Welcome to ‘Inside the Suns’, your weekly deep down analysis of the current Phoenix Suns team.
There are just 13 days left before the NBA Draft and 20 before free agency begins so it won’t be long before we start getting some answers to what James Jones’ plans are for this summer. The Suns have no draft picks but they could acquire one and get back in that game. I wouldn’t put it past them to at least buy a 2nd round pick from another team as their salary cap situation makes it imperative that they acquire some relatively cheap labor for the far end of the Suns’ bench… and 2nd round draftees (and undrafted rookies) generally start out at a little less than $1 mil per year on the NBA pay scale if not signed to an even cheaper two-way deal. Whether or not the Suns get back in the draft, Jones and his staff will surely be scouring the bargain bin of undrafted players to at least bring a few in for the Suns’ Summer League team between then and July 7.
It’s the big money players that fans mostly wonder about though – especially DA – but in just under 3 weeks we’ll finally begin to get an inkling of what’s going to happen. If Ayton is going to test the RFA waters and take a look at other teams’ offer sheets, that should become obvious even before teams can begin negotiating with free agents on June 30. Only a few teams will have the cap space available to give DA a max level offer sheet and it’s likely that not all of those will be willing to tie up so much cap space in the RFA waiting game.
Once an RFA signs an offer sheet, that money cannot be used to pursue anyone else in free agency until the Suns decide whether or not to match the offer and they don’t have to make that decision until 48 hours after the free agency moratorium period ends on July 6. And just a quick reminder here, if DA decides to go ahead and sign an offer sheet from another team, the sign and trade option is immediately off the table. All the Suns can do at that point is match the offer or let him go for nothing.
If he gets an offer he likes but doesn’t want to take the chance that the Suns will match it, then he, his agent and the other team can discuss a S&T with Jones before he signs the offer sheet but expect that to happen quickly if it goes down that way. Other teams aren’t going to be too patent if setting up a possible S&T deal is going to tie up their cap space for very long during the free agency period and I’m sure Jones will have other fish to fry as well.
In other news, this week I’m happy to welcome another new member to our little Fantable family, former BSotS staffer and long time Suns fan Jim Coughenour. Welcome aboard, Jim!
And now, on to the Fantable — a round table of Bright Siders who give their takes on the Suns latest issues and news.
Fantable Questions of the Week
Q1 – For Deandre Ayton and the Suns there is one option that no one really discusses, a maximum qualifying offer. Plainly put, a max QO is a contract for five seasons at the maximum salary with 8% annual raises. It can contain no options, ETOs or bonuses of any kind and must be fully guaranteed. This is a good deal more than DA could get signing an offer sheet or in a sign and trade deal. Even if the Suns are intent on later trading DA, do you think this option is worth considering?
GuarGuar: It’s certainly an option we could do as he’s a player who is deserving of a max contract. The front office seems pretty intent on not giving him a 5 year max though. At the end of the day it seems as if DA is gone and a normal sign and trade will be the avenue we take this offseason.
Alex S: As you mentioned I haven’t really put much thought into the idea of DA on a max QO. If you isolate the 8% raise portion- I have no issue there. He won’t be beyond 30 for this deal so it’s safe to say his game should be his prime throughout. I’m going to play it safe with this one and say I don’t feel strongly either way.
At the end of the day, negotiations from both parties are only known by each other. Ayton either has no issue being a Sun long term or he does and that’s what ultimately makes the deal worth it or not in my opinion. The other factor being whether you believe a max C can win a championship, which I am somewhere in the middle on as well.
OldAz: The easy answer here is to sign him for the least amount of money possible by matching any offer he can get on the open market. The realities of the luxury tax increase the cost of every extra dollar DA signs for exponentially. However, this logic is short sighted and if applied to DA should be applied to every player (see question #2).
In reality, offering DA the 5 year deal as described above is an excellent idea even if the Suns intend to later trade him. The Salary cap is only going to go up so locking in long term salary for young, talented players ends up becoming a bargain later. Many teams would line up to trade for a player of DAs talent at a fixed cost, especially as the salary cap increases. (Hopefully by then the Suns realize that trading away young talent is idiotic). Also, the player you can get in return now has to have a similar contract, opening the door to trades for superstars that are forcing their way out of another situation.
