Suns rumors: Boston Celtics courting Leandro Barbosa

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It looks like the Phoenix Suns may have finally found a team willing to take reserve guard Leandro Barbosa and the $14.7 million that he’s owed over the next two seasons off their hands.

The Boston Herald recently reported that the Boston Celitcs are interested in Barbosa, as well as Rudy Fernandez, and could move Rasheed Wallace for the former NBA Sixth Man of the Year.

Wallace is on tap to make $6.32 million next season and $6.79 million in 2011-12, but is expected to retire before next season, meaning the Suns could buy out the big man and save a large chunk of change. The Celtics would also help pay a portion of the buyout.

The deal works in the ESPN NBA Trade Machine and would make sense for both sides, as the Celtics could use another reserve guard and the Suns would like to cut costs.

Needless to say, this news should be music to the Suns’ ears. They’ve been “actively shopping” Barbosa this offseason, and the fact that the Celtics, and apparently the Toronto Raptors, are interested in LB is cause for a sigh of relief.

If Phoenix is able to swing a cost-cutting deal like this than they would have enough cap space to sign another big man to go along with Robin Lopez, Hakim Warrick, Gani Lawal and Dwayne Collins (assuming they both make the team).

It was rumored that the Suns were interested in veteran big man and former Sun Kurt Thomas, but if they are able to rid of Barbosa’s contract then they could chase a bigger-named free agent that isn’t about to keel over.

The Suns could maybe go after another guard, but they would most likely go the inexpensive route and sign a Scottie Reynolds type off the summer league team. So another big man would probably be whom the Suns target.

But the biggest benefit from the Barbosa deal would be felt next offseason, as Jason Richardson’s $14.4 million deal is coming off the books and the Suns could be a serious player in the free agent market.

In fact, as it stands now the Suns will be $12 million under the cap going into the 2011-12 season, assuming Barbosa would exercise his player option that would pay out $7.6 million. But if they are able to deal LB and that $7.6 million they would most likely be in range for a max free agent.

Phoenix would certainly miss LB’s instant offense and likability off of the court, but he is one of the most expendable Suns at this point.

Barbosa used to be an explosive scorer on an extremely reasonable contract. But after battling never-ending injuries, the death of his mother, and decreased playing time due to the increased role of Goran Dragic, he’s never really had a chance to get his feet under him again.

It doesn’t seem like his skill-set has decreased, which should bode well for Boston, but Phoenix simply has other plans in place that don’t exactly involve LB. I talked to Barbosa after a Suns practice in May during Phoenix’s playoff run and he had this to say:

My role on the team is different right now. I got to do whatever coach is asking me to do. It’s a different role. I got to come in and try to give some energy, work really hard on the defense and maybe have my points.

It’s hard because I like to be aggressive and sometimes I want to be aggressive and I can’t because it’s a different situation for me. But I’ve just got to be patient and work really hard and it will come for me.

It’s really different. If you see on the scout report my minutes are really down. Last night I didn’t play well but I played 11 minutes. A couple years ago if I would have played bad it would have been like 30 minutes, even if I play bad.

Barbosa certainly isn’t a bad player to have on your team,. but for almost $15 million over the next two seasons, you can’t blame the Suns for shopping him. Especially after averaging only 17.9 minutes per game last season, it would be crazy not to seek out a trade.

This is obviously only another one of the many Suns rumors, but if Phoenix is able to move LB’s contract, this offseason wouldn’t be as bad as some people may perceive it to be, at least from a future and financial standpoint.

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