The Suns’ stockpiling of talented point guards continued Friday with a sign-and-trade agreement that will deliver restricted free agent Isaiah Thomas from the Sacramento Kings.
The 5-foot-9 Thomas, who averaged 20.3 points per game in his third season with the Kings, agreed to a four-year contract worth a reported $27 million.
According to a report from CBSSports.com, Thomas will receive $7.2 million during his first year in Phoenix, with the yearly sum decreasing from there.
In exchange for Thomas, the last player selected in the 2011 NBA Draft, Phoenix will surrender a trade exception and the rights to Alex Oriakhi, its second-round selection in the 2013 draft.
Thomas will join a loaded Suns backcourt that, for now, includes point guards Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe (a restricted free agent who has yet to be contractually retained) and first-round pick Tyler Ennis.
Despite rising from 30th during his second season to 10th in efficiency rankings among NBA point guards (per hoopsstats.com), Thomas was made available for a scenery change when the Kings agreed to terms with free-agent Darren Collison.
Although the addition of Thomas might seem like a pricey method of hiring a top-tier backup, the Suns’ frequent use of a two-point-guard lineup suggests an opportunity for reasonable playing time.
With coach Jeff Hornacek making good use of having two players capable of breaking down opposing defenses on the floor at the same time, the Suns thrived (23-11) with Dragic and Bledsoe working together. Phoenix was a pedestrian 25-23 with one of those two out due to injury.
The left-handed Thomas, who starred at the University of Washington, would enable the Suns (barring multiple injuries) to have an elite-level, attacking PG on the floor at all times.
His presence also provides local and national NBA watchdogs with trade-rumor ammunition.
Bledsoe, it should be noted yet again, hasn’t been publicly associated with rumors of offer sheets from another team. The Los Angeles Lakers reportedly had interest — especially after whiffing in their pursuit of Carmelo Anthony — but they reached an agreement with the Houston Rockets to bring in Jeremy Lin.
National sign-and-trade rumors typically ignore restricted free-agency rules that would require Bledsoe to approve of his destination.
But with news that pal LeBron James will return to Cleveland, gossip regarding a possible sign-and-trade scenario with the Cavaliers already has erupted.
And Dragic, who has a player option next summer, is — for that reason — less likely to be viewed by other teams as a stellar trade option.
If the Suns trot out their entire roll call of playmakers when the season begins, Ennis and second-year shooting guard Archie Goodwin may be required to learn more by watching in Phoenix or taking a tour or two with the Bakersfield Jam.
The Suns, who retained restricted free agent P.J. Tucker and lost unrestricted free agent Channing Frye this week, still look a bit light at power forward. They still have plenty of cap flexibility — roughly $15 million — to bring in another player, but most of that flexibility would go away once Bledsoe is locked up.
Based on their current roster, second-unit star Markieff Morris looks like the best candidate to move into the starter’s role. Unless second-round pick Alec Brown demonstrates NBA chops earlier than expected during the Las Vegas Summer League, the best back-up candidate at power forward is Marcus Morris, last seasons’ second-line three man.
Rookie T.J. Warren could fill the Marcus Morris role this season, as could Gerald Green, whose breakout season mostly occurred while working at shooting guard.
Until further free-agent notice, the Suns certainly have speed and versatility.