When an amnesty provision allowing teams to eliminate one salary from their cap emerged from the muck of the 2011 lockout, we knew it would provide teams under the cap with a means to add veteran...

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Pop Quiz: In the world of the NBA what are Robin Lopez and Luis Scola worth?

If that question was posed to Phoenix Suns fans a day before each of the players were traded the answer would in no way be a "first round pick in the incredibly talented 2014 NBA Draft," but that, believe it or not is the answer. The two former Suns big men netted the team a second and a third pick in the first round of the draft this year.

Last year in a three team trade that sent Robin Lopez and Hakim Warrick to the New Orleans Pelicans for a lottery protected first round pick from the Minnesota Timberwolves that is only Top 13 protected for a team on the verge of the playoffs. In a top heavy Western Conference the Wolves have as good a chance as their middling peers of making the playoffs as a seven or eight seed.

Fast-forward a year and the team was able to ship away a Larry Bird favorite in Scola to the Indiana Pacers for a lottery protected first round pick, Gerald Green, and Miles Plumlee.

Couple that with the Suns own first round pick, likely in the Top 5, and the team has positioned themselves well for the upcoming draft. They have three tickets to the party that every team wants to get into.

What does this mean though?

No games have been played in college just yet, but the talent has been making waves over the years in high school, recently in tournaments, and creating an overall impression on the NBA decision-makers. One thing is fairly clear at this point. Andrew Wiggins (Kansas, Fr.) will be the first player off the board if (when) he declares for the 2014 NBA Draft.

Another thing is very clear. No matter the combination of picks, packages, money, and thorough begging no team is trading the top pick after they get it.

If the Suns win the lottery they win both Wiggins and two more talents with their picks, but if they do not there are plenty of potential franchise changing players coming from college and overseas. After Wiggins the Top 5 will feature in no order Jabari Parker (Duke, Fr.), Julius Randle (Kentucky, Fr.), Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State, So.), and Dante Exum (Australia, Undecided).

Any of those three could be building blocks for years to come.

Parker has been referenced to a Paul Pierce type with his methodical offensive skill-set, but he is built like Shawn Marion. A unique offensive combination at the four in a league that is becoming smaller and smaller. A more traditional four man, Randle, has drawn direct comparisons to Zach Randolph and Al Jefferson. At the 2013 Nike Hoops Summit several NBA decision-makers told me and other scouts just that.

The next tier features both Smart and Exum, combo guards that can be every bit as effective as a floor leader or off the ball scorer. Smart made the decision to return to school despite being in the running for the Top Overall Pick. Then there is Exum who has burst onto the scene with recent performances in tournaments showing he can compete and even out perform his peers.

Those are options in the Top 5, but as we see every year a Victor Oladipo or Damian Lillard can come from seemingly out of nowhere to go in the Top 5 of any draft. Time will tell who the 2014 version of that is.

If the Wolves sneak in the Playoffs or at the very least finish at No. 14 in the standings after the lottery then the team gets the opportunity at another lottery talent. In that range there are very talented prospects including Glenn Robinson III (Michigan, So.), Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (Arizona, Fr.), Adreian Payne (Michigan State, Sr.), Dario Saric (Croatia, 1994), and Mitch McGary (Michigan, So.). All of these prospects have Top 10 potential, but could be available between 14-17 with the Wolves pick.

The Pacers are another story. They will compete for an NBA Championship which starts in the regular season where they will be one of the better teams no matter conference. That pick is likely going to be in the 25-30 range.

At that point there could be another Archie Goodwin in the mix for the Suns. Looking at prospects like Mario Hezonja (Croatia, 1995), Montrezl Harrell (Louisville, So.), Noah Vonleh (Indiana, Fr.), and Spencer DinWiddie (Colorado, Jr.) as options there. The draft process just started so there are other names that will be at each position of the draft, but just like this year it gives Ryan McDonough an excuse to see anyone and everyone in private workouts.

For more draft coverage checkout NBA Draft Insider.


When the Phoenix Suns put their mind to something, they get it done and then some.

Beginning in 2011, President Lon Babby's first draft since joining the front office a year earlier, the Phoenix Suns have acquired and/or kept no less than TWELVE first round draft picks from the 2010 to 2015 drafts. This is quite a change from the Suns' previous method of trading picks for cap space to sign veterans.

To wit:

That's 10 young players/picks acquired in the last two years, capped off by the acquisition today of Plumlee and Indiana's lottery-protected 2014 pick in exchange for Luis Scola. Add in the Suns' own first round picks in 2014 and 2015 and you've got a full dozen first rounders from just six drafts.

How have the Suns done so much, so fast? By taking the opportunities when they arise, and getting the most out of them.

"We have known that Indiana has long had interest in Scola," Lon Babby told me today of the trade process. "And worked it until both sides were satisfied."

In other words, the Pacers started with Gerald Green to match salaries, and the Suns worked it until a 2012 pick (Plumlee) and 2014 pick were added.

Last month, Babby touted Ryan McDonough and Asst. GM Trevor Buckstein for spearheading the acquisition of the coveted Eric Bledsoe, who the rest of the league wanted and no one thought would require just the services of a supporting player like Jared Dudley.