Finally, waiting and matching the lowest possible offer has a lot of risk. If DA is unhappy and it becomes a locker room issue, this not only hurts the teams success in season but could drastically reduce the DAs value in the trade market and limit what the Suns could get in return. A happy, engaged and motivated DA gives the opportunity improve his play, increase his usage, and ultimately increase this trade value (again assuming the Suns don’t recognize the pure lunacy of trading away good young players first).
Cliff30: It’s worth considering because we should want to keep Ayton. And giving him the max would be a big step in smoothing over all the animosity. Even if privately the intent of the team is to trade him, giving him this contract would ensure that he feels respected, stays engaged next season, and retains his value. Then he would be tradeable for another max type player down the line.
Jim C: That depends on some questions I don’t know the answers to… What might be available in a sign and trade? If they can get a package that could make the team better that might be appealing, but I don’t want to intentionally go backwards. Is the relationship repairable? If the parties think there is at least a chance that they can mend fences then that could make this more attractive.
Based on the information most of us are getting I think DA is gone, but I also understand people who argue that Ayton’s impact is underappreciated and he isn’t being allowed to maximize his contribution due to coaching and system. DA is just entering the prime of his career and it is likely he will improve to at least some extent. Will the Suns adjust to give more usage to Ayton if he stays? Lots of questions… but ultimately if the team signs Ayton to this type of deal I will be fine with it because most of the problems that are influencing his potential departure are off the court issues that I don’t know exact details on. They do. That being said, I was never in favor of giving him the max earlier.
Q2 – Devin Booker is eligible for a Designated Veteran Player max contract extension this summer which could be worth 35% of the Suns’ cap space. Should the Suns make him this offer this summer or wait?
GuarGuar: They definitely should make him the offer this offseason. He’s a top 10 player in the league and we already disrespected and upset Ayton. No need to risk that with Book, and he’s certainly worth it. Also there should be a cap spike in the coming years so doing this now could be beneficial down the road.
Alex S: You make that offer and you don’t think twice. He’s done quite literally anything you could’ve asked of him heading into his rookie season and has avoided any true controversy alongside his stellar performance. His game should age really well until his mid 30s in my opinion.
Furthermore, he’s already been shown enough respect throughout the league for the idea of attracting other stars to Phoenix to be a realistic opportunity. Keep the talent in house and figure out the details later.
OldAz: Yes, I think the Suns should make him this offer this summer but wait as long as possible to announce it to distance themselves from the stench of the way the season ended. Waiting till next season could be problematic as I believe in order to be eligible for this deal next year, Book would have to make an all-NBA team again (which is not guaranteed). Admittedly, I could be wrong on this point. Once signed there are already 7 or so players under contract for the 25-26 season for more money, and most of this contract would be played after the new broadcast deal is signed, meaning this crazy amount of money may actually prove to be a bargain. I actually think the bigger question is if Booker would sign this deal or if he would want a shorter 1 to 2 year deal to make him a free agent again right after the new broadcast deal and salary cap bump takes effect.
Cliff30: I’m a huge Booker fan and want him to be a career Sun. But honestly this is the contract that could tank a team, not Ayton’s max. He has two years remaining on his current deal. There is always a risk of career threatening/ending injury. Locking him in for six years at that level two years early is a significant risk. It’s an extension past age 30. I expect Booker’s game to age well. I want him here. But there’s a pretty substantial chance that things don’t break the way we hope and we’re paying 50+ million per to a guy that’s not a positive contributor at that point. It’s up to James Jones to judge the relationship. If we can put off inking that deal for two years, that mitigates the risk. If that’s going to damage the team’s relationship with Booker to the point that he’d leave, then we just need to hope for the best and dive into the deep end of the risk pool.
