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.

Tags: Aaron Brooks

  • Mike Meez

    Yet another reason I hate this trade. Didn’t even think of that to be hones, but I think I would if I were management and this were my job. Going forward, if another team wants to offer Brooks a huge deal, let’em have him. Can’t take the trade back now and signing him to an extension won’t make him something he’s not. If he’s willing to play here for 4-5 million a year for a few years, fine. Anything more than that and let him walk.

    Here’s to hoping Brooks proves me wrong and earns a huge contract in the remaining games this season.

  • Phil

    Totally agree. Another reason to hate this terrible trade.

  • Steve

    I’d be fine with a two-year deal for 5 mil per with a third year as a team option, but I wouldn’t want to give him any more than that. I really can’t wait to find out what the future holds for this trade because I have thought through this from many perspectives, and I can’t see any good reason for it, even if the Suns’ management thought Dragic was a lost cause.

  • Jason

    I don’t disagree with any of the above, but don’t forget there were whispers about Dragic going back to Europe after his contract was up. Goran’s contract has a team option next year, but after that he’s a restricted free agent. It could have ended up being the same thing as Brooks’ situation.

  • Zak

    Let’s not forget the new CBA next year. That will probably have a large effect on what other teams could be able to offer him. And if Brooks is as bad of an investment that many people think he his, why would anyone try to lure him away from Phoenix with a large contract offer? If he turns it on and plays very well for the Suns for the rest of the season, then he could be very well worth a very good – but not great – new contract. If he doesn’t play well, why would anyone offer him a large contract? Brooks is a RESTRICTED free agent after this season and it’s doubtful that anyone would make him an offer that they knew that the Suns wouldn’t be able – and willing – to beat.

  • Zak

    BTW, Schwartz… YOU should certainly know the difference between the risk of loosing an UNrestricted free agent as opposed to loosing a restricted free agent… as Amare, LBJ, Bosh, Wade, Boozer, Johnson and many other were last year. Yeah the Suns Could loose Brooks AND the 1st round pick to free agency BUT they have the option of topping any offer an other team makes Brooks IF they think keeping him is worth it. I still think the Suns made a bad trade for Brooks but he can’t just accept any offer and leave the Suns without their approval/acceptance of letting him go. As I said before, if he plays well this season, the Suns will try to keep him. If he doesn’t, then they would better off cutting their losses by letting him go to any other team that is willing to give him some idiotic contract offer.

    But whatever happens, I still think the Suns were stupid to throw in a 1st round pick into the trade for Brooks.

  • http://www.valleyofthesuns.com Michael Schwartz

    Right, of course, but all it takes is one team to make a stupid contract offer to him and you’re between a rock and a hard place. The guy did average 20 ppg last year so it’s not out of the question whatsoever for somebody to give him $8-9 million for four or five years and then what do the Suns do?

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