Suns look to explore trade market for additional pick
Suns could be in market for another first-round pick, but willing partner could be hard to find.
By RANDY HILLFS Arizona
The intentionally methodical rebuilding process currently presided over by general manager Ryan McDonough does not preclude the
Phoenix Suns from gathering as many raw materials as possible right now.
If there’s a good deal available at Home Court Depot, they’ll back up the truck.
Sitting at Nos. 5, 30 and 57 in Thursday’s NBA Draft, the Suns seem on the verge -- depending on their new evaluation skills -- of acquiring a support beam or two.
The ’13 draft class supposedly is lacking in foundation players. But it is also believed to be more appealing in terms of mid-range prospects.
So, with a roster that offers less young talent than most any in the league (my opinion), McDonough has acknowledged the potential for securing another pick somewhere between 5 and 30.
To do so, however, might be considerably more difficult than just flipping center Marcin Gortat and his expiring contract for that potentially rewarding first-round pick.
According to helpful suggestions from Suns followers, McDonough could add a much-needed shooting guard at No. 5 (Victor Oladipo, Ben McLemore), nab the best big available wherever the aforementioned asset can get him in Round 1 and take a stab at the best prospect still on the board at 30.
Unfortunately, Phoenix’s modest record reminds us that its current live assets aren’t exactly plentiful.
Gortat, 29, is presumed to be the franchise’s best trade chip. His name has frequently been the subject of rumors dedicated to giving the Portland Trail Blazers a legit center while Meyers Leonard is developing, in which base Portland would send the 10th overall pick to Phoenix.
The validity of such rumors remains under suspiscion, at least according to one NBA personnel executive who found time to discuss the Suns' potential trade bait: “I know this draft class hasn’t fueled the imagination, at least not in a good way,” he said. “But I’m not so sure Gortat can fetch the 10th overall pick … at least not by himself.”
Before closer examination of Gortat's trade value, we'd like to point out that a team that loses 57 times, as the Suns did this season, might not have any players worthy of being labeled untradeable. And that includes a longshot candidate: 27-year-old point guard Goran Dragic.
“He definitely has more value,” our front-office sharpie said, “and probably could get Phoenix to 10 in the draft … but not at 2, 6 and probably not 8.”
Those numbers refer to three teams -- the Orlando Magic (2), New Orleans Pelicans (6) and Detroit Pistons (8) – that reportedly are shopping for a point guard.
Dragic, of course, has three more years on a reasonable contract ($7.5 million per year), still has room to improve and represents the closest Suns' link to brighter days.
“You hear a lot of wild chitchat around now,” the executive said, “but I’ve heard nothing about Phoenix moving Dragic.”
Maybe there’s fire where there is no smoke. Maybe the Suns can take their shooting guard at 5, take a point guard with the pick they receive in a package for Dragic and swing for the fences at what’s left at 30.
But please note the trade partners for Dragic or Gortat (or anyone else) must be the rare team capable of absorbing the contract under their cap or able to send back comparable salary to the Suns.
This send-back money typically is attached to a fringe-caliber player. And the Suns have steadfastly insisted they want to maintain cap flexibility.
Why get a rookie point guard when you already have Dragic? Well, that question is why moving him is only a small-chance hypothetical.
It should be pointed out that some alleged Suns-related intel puts 6-foot-6 point guard Michael Carter-Williams on the team’s high-interest list, but taking him at 5 might be considered too optimistic, especially with Dragic still around. Sure, they’d be able to play together, but neither (especially Carter-Williams) is a reliable marksman.
By himself, however, Carter-Williams would be able to run the offense for much less than it would cost the team to have Dragic over that time. If the contract that came back in a Dragic deal is in its last year, the Suns could save money in this turnover. And maybe McDonough thinks Carter-Williams will be better than Dragic.
Which teams not picking 2, 6 or 8 could use a point guard?
Well, the Dallas Mavericks (No. 13) reportedly want to ditch their pick, but they also are looking to maintain cap flexibility. With the likelihood of Chris Paul's availability diminishing, the Mavs could do worse than Dragic as their point guard. But "not doing worse" seems like an alien concept to Mark Cuban.
Dragic at the point would be an upgrade for Utah (No. 14), Atlanta (Nos. 17 and 18) and Indiana (No. 23) -- but it would probably require any of those teams to considerably sweeten their offer to pry him out of Phoenix.
The more likely option seems to be keeping Dragic and moving Gortat for a draft pick that happens in a range where they can convert it into a new center.
Indiana’s Cody Zeller (now marketed as a stretch four) could be a goner in the top 10. New Zealander Steve Adams (via Pittsburgh) and Brazil's Lucas Nogueira might go in the early teens, though both are very raw.
Kelly Olynyk of Gonzaga, Rudy Gobert of France and Duke’s Mason Plumlee could fall in a bit later in the first round.
“Hey, if they can get at 10 for Gortat, they’d probably jump on it,” our insider said. “But, like I said, he probably doesn’t get them there, or close to there, in a deal for just him.”
In addition to Portland, other teams rumored to have an interest in Gortat include Oklahoma City and Atlanta, which has about $30 million in potential cap space.
The Thunder, who pick 12th, either still love Kendrick Perkins at center or would insist on unloading the last two years of his contract on the Suns. McDonough knows Perkins well, having worked for the franchise (Boston) that got rid of him.
The Hawks (17 and 18 in the opening round) reportedly are hoping to trade up. With only five players under contract, doing so without packaging both picks might be tricky.
Who else do the Suns have to offer in a straight-up bid for another pick or in a packaging maneuver? The next asset up for consideration is swingman Jared Dudley, whose cheap contract and ability to use his veteran wiles for survival at two positions might provide a wide range of interested trade partners.
Any other Suns currently under contract (amnesty guy Luis Scola can’t be moved until July 1) don’t seem to be in demand.
If Phoenix had any more desirable assets, it probably wouldn’t be busy at No. 5.