NBA Trade Speculation: Under the Radar Moves the Phoenix Suns Should Make
With the NBA trade deadline just a few weeks away, the Phoenix Suns may find some new midseason acquisitions on their hands, especially since the team is currently last in the Western Conference and could probably benefit from a couple of trades.
A major roster overhaul may not be necessary, but as the Suns shift their focus toward player development and look at the future, veteran players on the roster become more expendable. The Suns have already been linked to Josh Smith trade rumors, but they will also likely pursue prospects and draft picks in return for their veteran players.
So, who exactly is available? Most likely, everyone except Goran Dragic, who is the team's MVP and Luis Scola, who cannot be traded until the end of the season due to amnesty restrictions. Marcin Gortat, Jared Dudley, Sebastian Telfair and Jermaine O'Neal are all veteran players who might generate some interest in the trade market and therefore are the most likely players to be gone in a few weeks.
What do the Suns want in return? Well, unless Phoenix nets a bargain deal for Josh Smith, they will be going after prospects on rookie contracts and draft picks. If they need salaries to balance out, expiring contracts are preferred as well. But youth is definitely going to be the priority for Phoenix going forward.
Now, here are some realistic trade scenarios that the Suns should be considering.
Note: All trades were verified using ESPN's NBA Trade Machine feature.
Marcin Gortat to the Oklahoma City Thunder
Phoenix Suns Receive: Kendrick Perkins, Jeremy Lamb, 2013 First-Round Pick (DAL), 2014 Second-Round Pick (OKC)
Oklahoma City Thunder Receive: Marcin Gortat, Wesley Johnson
In this first trade, Marcin Gortat is shipped to the Thunder so the Suns can get younger while OKC gets an upgrade at center in an attempt to make another deep playoff push and give them a better chance at a championship run this season.
The Suns should really try to go after Oklahoma City's 2013 first-round pick from Toronto, which will likely be somewhere around that 8-12 range, but Gortat's trade value is really not that high.
Instead, the Suns get a first-round pick from the Dallas Mavericks, which is top-20 protected this year but will eventually come to Phoenix sometime before the 2018 draft. So, no matter what, the Suns do eventually get that pick, but it could take a couple of years before they can actually use it.
Also, it's important not to underestimate the acquisition of Jeremy Lamb in this deal. The 12th pick of the 2012 NBA draft has not been given much playing time this season because of Kevin Martin, but he has the potential to be a solid rotation player at least. Lamb has played just 64 minutes all season, but like Kendall Marshall could see a boost in playing time under head coach Lindsey Hunter.
Now, there is a catch to this deal, as there almost always is. By getting two picks and a rookie, the Suns are forced to take on the contract of Kendrick Perkins, who is making $7.8 million this season and still has two more years of his contract remaining. The Suns would have to eat that salary, and all for a player who averages 4.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game.
But the Suns do get the opportunity to dump Wesley Johnson in this deal, which is a positive. It might be better to trade Channing Frye, who is not on an expiring deal, but the Thunder are usually hesitant to take on bad contracts since they need all cap space available to re-sign their young players after their rookie contracts.
Marcin Gortat to the Boston Celtics
Phoenix Suns Receive: Brandon Bass, Avery Bradley, Fab Melo, 2014 Second-Round Pick (BRK)
Boston Celtics Receive: Marcin Gortat, Sebastian Telfair
As the Boston Celtics are now without Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger, perhaps now is the best time to contact them about a trade for Marcin Gortat. When the Celtics are so desperate for a center that they are contacting Greg Oden, you know that you can probably get some great trade value for Gortat. Plus, the Suns ditch Telfair for good, thus giving more playing time to Kendall Marshall.
So the Suns would ship Sebastian Telfair and Marcin Gortat to help the Celtics recover from recent injuries to key rotation players. They would finally get a true center in Gortat as well, and Kevin Garnett could go back to playing power forward.
In the meantime, the Suns would continue their youth movement. Avery Bradley is the real centerpiece of this deal. The 22-year-old guard is averaging just 7.9 points and shooting 39 percent from the field in 16 games this season, but he is already one of the best perimeter defenders in the game.
He may not ever be a player who can score more than 15 points a game, but he could drastically improve the Suns defense and be their key to locking down opposing guards during games.
Brandon Bass is thrown in to make the salaries balance out, but he isn't a bad player either. Bass had a reduced role before with Sullinger playing so well, but last season he averaged 12.5 points and 6.2 rebounds in about 32 minutes of play per game, so he certainly isn't useless.
Then, there's Fab Melo. I'm not sure I can tell you that much about Melo, since he has logged just three minutes of play this season, but surely there was a reason he was the 22nd pick of the 2012 NBA draft. He may not be considered the future starting center for Phoenix, but surely Hunter could try to squeeze some potential out of him.
