5 Potential Phoenix Suns Trade Targets Entering 2014 Free Agency
Despite winning 48 games during the 2013-14 season, the Phoenix Suns missed out on postseason action for a fourth consecutive year. General manager Ryan McDonough will aim to end that playoff drought during free agency by upgrading the current roster—be it through signings or trades.
According to AZCentral Sports’ Paul Coro, the Suns have expressed a desire to retain their own free agents—Eric Bledsoe, Channing Frye and P.J. Tucker. Those guys made up three-fifths of the starting rotation and accounted for 15.5 combined win shares, per Basketball-Reference.com. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the front office wants to see them return.
Phoenix has also expressed interest in superstar free agents such as LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony—who hasn’t?
Additionally, they’ve contacted Pau Gasol, Trevor Ariza, Luol Deng, Gordon Hayward, Chandler Parsons, Isaiah Thomas, Ed Davis, Patrick Patterson, Josh McRoberts, Danny Granger and Marvin Williams, per Coro’s article.
Coro explained that the Suns’ interest in those names varies. It’s clear, however, that management is turning over every rock in search of gems that can vault the team into contention.
Signing players is an obvious priority, but what if the Suns decide to target talents via trade? Phoenix still has plenty of cap space, young assets and future draft picks to offer, so pulling off a “win now” swap equates to a viable plan B.
Assuming that the Suns intend to match any offer sheet extended to Bledsoe—and reports suggest that’s the case—the backcourt will remain the team’s biggest strength.
With Bledsoe, Goran Dragic, Gerald Green, Ish Smith and first-round pick Tyler Ennis, Phoenix has a plethora of guards capable of carrying the load. As far as the frontcourt goes, well, that’s a different story.
Tucker and Frye—two frontcourt starters—may not be back next season. Miles Plumlee played very well during his first year as a full-time NBA starter at center, but the interior is clearly an area Phoenix can stand to improve.
There aren’t any realistically available, All-Star-caliber bigs on the free-agent market—aside from an aging Gasol. As a result, the Suns' front office should consider a variety of trades that could provide upgrades and depth down low. But what big men fall into the category of potential targets?
5. Kevin Love, PF, Minnesota Timberwolves
As long as Kevin Love remains on the trade block, teams in the running for his services have little reason to give up their pursuit.
According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Sid Hartman, Minnesota Timberwolves head coach, president of basketball operations and part-owner Flip Saunders said in June, “We probably have 16 teams that have called us regarding interest in Love around the league.”
If more than half the Association has inquired about the rebounding machine, the Suns are going to have stiff competition for the All-Star’s services.
The Golden State Warriors, for instance, seemed to establish themselves as the front-runners for Love after relinquishing their stance that they wouldn’t offer sharpshooting 2-guard Klay Thompson.
By adding the Washington State product to the table, Golden State appeared to be mere steps away from acquiring a new frontcourt member. That didn’t happen.
According to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, the T-Wolves insist upon receiving a first-round draft pick in addition to Thompson, which caused talks to hit a snag.
In order to match that asking price, Phoenix would more than likely have to include either Bledsoe or Dragic in a trade package.
Whether pairing Love with one of those two point guards—or simply keeping the incumbent backcourt—would equate to more wins is up for debate. It’s also worth noting that Minny already has a pure point guard on its roster in Ricky Rubio. Would it really consider adding another through a Love deal?
The Suns’ best plan of action at this point is looking at other options until the T-Wolves start to lose leverage. The closer we get to the 2015 trade deadline, the less Minnesota will be able to demand in return. At that point, it runs the risk of losing Love for nothing in free agency.
Of course, everything depends upon whether K-Love would consider signing on to remain in the desert long term. Without the guarantee that he would stay, this trade scenario becomes moot.
BrightSideoftheSun.com, per ArthurDent26, entertained the idea of Phoenix helping to facilitate a three-team trade including Love, thus nabbing assets on the side. Perhaps the Suns could score someone like Harrison Barnes, but helping to move Love elsewhere otherwise isn't worth Phoenix's time.
4. Kenneth Faried, PF, Denver Nuggets
Despite improving his scoring output in three consecutive seasons to start his career, while also playing with unrivaled hustle and energy, Denver Nuggets power forward Kenneth Faried has had his name surface in trade rumors.
Grantland.com’s Zach Lowe wrote back in October that "multiple sources around the league have reported in the last month that Denver has put out targeted feelers on Faried, gauging his value and demanding very good return.”
Finally, the Boston Herald’s Steve Bulpett tweeted in June that the Nuggets plan on offering Faried, Wilson Chandler and Arron Afflalo in a package for Love.
At the very least, it’s fair to assume Faried is on the trade block for the right offer. If Denver is unable to convince Minnesota to pull the trigger on a trade, would the Nuggets still consider flipping the dreadlocked big man in a separate deal?
