Jan 3, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe (2) and center Tyson Chandler (4) run up the court in the first half of the NBA game against the Miami Heat at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Suns won 99-90. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
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If the Phoenix Suns approach the 2017 NBA Trade Deadline as sellers, here are 10 trades they could make to stock up on young talent and future draft picks.
Approaching the 2017 NBA Trade Deadline, the Phoenix Suns have plenty of options at their disposal. With the worst record in the Western Conference, general manager Ryan McDonough could opt to ship off veterans while their value is still high to bring in more young talent and future draft picks.
Or, he could try to land a superstar by sacrificing some of his stockpiled assets, attempting to put a third game-changer around Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker and get the Suns back on the path to the postseason.
It remains to be seen which avenue the Suns will take. Several big names have cropped up in recent NBA trade rumors, and as the DeMarcus Cousins trade shows us, anything is possible this time of year.
But in the event the Suns remain patient and decide to be sellers at the trade deadline, here’s a look at 10 trades they could make, which revolve around four older players that have varying value around the league: P.J. Tucker, Tyson Chandler, Brandon Knight and yes, even Eric Bledsoe.
Nov 23, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Brandon Knight (11) pounds his chest after hitting a 3 point shot during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Orlando Magic at Amway Center. The Suns won 92-87. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
10. Working Some Magic To Trade Brandon Knight
Brandon Knight’s trade value has never been lower. He’s hardly playing off the bench, his defense is atrocious, he’s shooting 39.8 percent from the field and his confidence simply looks shattered. The fact that he’s boasting the NBA’s second-worst total point differential at -327 doesn’t really help matters.
However, before you say, “There’s no WAY anyone would trade for Brandon Knight!” let me remind you of three things:
In other words, it’s probably time we stop saying, “THAT’LL NEVER HAPPEN!” with such unwavering confidence.
Suns get PG – Elfrid Payton SF – Jeff Green
Magic get PG – Brandon Knight SF – P.J. Tucker
The Orlando Magic have issues with Elfrid Payton‘s shooting and all-around consistency, as C.J. Watson earning the starting job clearly indicates. Is it too soon to give up on this 22-year-old? Probably. But the question we’re really dealing with is “Will they?” and after watching the Magic ship away Tobias Harris and Victor Oladipo for peanuts, the answer could be yes.
It seems like backward logic for the Suns to trade away Knight to free up minutes for Tyler Ulis only to bring in another young point guard, but Phoenix also should be thinking about capitalizing on Eric Bledsoe’s trade value right now. If they could find a way to move Bledsoe as well, the Suns’ backcourt could roll with Payton, Devin Booker, Ulis and whatever guard they take in this year’s draft for the foreseeable future.
That would make Phoenix a lot worse in the here and now, but with rebuilding being the focus, what’s the harm in giving substantial minutes to two pass-first point guards? After all, the Suns rank dead last in assists per game and assist-to-turnover ratio with Bledsoe and Knight running the show.
Payton needs to develop a reliable jumper to become an effective NBA player, but he’s a defensive terror, a solid passer and does a little bit of everything. He’s still only 22, his development timeline aligns with the Suns’ rebuilding timeline, and he’s shown signs of life recently, averaging 15.1 points, 5.5 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game over his last 18 contests.
Sure, they’d have to take on Jeff Green, but his $15 million contract expires at the end of this year and they wouldn’t have to play him anyway, since Warren and Dudley could hold down the minutes at the 3.
For the Magic, they’d be getting a more established scorer at the point guard spot — something they’ve reportedly been targeting in the trade market — who could help them with their inevitable desperate playoff push in 2018.
P.J. Tucker would be an improvement on the wing as a gritty defender that Frank Vogel would love, especially if he can shoot closer to the 38.7 percent he shot from three-point range in 2013-14 — the last time he played for a team that had a legitimate shot at the playoffs.
The potential roadblocks here would be the Suns finding a trade for Bledsoe to clear the backcourt logjam with Payton’s arrival. Orlando may also be okay with Payton continuing his role as sixth man, especially if the front office isn’t high on Knight being the solution to their scoring problem or decides to pursue a rebuild following the Ibaka trade.