Jim C: I think Booker will get his super max. I would give him his super max. He is one of the best players in the league and even though I was disappointed in his individual performance against the Mavericks… that doesn’t undo his overall body of work. I feel like players just want their money asap in these situations and are usually less concerned with keeping some extra cap space open to help the team’s flexibility. He might agree to certain timing if it helps, but I’m guessing he wants his money this summer and I would be fine giving it to him. When players are obviously worth it they usually don’t have to wait. Booker could end up dominating the franchise leaderboards in a bevy of categories. He wants to be a Sun. He persevered through the team’s disaster years. He managed to develop while so many others didn’t (Bender, Jackson, etc.). Booker has earned it through character and play
Q3 – There is a rumor that at least one team (Denver) would like to acquire Jae Crowder. What would you say would be a fair trade between Denver and Phoenix in which they obtain Crowder?
GuarGuar: Denver doesn’t have a ton of pieces I’m interested in…to say the least. Maybe I’d consider a Crowder for Will Barton swap. Barton is a worse defender but a much better offensive player. We need other guys who can score on their own. I have no interest in Aaron Gordon whatsoever.
Alex S: Jae Crowder for Niko… just kidding.
What would the Suns even want from Denver? Only chance I see of that working would be related to draft capital but is that something Phoenix is even interested in? That feels like a three team trade where Phoenix would be looking to upgrade their size at the 4.
OldAz: Looking at the Trade Machine on fanspo.com the Nuggets have a lot of “contract hold” players that I don’t believe can be included in a deal unless it is a S&T, which would make no sense and hard caps the Suns. That being said, I can see 2 trades I would consider:
- Crowder straight up for Monte Morris addresses the need for a point guard and could focus all the Suns off season efforts into Power Forward. I could see this trade working for both.
- Package Crowder, Payne and Craig for Aaron Gordon and Bones Hyland. If the Nuggets covet Crowder, then I have to believe they also want out of Gordon’s 4 year deal at almost $20M next season. This deal gives the Nuggets shorter contracts along with Crowder and gives the Suns a very young PG who they have seen be able to get scorching hot at times.
Many fans have wanted Gordon as a PF for the Suns for a while (I am not sure on this one based on his defense and usage) and both these deals give up a little bit of defense for a slight increase in offense. Both seem like reasonable deals if the premise assumes that the Suns are trading Crowder to Denver.
Cliff30: I don’t think that kind of trade makes sense for Crowder. A competitive team like the Nuggets aren’t going to give us anything more useful than Jae. I’m not interested in moving him for draft picks. I think the more likely scenario is that we are packaging Jae with other contracts to a non-contending, or at least not a team that’s all in next year, for a larger contract. Then that team can recoup even more value by moving him to a team like the Nuggets for draft picks.
Jim C: The areas I feel the Suns should focus on are rim protection, three point shooting, a new backup point guard and players who can create their own offense and get to the free throw line. The Nuggets don’t have a rim protector (at all) or anyone that gets to the free throw line besides Jokic. Jamal Murray would check some boxes, but not sure about fit… playing next to Booker and with Chris Paul still in tow… plus I don’t think Denver moves him.
To me Monte Morris might make sense. Salaries match for a one on one trade. With Murray returning, I’ve seen some rumors he could be available. In his first year as a starter last season he averaged 12.6 points and 4.4 assists while shooting 39.5% from three and 86.9% from the line. Morris would be backing up Paul as the team is currently constructed, but would be capable of starting if Paul needs rest days or has any kinds of injuries. He adds three point shooting. I’m not in love with his defense, but since I’ve essentially lost confidence in Cameron Payne and I’m fine with moving on to a non-perfect backup.
As always, many thanks to our Fantable members for all their extra effort this week!
Interesting Suns Stuff
Can The Phoenix Suns Bring Back BOTH JaVale McGee & Bismack Biyombo?
Deandre Ayton’s COMPLICATED Future Set To Give Suns Major Headaches.
Last Week’s Poll Results
Last week’s poll was “Overall, how do you rate James Jones’ performance as the Suns’ GM?”
33% – Great.
52% – Good.
12.8% – So-so.
02% – Bad.
00.2% – Horrible. (1 vote)
A total of 454 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is…