Diante Garrett was on this team a year ago and used that opportunity to earn a contract with the Suns. He managed to keep his roster spot all season and is back again to convince the Suns to guarantee his salary for another year.
Garrett is a 6-foot-5 do-it-all style point guard. He has good size and court vision, can get in the lane on offense and rebound the ball, has potential defensively but still needs to work on his jump shot.
Although Garrett was on the roster last year, he was stuck behind a bunch of other point guards and never really got the chance to play or prove himself. Unfortunately, that will likely be the case again this season and I'd be surprised if the Suns didn't cut him before the season starts.
The 29th overall pick in this year's draft is probably the main attraction on this year's team for most Suns fans with Alex Len still recovering from ankle surgery. This will be the first time Goodwin steps on the court in a Suns jersey and the first time for him to show Planet Orange what he can do.
Goodwin is an athletic 6-foot-5 guard who's game is all about getting to the rim. His jumper needs a lot of work but his ability to blow by defenders and play tough defense on the other end still allows him to be effective.
Kendall Marshall missed the first couple of Summer League games last season as a rookie and struggled once he did get on the court. However, Marshall did finish strong with a double-double in his final game. I wrote during the Summer League last year that Marshall had a long way to go, and that proved to be true as he struggled throughout his rookie season. Vegas will give us, and Hornacek, an opportunity to see how much Marshall has improved from a year ago.
The thing to keep your eye out for with Marshall is his aggressiveness and comfort level when attacking off the dribble. In order to be an effective distributor, Marshall has to be a threat to get in the lane and score. This is a big summer for Kendall.
This will be Mook's first Summer League with the Suns after arriving via a midseason trade last season. Marcus was mostly a 3-point shooter for Houston and had a solid stretch once he arrived in Phoenix before getting benched by Lindsey Hunter.
Morris needs to show that reliable 3-point stroke, an ability to defend on the perimeter and improved finishing as a slasher. He'll probably play mostly on the wing, although we might see him at the four as well.
Keef was a force in Vegas last year, ending up as one of the top scorers and rebounders in the entire event. However, even as he was dominating games he struggled to finish plays and hit shots. Offensively, Markieff needs to show one thing this summer: efficiency.
Oriakhi is the third of the Suns three rookies and was taken with the 57th overall pick. He's a big body whose interior defense and rebounding helped lead the UCONN Huskies to a national championship in 2011. Oriakhi is a decent athlete with good mobility and strength who can hold his own defensively and on the glass and can finish around the rim.
As a second round pick, Oriakhi has to earn a contract. To make the team, he'll need to show a lot of the same qualities P.J. Tucker did last year. And speaking of Tucker...
P.J. Tucker is the biggest success story from last year's Summer League team (and that includes lottery picks Morris and Marshall). His hustle and defense caught the eye of the coaching staff and earned him a contract, and now he's heading into the second year of that contract. Tucker may not play a ton as he doesn't have a whole lot to prove, but he has agreed to participate.
I don't really know anything at all about Abercrombie. He's a scoring wing who has played in the Australian NBL and has represented New Zealand in international competition. He's apparently a pretty good shooter.
Rookie guard out of Iowa State
Babb is a 3-and-D type player. He's a respectable 3-point shooter that took five threes per game as a senior (the Cyclones led the NCAA in 3-pointers if I'm not mistaken) at a 38 percent clip. However, Babb's real value is as a lock-down perimeter defender.
Chrsitmas is a Summer League veteran. This will be his third year competing in the NBA Summer League, and the Suns will be the fifth team he suits up for between the Orlando and Las Vegas summer leagues since going undrafted in 2009. Last season he played for the Boston Celtics in Orlando and Las Vegas, and he made the Celtics training camp roster before being one of the team's final cuts before the season started. He also made a couple other NBA rosters but has yet to play in an NBA game.
Christmas is a scoring guard with a strong body and plenty of confidence, and it seems like GM Ryan McDonough likes the guy (based on the Boston connection).
Cohen is a decorated player from Davidson having been named Southern Conference Player of the Year the last two years and Southern Conference Freshman of the Year in his first season. He's a big guy who can knock down a jump shot and has range out to the 3-point line.
Onuaku is a big body and a rebounding specialist. He inhales rebounds on both ends of the court. He has a wide body, is very strong and just has a nose for the ball. However, he doesn't bring much more than that.