Jan 3, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns center Tyson Chandler (4) handles the ball in the first half of the NBA game against the Miami Heat at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
9. Chandler To The Celtics
This isn’t the blockbuster trade that Boston Celtics fans have been waiting for, but for a team ranked 28th in rebounds per game and 27th in rebounding percentage, Tyson Chandler would be a useful addition who wouldn’t cost the C’s nearly as much as a superstar.
Before Suns fans go dreaming of that 2017 first round pick from the Brooklyn Nets, let’s preface this entire section with, “That ain’t happening.” Chandler and his 11.4 rebounds per game would clearly address an area of need for Boston, but it’s not that big an issue.
That being said, general manager Danny Ainge has plenty of other future assets that might entice Phoenix, and he wouldn’t even have to worry about giving up a talented piece of his team’s core like Jae Crowder or Marcus Smart.
Suns get PF – Amir Johnson Future 1st round pick
Celtics get C – Tyson Chandler
For the simple price of veteran Amir Johnson and a future first-rounder, the Celtics could add the interior presence and rebounding anchor they badly need.
Al Horford is a versatile defender and underrated rim protector, but he’s a historically underwhelming rebounder and he struggles head-to-head against Tristan Thompson — the offensive rebounding beast the Celtics would need to overcome if they were to have any chance of knocking off Cleveland in the East.
Trading for Chandler would help a ton in that regard, and though he doesn’t stretch the floor in any capacity, Horford does, shooting efficiently from the midrange and spreading the floor the three-point line (35.1 percent).
With Horford playing the 4 and Chandler holding down the boards, Boston’s 18th ranked defense might be a lot stingier down the stretch in tight games. Amir Johnson is a versatile, hard-working defender, but Chandler would address a more specific area of need.
If the Celtics want to keep Amir, substituting Tyler Zeller’s contract plus either Jordan Mickey or Demetrius Jackson works as well. The real prize here would be getting the future first round pick.
Suns get C – Tyler Zeller PF – Jordan Mickey Future 1st round pick
Celtics get C – Tyson Chandler
As for the first-rounder being sent away, Boston would have options. The Celtics’ roster is getting awfully crowded, but not too crowded to exclude another incoming top-three pick in 2017.
The Celtics have all of their own first-rounders to work with though, plus Brooklyn’s 2018 first-rounder, a 2019 lottery-protected first-rounder from the Los Angeles Clippers and another 2019 first-rounder (top-eight protected) from the Memphis Grizzlies. Perhaps the Clippers or Grizzlies pick would be a fair compromise for both sides.
The Suns could use a veteran defender like Amir Johnson to take pressure off rookies Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender, but he wouldn’t take developmental minutes away from them either. Meanwhile, the Suns would not only cash in on the declining value of their 34-year-old locker room mentor, but they’d also free up time for Alex Len to start, since his upcoming restricted free agency presents a bit of a dilemma.
The potential stalwarts to such a deal would be Ainge targeting a more high-profile star, Boston refusing to give up a first-rounder for an aging veteran, or Phoenix not even looking to deal Chandler despite Len’s need for starter’s minutes.
Feb 10, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker (17) reacts after making a three point basket against the Chicago Bulls during the second half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Suns won 115-97. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
8. Clippers Get Their Wing
The Los Angeles Clippers‘ biggest issue is keeping Blake Griffin and Chris Paul healthy at the same time, but assuming CP3 returns to full strength before the postseason, this team’s other big flaw is that it lacks a great small forward — as has been the case for the entire Lob City era.
P.J. Tucker probably doesn’t seem like a game-changing solution at the 3, but Doc Rivers‘ hands are tied without any real assets to offer outside of the Big Three or his own son, Austin Rivers. The Clips owe their 2017 first round pick to either Orlando or Toronto, and they owe a 2019 first-rounder to Boston.
Enter the Suns, who would more than happily pocket a 2021 first-rounder to cash in on Tucker’s value, even if it means taking on Wesley Johnson‘s contract. According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, the Clippers are one potential suitor for Tucker, so a deal here makes sense.
