Mickael Pietrus picks up option, becomes $5.3 million expiring contract

Mickael Pietrus picked up his 2011-12 option and now becomes a $5.3 million expiring contract. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

Knowing he likely would not get a better offer in free agency, Mickael Pietrus picked up his $5.3 million option for 2011-12 on Monday.

This has been widely expected since the Suns acquired Pietrus in their blockbuster trade with Orlando in December considering how much salaries are likely to be depressed this offseason, meaning Pietrus’ value would not approach that mid-level dollar figure.

But that doesn’t mean Pietrus will necessarily start the season in a Suns uniform as his agent knows all too well.

“I’d be surprised if Lon (Babby) doesn’t make a couple deals on draft day or later,” Pietrus’ agent Bill McCandless told The Arizona Republic. “If you have a surplus in one position and a need in another, guess what?

“But if he comes back, he’s looking forward to having a full training camp. It’s not the easiest thing, for any player, to be traded and go from Coaching Style A to Coaching Style B and from Management Style A to Management Style B.”

If Grant Hill returns (a likelihood if the Suns choose not to shake up the core) Phoenix will boast four natural small forwards, including Pietrus. As his agent said, it doesn’t take a genius to realize the Suns would be willing to trade from this area of strength depth-wise to swing a deal for an area of weakness, and since Hill would not be dealt if brought back, Dudley is a future piece and nobody wants Childress’ contract, Pietrus is an obvious trade candidate.

McCandless also made his statement about the possibility of a Phoenix trade because this practically confirms the Suns won’t have enough cap space to make a dent in free agency.

Counting the likely $4 million guaranteed money to be paid to Vince Carter to walk away rather than his full $18.3 million salary, the Suns will have a hair over $50 million committed to eight players. That does not count the likely Hill extension, any potential Aaron Brooks deal or the minimum salary placeholders for the rest of the roster.

With the cap at $58 million last season and very likely to go down in the aftermath of the new CBA, Pietrus’ deal assures the Suns won’t have much free agency cash.

However, he now becomes a $5.3 million expiring contract who can be a very useful player in the right situation and with the right motivation.

With clearing cap space possibly about to become very attractive (or flat-out necessary depending on the terms of the CBA), Pietrus immediately becomes a desirable trade chip to potentially get back a player who can help long term with a longer contract (Sarver did say this team would likely improve most through trades).

If he stays, Pietrus will give the Suns more of what he gave them this season. When his head is screwed on right he can be an elite defender and when he stops jacking up bad shots he can be a real sniper from long range.

The Suns got a taste of that Pietrus at times, but he was far too inconsistent at both ends to be counted on as any kind of a contributor.

However, I do agree with his agent that a full training camp with this organization would do wonders for Pietrus. In theory he is a fantastic role player for a Steve Nash team due to his floor spacing ability and quality defense.

But at $5.3 million Pietrus is one more in a long line of expensive role players, so he might now be most valuable to the franchise as an expiring contract.

And 1

The Suns worked out Jimmer Fredette, Tristan Thompson, Chris Singleton and the Morris twins on Monday. Phoenix will work out a group headlined by rugged board man Kenneth Faried on Tuesday.

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