This year's roster has two point guards (Marshall, Garrett), three shooting guards (Goodwin, Christmas, Babb), three small forwards (Mook, Tucker, Abercrombie) and four big men (Keef, Oriakhi, Onuaku, Cohen). Overall, its much better than last year's roster with a ton of point guards and forwards. With the talent and veteran experience on the Summer Suns roster, Phoenix has an excellent chance to win the inaugural Ls Vegas Summer League Championship.
Bracket play begins on Wednesday, July 17.
A lot of time has passed since the Phoenix Suns last won a playoff game, and not one player remains on the active roster that has endured each of the last three years in the Suns lineup.
Goran Dragic was a Sun in 2010, but he took a detour to Houston where he developed into a full-fledged starter and returned last summer with a big contract in hand. Channing Frye was a Sun in 2010 and signed a contract to remain in Phoenix, but he missed all last season with a heart ailment that may or may not heal in time to continue his NBA career. No one else from that 2010 team remains a Phoenix Sun.
While both are likely to help the Suns rise from the ashes beginning next season, neither is guaranteed or even very likely to wear the home uniform when the Suns host another playoff game.
As the crickets chirp in the desert during this free agent period, the Phoenix Suns appear to have fully embraced the rebuilding effort.
Rebuilding efforts have some basic tenets to follow.
It's tough to sit on the sidelines while money is flying left and right, but a smart team invests cap space in acquiring young talent with upside rather than spending it on a free agent. Rarely does an NBA free agent fit the profile of "young, with major upside".
The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) allows teams to keep full control of players on cheap contracts for up to 4 years, which usually puts them at 24-26 years old by the time they can field offers from rivals. At that age, if a player is really good then they get a new contract worth a lot more than they've ever made before, sometimes putting them into the overpaid category with the stroke of a pen.
The ones available on the cheap are those that disappointed their original team on some level, or they would have been signed to a large extension before ever hitting the market.
"Rebuilding" and "long-term contracts for 25ish year old players" do not go hand in hand.
A perfect example of this is the Eric Bledsoe/Caron Butler acquisition, set to be introduced at a presser later today. The Suns used some of their $10 million in cap space to absorb a large one-year contract (Butler) in order to get a young player who might just outplay any contract the Suns give him (Bledsoe).
They used the rest of the $10 million available to guarantee the final year of Tucker and Brown's contracts.
Altogether, the Suns used the $10 million on expiring contracts. This accomplished two primary goals:
The Suns are in the trade market. Since the end of the season, the Suns have added six players (Len, Goodwin, Lee, Oriakhi, Bledsoe, Butler) while only subtracting two (Hamed Haddadi, Jared Dudley). They need to pare down the roster by training camp.
To this point, teams would rather just sign players on the open market than give up assets in trade. The only trades that have gone down so far are those involving sign-and-trades, where at least one team has cap space to absorb money.
Within a few days, all teams will be roughly capped out. At that point, the real trade market will open wider.
Who knows what the Suns will do, but it appears that dollar-for-dollar trades are up next on the agenda.
A rebuilding team does not need disgruntled veterans. While Goran Dragic is still young enough to ride out the rebuild, the same cannot be said of Marcin Gortat and Luis Scola. The Suns may hold onto them for while, but I doubt they keep these players around for an entire season.
Today, July 10th, marks the official end of the 2012-13 NBA season. This means that from this point onward, the league will operate under stipulations and guidelines enforced for the 2013-14 NBA year. The NBA released the official salary cap number for the season, as well as several other important figures to keep in mind. Let's take a look at these numbers and how they affect the Phoenix Suns (all of the figures described below are explained in detail in Larry Coon's CBA FAQ).
The salary cap for this league year has been established at $58.679 million, up from last year's figure of $58.044 million. The luxury tax threshold is $71.748 million, meaning that teams with payrolls above that level incur severe financial penalties under the new CBA (such as last year's LA Lakers and the upcoming season's Brooklyn Nets). This figure is unlikely to affect the Suns anytime in the near future.
What is more relevant to this Suns team though, is the salary floor. The 2013-14 salary floor is 90% of the cap, meaning all teams have to have a minimum payroll of $52.811M before the season begins.
As a result of the increased salary cap, the maximum player salaries have also increased. The following figures are the various max salaries a team can pay free agents:
|Years in NBA||Max Salary as % of Cap||Maximum Salary|
|0-6||25% of cap||$13,701,250|
|7-9||30% of cap||$16,441,500|
|10+||35% of cap||$19,181,750|
The average NBA salary for the 2012-13 season was $5.325 million. The estimated average salary for the upcoming season, which is also the "Early Bird" exception amount, is $5.565 million.
The Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception (for teams above the cap but below the tax threshold) for 2013-14 will be $5.150 million. The Taxpayer MLE (for teams above the tax apron) will be $3.183 million. The Room MLE (for teams below the cap) will be $2.652 million and the Bi-Annual Exception (a separate exception for teams below the tax apron). All of these exceptions are higher than they were in 2012-13.
So how do the new salary cap figures affect this Suns team? After the Eric Bledsoe trade, the team is currently looking at a 2013-14 payroll of $54,315,564 (not including Diante Garrett) BEFORE draft picks Alex Len, Archie Goodwin, and Alex Oriakhi (who may or may not make the final roster) are signed.
According to the 2013-14 NBA Rookie Salary Scale, Alex Len (#5 overall pick) will have a first year salary of $2,910,600 and Archie Goodwin (#29) will make $887,00. If Alex Oriakhi (#57) makes the team, he will likely earn a minimum salary of $490,180.
With all three rookies' projected pay scales included, the Suns will have a payroll of $58,603,344, which leaves them right at the salary cap line (with only about $75K in cap room).
Pending any trades, the Suns do not have the cap room to pursue any major free agents (nor should they). However, they can use the the Room Exception to sign an additional player. Including Len and Goodwin but not Garrett and Oriakhi, they already have 15 players on the roster so I don't expect them to go above the cap to add another player unless they make a move to send a player or two out first.
Although there is A LOT of time between now and the 2014 offseason, it is important to keep in mind that future financial flexibility (as opposed to right now) is important for the Suns going forward. With the team already at the salary cap line for this season, let's take a look at what cap situation projects to look like next year.
The Suns currently have three expiring contracts on the team: Caron Butler, Marcin Gortat, and Shannon Brown. Markieff and Marcus Morris have team options for the 2014-15 seasons that may or may not be picked up, as does Kendall Marshall. Channing Frye has a 2014-15 player option for for $6.8 million that he will most likely pick up. Michael Beasley's salary of $6.25 million will be non-guaranteed (I think only $3 million is guaranteed).
Another important aspect to consider is Eric Bledsoe's contract. He will be heading into the season on the final year of his rookie deal and will most likely receive an extension from the Suns front office this summer. If he and the Suns can't agree on a deal, he will become a Restricted Free Agent at the end of this season, given that the team extends his Qualifying Offer to him. If I had to guess, I'd say that Bledsoe will enter the season with a contract extension already in hand, one that may be somewhere in the vicinity of the deal Goran Dragic received last summer ($30 million over 4 years).
If the Suns go through the season with the current roster completely untouched, they will only have a guaranteed 2014-15 payroll of $22,168,499 - if they renounce their rights to the Morris brothers, Marshall, and Bledsoe, they will only have Dragic, Scola, and Frye (assuming he picks up his Player Option) on the books, along with the $3 million they will owe Beasley.
However, the likelier scenario involves the Suns moving any combination of Scola, Gortat, and Butler at some point this season, giving Bledsoe a new contract either this summer or next, and perhaps picking up the team options on at least one of the Morris brothers or Marshall. In this case, the Suns will most likely be looking at a 2014-15 payroll of around $30-40 million before signing any draft picks, which would leave them with enough room to be a major player in 2014 free agency (they would have about $20-30 million in cap room). Larry Coon revealed that next year's salary cap is estimated to be a good bit higher at $62.5 million.
Obviously, this is all speculative since these projections are rather premature. As mentioned, anything could happen between now and 2014 - we could shed long-term salary such as Scola or Frye, we could add long-term salary, etc. Nevertheless, the Suns will seemingly have a good deal of cap flexibility in the future, even after they extend Eric Bledsoe. The only major long-term contracts are Dragic (on a very fair contract), Scola (strong candidate to be moved), Frye (his salary may be a bit high but there is always a market for a guy like him - just look at the return Toronto got for Andrea Bargnani), and most likely Bledsoe (remains to be seen).
As it stands, I think the Suns will be well equipped heading into the 2014 offseason with a high draft pick and significant financial flexibility to make strong moves to accelerate the rebuild either next year or the following. Although immediate expectations should be tempered, it's understandably easier for Suns fans to be excited about the future now than it has been in the past couple years.
However, with great cap flexibility comes great responsibility. In the wrong hands, cap room isn't necessarily an asset - we all remember how the team's precious cap space in 2010 was squandered on the likes of Hedo Turkoglu, Josh Childress, and Hakim Warrick. Having said that, the direction of this franchise's future in now in the hands of Ryan McDonough and Lon Babby. Let us see how they handle the Suns' cap situation going forward.