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.