the Suns giving him another look.
David Lighty, SG - Overall, I've been generally disappointed in Lighty's offensive performance in the summer league. Lighty has averaged only 4 pts in his 17 min per game, which is low for him--even though he is considered much better defensively than offensively. But he hasn't really shot the ball poorly; averaging 40% from the field and 50% from three. Lighty has always been an efficient spot-up 3pt shooter dating back to his career at Ohio St., and this has continued at summer league even though he hasn't taken many shots. Of course, the most notable aspect of Lighty's game remains his defense. He is easily the best perimeter defender on the team, and this one skill-set the real Phoenix Suns will sorely miss after the loss of Grant Hill. With his ability to knock down three's and shut down perimeter scoring and penetration, the Suns may be interested in keeping him around.
Matt Gatens, SG - Gatens may not be well known on the roster, but his stats speak for themselves. Although he's only averaged 10 min per game, he has made the most of his opportunity averaging 6 pts by doing what he does best, knocking down threes. Gatens is the best three point shooter on the team, averaging an impressive 56% from downtown. This is no abberation either. Gatens was the leading scorer on his Iowa Hawkeye's team averaging 15 points per game last season while shooting 41% from three and 47% from the field overall. Gatens could earn a training camp invite based on his shooting alone to be a specialty player in the same vein as Steve Novak. Let's see if he can continue his hot streak and finish the summer league strong.
Other than these three players, I would be very surprised if anyone else on the roster made enough of an impression to be considered. Let's hope we see a little more of these three tonight to see how they do.
Like last night, this game will not be televised live on NBA TV, so if you want to see the game live you will have to purchase the NBA broadband package which has now been reduced to only $4.99. You can sign up here. If not, you can also see the game when it is televised later tonight on NBA TV at 10p.m. P.S.T./1a.m. E.S.T.