Aaron Brooks trade involves restricted free agency risks

The NBA just experienced a wild trade season with a flurry of deals around one common theme: trading a player before he hits free agency when you risk losing him for nothing.

Perhaps that’s a case of teams watching the Cavs, Raptors and Suns lose superstars without replacing them this offseason, as that’s what motivated much of the wheeling and dealing this trade season.

This was seen in blockbuster trades of Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams, franchise players who would ordinarily stay on a roster before deciding to bolt in free agency of their own accord.

It also went down in the surprising trade between the Thunder and the Celtics involving Jeff Green and Kendrick Perkins. The Thunder did not want to pay Green Big Three money when he’s a restricted free agent this summer so they made a deal for a player who may fit their puzzle better and likely comes at a cheaper price (he agreed to an extension today reportedly worth almost $9 million per season). Boston decided it couldn’t invest in the fifth piece of a four All-Star starting lineup with Perkins entering free agency, so the Celts took a gamble on Green.

And that brings us to the Phoenix Suns’ trade with the Houston Rockets involving Aaron Brooks and Goran Dragic. The Rockets made this deal in large part because Brooks will be a restricted free agent expecting a pay day and they didn’t want to pay him or risk losing him for nothing to a poaching team with a fat offer sheet.

Now the Suns are the team in a risky situation with Brooks.

They must either pay him decent coin to back up Steve Nash or become an iffy starter or potentially watch another team pillage him and have nothing to show for Goran Dragic and their first-round pick.

It would be disastrous for a soon-to-be rebuilding Suns team to give up perhaps its young player with the highest ceiling as well as a first-round pick for a two-month rental, but it could be equally as disruptive long term to sign Brooks to a bad contract just to save the investment.

This goes back to questioning the Suns’ long-term plan with this move. Presumably it’s to make Brooks their point guard of the future, but that could be setting the Suns up to overpay, especially if a team goes all Portland Trail Blazers on them by frontloading a bad contract in hopes of stealing the player.

Daryl Morey did not want to deal with this situation, so he traded out of it and acquired a player in Dragic who’s inferior in the present but has a higher ceiling and no possibility of being poached this offseason with a first-round pick to boot.

If the Suns sign Brooks to a reasonable deal (maybe something like $5 million a year?) this could all end up OK, but there’s a reason so many GMs have traded talented players expecting a payday they may not be able to provide.

By trading Dragic and a pick for Brooks and his pending restricted free agency, the Suns opened themselves up to either overpaying for Brooks or losing him altogether.

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