Suns get SF – Wesley Johnson 2021 1st round pick
Clippers get SF – P.J. Tucker
Johnson was underwhelming during his last stint in Phoenix, and his 3.2 points per game on .377/.280/.647 shooting are virtually useless to the Suns on the wing. The remaining year and $5.9 million on his contract (plus a $6.1 million player option for 2018-19) isn’t ideal, but the Suns could either waive him or keep him as a backup/third stringer behind T.J. Warren.
Though 2021 is still a ways down the line, a future first would be a pretty great return for an expiring contract, even if Earl Watson and the Suns love Tucker’s defensive versatility and never-ending effort on the court.
The Clippers would get a defensive ace who would give 150 percent playing for a pseudo-contender, and don’t forget that the last time Tucker played on a winning team with other offensive weapons around him, he shot 38.7 percent from three-point range.
However, Rivers has already dug himself into a hole by sacrificing so many future first round picks for stopgap solutions, and Tucker might not be enough of an upgrade to warrant surrendering another one, especially since Tucker is a free agent this summer. A pair of second-rounders might be a more realistic offer.
Nov 4, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe (2) celebrates with forward Jared Dudley (3) after winning a game in overtime against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center. The Suns defeated the Pelicans 112-111 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
7. Assembling The Kentucky Pelicans
In his best NBA season yet, it’d be almost cruel for the Suns to trade Eric Bledsoe. If not for the team’s 18-39 record (worst in the Western Conference), he would have garnered All-Star consideration.
However, Bledsoe’s superstar play this season has boosted his league-wide value to all-time highs, and with the Suns poised to dive headfirst into a youth movement revolving around Devin Booker (20 years old), Marquese Chriss (19) and Dragan Bender (19), the 27-year-old Bledsoe might be of more use to the Suns as a trade chip since he’s on a different timeline.
Trading a player averaging a career-high 21.6 points, a career-high 6.2 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game doesn’t sound like a smart decision for a franchise that will be missing the playoffs for its seventh straight season this year.
But Bledsoe deserves to play for an actual playoff team and there are plenty of other teams who might be willing to surrender covetable assets — like young players or future draft picks to aid the Suns’ rebuild — for a top-10 point guard. The Suns should at least consider trading him now, especially because his injury history is not exactly encouraging.
Suns get PG – Jrue Holiday Future 1st round pick
Pelicans get PG – Eric Bledsoe
Jrue Holiday has been terrific for the New Orleans Pelicans since he returned to the court, but his status as a free agent this summer complicates his long-term future for a franchise that just scored a home run adding DeMarcus Cousins. Why not bring in Eric Bledsoe to join his buddy Boogie and Anthony Davis to create an all-Kentucky Big Three?
Bledsoe is still only 27 and alongside those two superstars, New Orleans would have a superb foundation to build around. They’d have a borderline elite point guard locked in for another two seasons after this one, and they wouldn’t have to worry about overpaying to keep Holiday.
For the Suns, they could either try to re-sign Holiday while they wait for Ulis or an incoming rookie to be groomed into their point guard of the future, or they could let him walk and pocket the future first-rounder.
Unfortunately, the Pelicans just gave up their 2017 first-rounder to the Sacramento Kings, so the soonest the Suns could get a pick would be 2019. New Orleans might value Holiday more than he’s actually worth as an impending free agent, or they may not want to deal him away if it comes at the price of a first-rounder.
For the Suns, a soon-to-be-departing Holiday and a late lottery pick might not be enough value for Bledsoe compared to other offers they might receive if they actually put him on the trade block.
Jan 22, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker (17) during their game against the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre. The Suns beat the Raptors 115-103. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
6. Raptors Go All In
According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, the Toronto Raptors are another potential suitor for P.J. Tucker as they attempt to go all in on challenging the Cleveland Cavaliers for Eastern supremacy. Their trade for Serge Ibaka signals as much, and adding Tucker to that bench would really help on the defensive end.
Tucker has defended — and enjoyed success against — everyone from Carmelo Anthony to Anthony Davis to DeMarcus Cousins this season, and that kind of versatility off the bench would be a huge boon to the NBA’s 16th ranked defense.
Jared Sulinger has been virtually useless to the Raptors this season, so why not get a defensive upgrade who could actually make a difference in a close playoff series?