The Phoenix Suns now have 16 players under guaranteed contracts for the 2013-14 season, not including second round pick Alex Oriakhi or any camp invites who impressed in summer league.

Of those 16 players, EIGHT of them are on rookie-scale contracts.

The roster is disjointed and needs some reconfiguring. That may not happen immediately, or even by the beginning of next season (except for a small deal or two at least, to shorten the roster). And that's okay.

Next year isn't about fielding a competitive team. It's about amassing so many assets that acquiring a coveted player doesn't empty all the coffers.

The Suns’ return in dealing Luis Scola to the Indiana Pacers will be better than anyone expected. As reported late Friday night, Phoenix will receive swingman Gerald Green from the Pacers but...

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Reports of the Phoenix Suns' Luis Scola trade began out of Argentina through Scola's PR representative, sending American NBA media into a scramble to identify the other pieces involved in the deal.

I turned directly to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, figuring he would have the best scoop, but even Woj was unclear of the pieces involved. Twitter world exploded both in Argentina and the US with speculation that the Suns would acquire Danny Granger in a larger deal. That was partially based on the assumption the Pacers were getting a quality player, and the only available quality player they wanted to trade was Granger. But Granger is 30 years old, coming off a missed season due to bad knees and is an inefficient mid range shooter.

On a side note, I am thrilled for Luis Scola. That man is built for playoff basketball, not rebuilding teams. He's a complimentary piece who can be a glue guy willing to throw his body around and get under the skin of the opponent. He's not okay with losing, not okay with being surrounded by kids still learning their way around a basketball court, and not okay with teaching them how to play. Also, he's not a building block.

Scola is not going to win you any basketball games by himself. He's a terrible defender and inconsistent offensive player who is best as a compliment to better players around him. He is a great guy who just wants be a part of winning, and with Indiana he can do that.

After a while when Granger talk didn't take hold, folks settled for the idea that it must be a smaller deal for a salary that matched (for CBA purposes) Scola's: $4.5 million per year for 2 years. Only Gerald Green (2 yrs left, $3.5 million per year) and Ian Mahinmi (3 yrs left, $4 million per year) fit that bill on Indiana's roster.

Quickly, the chatter on the Suns side went sour. While all were excited for Scola to move on to brighter pastures, no one wanted to take more money and a lesser player back.

But it looks like the Suns front office knows what it's doing these days.

According to a late edit on Woj's article, the Suns are getting AT LEAST a future first round pick and draft or cash considerations to take on Green's more expensive contract and lesser value.

While the deal was still being finalized overnight, the Pacers will minimally send the Suns a future first-round draft pick, as well as possible additional draft and cash considerations to go along with guard Gerald Green, sources told Yahoo! Sports.

In this light, the Scola/Green trade takes on a familiar hue: asset grabbing.

The asset grabbing began in earnest last summer in the first true rebuilding year, led by President Lon Babby. They acquired two first rounders and two second rounders from the Los Angeles Lakers (2013-2015) for Steve Nash. Then it was a protected first rounder (sometime between 2013-2016) and Wesley Johnson for Robin Lopez. At the trade deadline, it was a high second round pick and Hamed Haddadi for Sebastian Telfair. And in the draft, it was the #29 pick and Malcolm Lee for #30. The trades were always about the draft picks, while any player coming back was just the filler.

Keeping track, that was a net gain of four picks (the Suns sent out two late seconds in the trades) for the cost of otherwise outgoing Nash, Telfair and Lopez.

Credit must be given where credit is due:

  • President Lon Babby acquired all those extra picks before the end of last season
  • Managing Partner Robert Sarver paid a lot of "dead" salary in players to acquire those picks. In 2012-13 he paid $17 million to Smilin' Wes, Haddadi, Scola and the amnestied Josh Childress to make cap room to absorb more contracts. In 2013-14, he's already committed to paying $20 million to Butler, Green, Lee and the amnestied Childress. None of those guys is part of the Suns future, but Sarver paid those salaries to make the picks happen.
  • New GM Ryan McDonough, of course, and his team of scouts

The Suns have already started cashing in those picks for a larger net gain. Last month, they took Archie Goodwin with one of the Lakers picks and used the Telfair pick along with Jared Dudley to deal for Eric Bledsoe three weeks ago. In addition, the extra picks allowed the Suns to spend their own second-rounder this year to take a flyer on second-year lotto pick Marcus Morris.

Now the Suns are restocking those coffers as soon as they're spending. Trading Scola to Indiana will net them at least another first round pick in the coming years.

That's now SIX first round picks in the next three seasons (assuming the Pacer pick is 2016 or earlier), nearly $20 million in expiring contracts coming off the books next summer, SIX players 23 or younger on the roster and two players (Dragic and Gortat) who can start on a playoff team.

The Suns quickly have a lot of enticing assets to package together in some larger trade when the time is right.

At the least, the Suns still have to address Marcin Gortat's situation, and they have to trim some NBA caliber players off their roster before the season starts. This would have to be a many-to-one trade at some point, unless McDonough sends 3-4 of them out in player-for-pick trades one at a time, netting more assets.

This could be a quick rebuild after all.

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