If so, Phoenix would be a solid destination. The Suns feature an up-tempo pace that suits Faried’s style of play, and his rebounding prowess would only help trigger more fast breaks in the Valley of the Sun.
Nevertheless, the Nuggets are clearly looking for established talent. Phoenix wouldn’t be able to create a mutually beneficial offer, because Denver isn’t searching for young assets and draft picks.
Still, if the Nuggets' front office doesn’t plan on locking up Faried for the long haul with a lucrative contract, moving him for new pieces makes sense.
3. Larry Sanders, C/PF, Milwaukee Bucks
Larry Sanders’ stock took a nosedive during the 2013-14 campaign. A variety of off-court issues and injuries set him back in a big way.
Compared to averaging 9.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.8 blocks and shooting 50.6 percent from the field as he did two seasons ago, the Milwaukee Bucks big man notched 7.7 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and shot 46.9 percent in just 23 games last season.
Trading for Sanders is undoubtedly a big risk, since he’s set to make $11 million per season until 2017-18. If the Suns believe he can return to form and have value as a shot-blocking specialist, they’ll have to be ready to endorse him for the long haul—and keep him out of trouble.
Bringing the 25-year-old on board for the foreseeable future is a high-risk, high-reward gamble. Still, his athletic ability and uncanny rim-protecting prowess would fit what the Suns do and upgrade the roster.
Phoenix struck out with a high-risk guy named Michael Beasley. If they roll the dice again on Sanders, it simply cannot backfire.
2. Greg Monroe, C/PF, Restricted Free Agent (Detroit Pistons)
If the 2013-14 season taught the Detroit Pistons anything, it’s that Greg Monroe will have a hard time jelling with the incumbent personnel.
As Bleacher Report’s Adam Fromal wrote:
He’s not a good fit on the current Detroit Pistons roster, as he’s forced into playing power forward so that the younger and more promising Andre Drummond can play his natural center position. And by lining up at the 4, he forces Josh Smith to the perimeter, where Smoove is wont to loft up one ill-advised three-point attempt after another.
Yet he’s a restricted free agent, so he can be brought back even if he signs what feels like an inevitable max offer sheet with another organization.
Even though the frontcourt trio of Smith, Monroe and Drummond worked out about as well as Ryan Reynolds in the film Green Lantern, new head coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy appears to want Monroe back.
Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free Press tweeted in May that SVG is a big fan of the big man and that the ownership group is “highly fond” of him as well.
Even though the mustachioed Van Gundy brother is calling the shots in Detroit, the Pistons can’t expect the same mixture to suddenly morph into a cohesive unit.
Short of trading Smith’s gargantuan contract—color me skeptical—moving forward without Monroe should be taken into consideration.
Since the Suns have plenty of available cap space, a sign-and-trade for Monroe wouldn’t need matching financial figures. Instead, Phoenix could ship draft picks and/or young assets up north to entice the Pistons.
However, adding Monroe on a (presumably) max deal could backfire. The 24-year-old hasn’t shot over 50 percent from the floor in two straight seasons, has never notched double-digit rebounds for a season and has a career average of 0.6 blocks per game, per Basketball-Reference.com.
1. Taj Gibson, PF, Chicago Bulls
Slotting the former scoring champion beside reigning Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah and former MVP Derrick Rose is sure to make Bulls fans salivate, but that outlook isn’t quite so black and white.
In order for Chicago to make a legitimate push to sign Melo, it will have to shave a modest amount of money from the cap. As Pro Basketball Talk’s Dan Feldman explains:
If they amnesty (Carlos) Boozer, waive the fully unguaranteed contracts of Ronnie Brewer, Mike James and Louis Amundson, renounce all their free agents and trade Mike Dunleavy, Anthony Randolph, Tony Snell and Greg Smith without receiving any salary in return—the Bulls could offer Melo a contract that starts at $16,284,762 and is worth $69,535,934 over four years based on the projected salary cap.
Feldman goes on to point out that that figure is well short of a max contract.
The Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson reports that the Bulls want to keep defensive-minded forward Taj Gibson during their pursuit of Anthony, but that may not be feasible.
It’s completely understandable that Chicago covets what Gibson brings to the court, but it runs the risk of whiffing on Anthony by offering less than what other teams can and will put forward.
The Suns could join the fray by offering draft picks to take Gibson clear off Chicago’s cap. Phoenix would net a tenacious power forward in the process. And, contrary to a deal with Houston, the Suns wouldn’t open the door to Anthony joining the Western Conference.
The 29-year-old out of USC still has three years and $25.45 million remaining on his contract, per ShamSports.com. That’s a bargain price for a key talent. However, it may only be possible to add Gibson if the Bulls get desperate in their pursuit of Anthony.