Suns get PF – Jared Sullinger 2019 1st round pick
Raptors get SF – P.J. Tucker
The Suns would push for a future first-rounder (especially since Toronto still has one in 2017 even after dealing one to Orlando in the Ibaka trade), but the Raptors are going all in on their present. They have little need for first round picks that will probably be in the mid-20s as long as their core remains intact.
Would a 2019 pick be good enough for the Suns? You bet it would. Even better, Sullinger’s contract would come off the books this summer.
However, a first-rounder for a rental like Tucker — even a useful rental for a pick that doesn’t project to be very valuable — might be too much to give up for Toronto. This is one team that can afford to give up first-rounders right now, but it remains to be seen if McD could actually squeeze one out of Tucker.
Dec 19, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe (2) dribbles the ball and looks to pass Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio (9) plays defense in the first at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Rather than making the rumored shortsighted Derrick Rose trade to reunite the former MVP with his old coach Tom Thibodeau, how about a guy like Bledsoe, who would actually bridge the gap between now and the time Dunn will be ready?
A more stable option at the point and a veteran leader could really help the team’s Big Three grow up a little quicker, and unlike Rose, the Wolves wouldn’t have to worry about Bledsoe bolting in free agency this summer — or even worse, overpaying to keep a mediocre point guard.
Going from Bledsoe to Minnesota’s current point guard is clearly a downgrade for Phoenix, and we can’t ignore that Rubio is also on the books through the 2018-19 season. But he’s on a perfectly manageable contract, and if the Timberwolves threw in a future first round pick, it’d be hard to turn that kind of offer down.
Suns get PG – Ricky Rubio Future 1st round pick
Timberwolves get PG – Eric Bledsoe
Though he’s only averaging 8.9 points and 8.4 assists per game on ugly .386/.281/.872 shooting splits, Rubio is the defense-first, pass-first kind of point guard the Suns need with so many young players. If the front office wanted to give more time to Ulis and a top point guard in this year’s draft, they could always flip Rubio to another team that needed his services.
Unfortunately, the Timberwolves might prefer to hold onto Rubio if it means keeping all of their future first-rounders. They already owe a lottery-protected first-rounder to the Atlanta Hawks in 2018, and if it’s not conveyed next year, it’s lottery-protected again in 2019. That means the soonest the Suns could net a first-rounder here would be 2020.
The Suns also might not want to take on Rubio when he’d be on the books for the same amount of time as Bledsoe. Unless getting another first-rounder in the distant future was a high priority for McDonough, it’d make more sense to just keep the superior player between the two.
Dec 26, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Nerlens Noel (4) blocks the shot of Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
4. The First Noel (Trade)
Thanks to T.J. McConnell playing so well as the starting point guard, Nerlens Noel slowly reviving his value ahead of Jahlil Okafor, and the imminent return of point forward Ben Simmons, it’s unlikely the Philadelphia 76ers will be in the market for a high-profile point guard like Bledsoe.
However, even with Joel Embiid hurt and the playoffs slipping out of reach, the Sixers are clearly on the rise. The Process is finally taking shape, and adding a two-way player like Bledsoe — who wouldn’t be expected to be as much of a playmaker with Simmons on the court — could be a huge boon to Philly’s ascent.
The Suns should have no interest in trading for Jahlil Okafor and his defensive flaws, but if Philly is okay with clearing their center logjam by moving Noel instead, a Bledsoe trade would make some sense.
Suns get C – Nerlens Noel Future 1st round pick
76ers get PG – Eric Bledsoe
With Alex Len still being an enigma and heading for restricted free agency, the Suns could take an alternative path and go all in on the restricted free agency of a more defensively inclined big man. Noel is more injury-prone than Len, but his ceiling is also much higher at this point.
If McDonough could swindle the Sixers into giving up a future first-round pick as well, that’d be even more reassuring, since Noel’s injury history and regressive numbers this season (8.9 PPG, 5.0 RPG and 0.9 BPG in 19.4 MPG) don’t exactly make him a sure thing.
However, the Sixers would probably rather wait it out with McConnell and see how Simmons handles his point forward role, especially since trading Okafor should be the priority over trading Noel. Under that line of reasoning, including a future first-rounder — even with so many at their disposal — would be borderline insanity for a player Philly might not actually want.