Jared Dudley to the Minnesota Timberwolves
Phoenix Suns Receive: Derrick Williams, 2015 First-Round Pick (MIN)
Minnesota Timberwolves Receive: Jared Dudley
At first glance, this trade might seem awful for Minnesota. But, considering they are last in the league in three-point field goal percentage and could desperately use a deadeye shooter, they might pull the trigger on this deal.
Truthfully, Jared Dudley doesn't have the talent that Derrick Williams has. By that, I mean he doesn't have any athleticism at all and has already hit his ceiling. But Dudley is still the better player.
Dudley is a smart team defender, a great presence in the locker room and a career 41 percent three-point shooter.
In the meantime, Derrick Williams is receiving fewer minutes this season than last, and as a tweener who might just be better-suited at power forward, Minnesota doesn't seem like a great fit as long as Kevin Love is around.
But for Phoenix, any young talent they can get is appreciated. Williams is shooting 42 percent from the field and 35 percent from three-point range this season, and he also averages 16.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per 36 minutes, so he clearly has the potential to eventually be a full-time starter in the NBA.
However, Williams' role in Phoenix is a little more unknown. The Suns already have Beasley playing that SF/PF tweener role off the bench, so Williams would be forced to fight with Beasley for playing time (again).
I would prefer the Suns do not give up Dudley since he is a great team player and the longest-tenured Sun. However, if they can get a great promising talent and a future first-round pick, they should consider making the deal happen.
Jermaine O'Neal and Sebastian Telfair to the Houston Rockets
Phoenix Suns Receive: Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, 2015 Second-Round Pick (HOU)
Houston Rockets Receive: Jermaine O'Neal, Sebastian Telfair
This is a much smaller move, but if the Suns can exchange a couple of expiring contracts and veterans for prospects, they should pull the trigger on a deal.
Right now, the Rockets have six big men who were taken in one of the last three drafts. They have Patrick Patterson, Marcus Morris, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Royce White and Greg Smith. With that being said, they have more prospects there than they really need, so moving a couple shouldn't be a problem.
For the Suns, it might be nice to see the Morris twins paired together, but O'Neal and Telfair probably aren't that valuable. Instead, the Suns get Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas, the 18th and 20th picks of the 2012 NBA draft. They have played a combined 142 minutes this season, but that shouldn't stop them from having a bright future in Phoenix.
Realistically, these two prospects are probably not going to become starters. But Motiejunas can play power forward or center and Jones can play either forward position, so depth and versatility always helps. Hopefully, both of these guys can develop into solid role players at the very least.
What does Houston get? Well, they are currently 26-20 and are trying to secure a playoff spot in the West, so a couple veterans could help. Sebastian Telfair and Jermaine O'Neal are both solid backups when healthy, and both provide experience for one of the NBA's youngest clubs. Sure, this isn't a deal for Josh Smith, but small trades can help with a playoff push as well.
The worst-case scenario for both teams? O'Neal and Telfair are both awful and are dumped at the end of the season by Houston, and Jones and Motiejunas don't develop into useful players and are dumped at the end of next season by Phoenix. This trade comes with very little risk.
Marcin Gortat to the Milwaukee Bucks
Phoenix Suns Receive: Samuel Dalembert, John Henson, 2014 First-Round Pick (MIL)
Milwaukee Bucks: Marcin Gortat, Sebastian Telfair
This trade is a lot like the previous trade with the Thunder, but with a few different names. Instead of receiving Kendrick Perkins, the Suns get Samuel Dalembert, the 31-year-old veteran center who has lost his starting spot to Larry Sanders in Milwaukee.
Dalembert still has some value, averaging 13.3 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per 36 minutes while shooting 56 percent from the field. He is making $6.7 million this season, but he is also an expiring contract and it would probably be beneficial to Phoenix to re-sign him to a cheaper deal once his contract is up.
Of course, John Henson is of even more importance to the Suns. The 22-year-old rookie forward was taken just after Kendall Marshall with the 14th pick of the draft, but he has the potential to be a future starting power forward.
With so many forwards currently on the Bucks, Henson is averaging just 13 minutes of play per game, but he averages 6.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 0.6 blocks in that limited playing time, an indicator that he could produce with more minutes.
The only problem with this trade is figuring out just how Marcin Gortat would fit with the Bucks. Milwaukee is still very weak at power forward and center, but they may have just found their future center in Larry Sanders, who is averaging a ridiculous 4.4 blocks per 36 minutes this season. For this trade to happen, either Gortat or Sanders might need to switch over to power forward, which makes this deal a little more unrealistic.
But a package like this that includes an expiring contract, a prospect and a pick is exactly the type of deal the Suns want for Gortat. It may be a little bit unrealistic, but centers are in high demand and these trades are the only type of scenario in which the Suns should trade Gortat. Otherwise, they can just as easily keep him past the trade deadline.