Apr 3, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard John Jenkins (23) shoots the ball in the first half against the Utah Jazz at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
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John Jenkins’ release is neither a surprise nor a roster-shaking move. Although it could lead to one.
Granted John Jenkins only played a total of 13 minutes for the big club this season in four appearances (he scored 7 points, grabbed 1 rebound and dished out 1 assist), his release could mean a whole lot to the Phoenix Suns moving forward.
What this move does immediately for Phoenix is open up a roster spot providing flexibility for what fans believe to be an inevitability – a big trade. Jenkins’ contract would have been guaranteed for the rest of the season had his release not come today. It is thus no surprise that the Suns decided to not keep him along for the remainder of the year.
It should be noted that since his contract was not guaranteed, had the Suns made a trade earlier bringing in more players than they shipped out, Jenkins would have immediately been waived to make the roster additions fit.
If the Suns are to make any large trades, this was the first shoe that had to drop. With an open roster spot if/when the Suns trade Brandon Knight, they can receive two players in return to match his outgoing salary, instead of one. Had Jenkins’ salary been guaranteed at the time of a Knight trade, not only would he likely have to have been a part of the deal, but the salaries in return would have had to have been even larger to match the combined salaries of Knight and Jenkins, complicating matters.
Mar 6, 2015; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker (17) congratulates guard Brandon Knight (3) after making a basket in overtime against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center. The Phoenix Suns won 108-100. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 19, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Brandon Knight (3) talks with teammate forward P.J. Tucker (17) on the court in the game against the Indiana Pacers at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Pacers won 97-94. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
What is most interesting about the team’s prospects moving forward is that if the Suns are going to attempt to make a blockbuster trade involving Brandon Knight (by that I mean more than a one-for-one-type trade, not necessarily that the Suns receive a superstar in return), P.J. Tucker may actually be the first player to be traded.
There is a chance that teams would be willing to take on Tucker’s remaining salary this season without shipping a player back to Phoenix in return. Should the Suns manage to trade Tucker for a draft pick, the roster would then feature two open spots.
From there, since Brandon Knight’s contract is so large, Phoenix could not only afford to make him part of a package that includes up to three players in return (without needing to waive anyone immediately), it could make the option of a three-team trade more viable as the Suns could take on multiple players from two different teams.
September 26, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors center Anderson Varejao (18) poses with an emoji cutout of himself during media day at the Warriors Practice Facility. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
The term ‘big’ is a little vague as it could be a forward or a center, meaning – at least from Phoenix’s perspective – Portland at some point may have interest in either P.J. Tucker or Tyson Chandler. With Chandler’s contract being much larger and longer than Tucker’s, P.J. may be the more viable option, and should the Blazers have interest in Tucker, the Suns would undoubtedly have interest in that pick.
If a trade of that nature should occur, that could mean that Phoenix is working on an even larger trade at the same time involving Knight – a trade in which the Suns would receive multiple players in return.
I say if, because the Suns have no need to move Tucker since his contract ends after this season anyway.
In the end, should any of this come to fruition and not just be of theoretical conjecture, none of that would be as easy to occur had the Suns not first waived John Jenkins today.