Jan 2, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker (17) walks to the bench during the second half of the NBA game against the Sacramento Kings at Sleep Train Arena. The Kings won 142-119. Mandatory Credit: Godofredo Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
3. Celtics Settle For Tucker
The Boston Celtics are another contender reportedly eyeing P.J. Tucker, and with their plethora of assets to offer, this might be McDonough’s best chance of walking away with a future first round pick.
Though superstar trades like Jimmy Butler, Blake Griffin and Paul George will be higher priorities for Boston, if the asking price for those star targets is too high, general manager Danny Ainge could set his sights lower in an attempt to bolster the league’s 18th-ranked defense.
Tucker is one potential solution, and he’d probably be one of the cheaper acquisitions for Ainge that wouldn’t require him to break up a core he likes so much. The real prize would be a future first-rounder, but to balance salaries, Jonas Jerebko would work:
Suns get PF – Jonas Jerebko 2019 1st round pick (via Grizzlies)
Celtics get SF – P.J. Tucker
Jerebko is a rotation player under Brad Stevens, but he’s not an essential piece and Tucker’s versatility could help make up some of his minutes at the 4 anyway. Jerebko’s salary comes off the books this summer, so the Suns could either re-sign him as a veteran presence to ease the pressure on Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender or let him walk.
If Jerebko is too important to give up for Tucker, Tyler Zeller‘s contract also gets the job done.
Suns get C – Tyler Zeller 2019 1st round pick (via Clippers)
Celtics get SF – P.J. Tucker
The real question is what kind of first-rounder the Suns might be able to extract from Boston for their 31-year-old veteran. The Brooklyn Nets picks are obviously out of the question, but the Celtics own two extra first-rounders in 2019 (one from the Memphis Grizzlies, one from the Los Angeles Clippers).
The Grizzlies’ pick is top-eight protected, while Lob City’s pick is lottery-protected. Both franchises could look very different two years from now thanks to their aging cores, which would be something for Ainge and McDonough to consider because of the pick protections.
However, whether it’s one of these extra firsts or one of Boston’s own in the distant future, the Suns would be able to overstep their boundaries a bit if the Celtics had to settle for Tucker.
However, Ainge’s attention will probably be set on higher profile moves at the deadline, and even if the Celtics don’t land a blockbuster deal, the time spent on negotiating could open the door for another Tucker suitor to land him first.
Ainge also notoriously overvalues his assets as a stubbornly patient type, so sacrificing a first for a 31-year-old rental might be a bit much, especially if the Celtics feel confident they can sign Gordon Hayward in free agency and reunite him with Brad Stevens.
Dec 26, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Brandon Knight reacts in the second half against the Philadelphia 76ers at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The 76ers defeated the Suns 111-104. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
2. Dumping Knight On The Nets
The problem with most of the teams that would be interested in Brandon Knight is that they’re mostly barren of trade assets. The Brooklyn Nets are no different, even if they can offer any of their younger, minimum salary players because of all the cap space they could use to absorb Knight’s deal.
Thanks to the 2013 Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce trade that robbed Brooklyn of its future draft picks, this franchise has no incentive to tank over the next few seasons. The Nets have targeted young players to swing for the fences in the meantime, and with Jeremy Lin banged up, they could use a 25-year-old combo guard like Knight.
Suns get PG – Randy Foye
Nets get PG – Brandon Knight
The problem is unless general manager Ryan McDonough wants to take a swing on a young player putting up good numbers on a bad team, it’s hard to see what would interest the Suns. The Nets don’t have a future first-rounder to offer (nor should they offer one for Knight anyway), and they also owe other teams their second round pick in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson would be off limits, but with Kilpatrick playing so well for the Nets right now, this might be a prime opportunity for them to leverage his current trade value into more backcourt talent.
Kilpatrick is averaging 13.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game on .417/.351/.838 shooting splits, but before his superior numbers make this deal seem lopsided in Phoenix’s favor, keep in mind that Knight has been coming off the bench and has more talent detracting from his numbers than Kilpatrick does.
The Suns would get to take a chance on a 26-year-old shooting guard and get Knight’s contract off the books, while the Nets would add more talent to a backcourt that desperately needs it.
If Kilpatrick is too much for the Nets to give up with the way he’s playing right now, the alternatives are Joe Harris (a 25-year-old small forward shooting 38.7 percent from three-point range) or Chris McCullough (a rarely used, 22-year-old freak athlete who would’ve been a lottery pick in 2015 if not for an ACL tear in college).
Neither are great returns for Knight, but if the trade market is as drier than expected, getting a young third-stringer with upside might be as good as it gets for a rebuilding franchise.
Nov 23, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe (2) dribbles the ball during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Orlando Magic at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
1. Solving The Magic’s Point Guard Problem
Nearly every player on Orlando Magic’s roster has been mentioned in trade rumors recently, and no one’s certain if general manager Rob Hennigan will keep fighting to keep his job with a return to the playoffs in 2018, or will be restructuring the roster for another rebuild.
To that end, there are several avenues the Suns could explore for a Bledsoe trade to bring in youth. If they could somehow swindle the Magic into offering Aaron Gordon (with Jeff Green included to match salaries), that’d be a no-brainer.
Suns get SF – Jeff Green PF – Aaron Gordon
Magic get PG – Eric Bledsoe
Orlando fans are probably laughing right now (as they should be), since Gordon is the closest thing this roster has to an untouchable franchise cornerstone. But don’t forget, this is the same front office that traded Tobias Harris without getting anything of value in return, and it also dealt Victor Oladipo and a lottery pick for Serge Ibaka…only to be forced into trading him months later.
It’d be ill-advised to trade a guy who’s been averaging 11.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game while largely playing out of position, but with the Magic, you can never rule anything out.
The Suns would get a versatile defender in the process, bolstering the 4-spot in addition to more unproven projects like Chriss and Bender. Gordon is only 21 years old and in addition to his high-flying athleticism, he possesses star potential if he’s played at his true position.
But if the Magic are smart and make Gordon off limits, one alternative would be replacing him with Elfrid Payton and a future first round pick.
Suns get SF – Jeff Green PG – Elfrid Payton Future 1st round pick
Magic get PG – Eric Bledsoe
It’s up in the air whether McDonough could talk the Magic into giving up this year’s first-rounder if Payton is included, but the Suns would get a new point guard — and more importantly, a defensively oriented one — to groom along with Ulis.
Payton is only 22 years old, averaging 12.5 points, 5.8 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game. His 27.5 percent shooting from deep is concerning, but he’s still young and is still shooting a career-high 45.5 percent from the field. He’s also averaged 15.1 points, 5.5 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game over his last 18 contests
However, since the Suns might prefer to hand-pick their next point guard with their high pick in this year’s draft, another alternative would be Mario Hezonja as a backup to Devin Booker, along with Orlando’s 2017 first round pick.
Suns get SF – Jeff Green SG – Mario Hezonja 2017 1st round pick
Magic get PG – Eric Bledsoe
In this scenario, Hezonja’s raw nature and lack of minutes would give McDonough some leverage to ask for the Magic’s 2017 first-rounder, which is currently slated to be the No. 4 overall pick.
If the Magic are still desperate to get in the playoffs in 2018 and believe Bledsoe could get them back in the hunt, Hennigan might be tempted into surrendering such a valuable pick to try and save his job (assuming he even makes it to the start of the 2017-18 season).
Suns get C – Nikola Vucevic SG – Mario Hezonja 2017 1st round pick
Magic get PG – Eric Bledsoe C – Alex Len
Hezonja is only averaging 4.0 points in 11.4 minutes per game on appalling .356/.316/.765 shooting splits, but it’s far too soon to give up on this 21-year-old just because head coach Frank Vogel has tethered him to the bench. Give him opportunity and perhaps his reputation as a sharpshooter will eventually shine through.
Even if it didn’t, the 2017 first-rounder would more than make it worth the Suns’ while. However, if the Magic decide to attempt another rebuild rather than continue a failed pursuit for a playoff spot, Bledsoe would have no interest to them, especially at the cost of Gordon, Payton, Hezonja or a valuable first round pick.
Maybe the Suns could talk Orlando down off the ledge with a 2018 first-rounder or the 2017 first-rounder the Magic got from Toronto in the Serge Ibaka deal, but at this point, the smartest thing for Orlando to do would be to stop trading away assets for shortsighted playoff pursuits.