Future flexibility advantageous for Phoenix Suns

The Phoenix Suns have been searching for their next star to no avail for some time now, but they do possess one important asset that could eventually solve that problem: future cap space.

I was updating the ValleyoftheSuns salary page the other day and it made me realize just how much future financial flexibility the Phoenix Suns franchise has (after this offseason, whenever it may come, of course).

Over the next five seasons, the Phoenix Suns only owe their contracted players a total just south of $130 million (Jared Dudley’s $4.25 mil ETO is the only thing on the books in 2015-16). By contrast, Joe Johnson’s six-year deal with the Atlanta Hawks was for almost $124 mil, and the Miami Heat owe their Big Three in the neighborhood of almost $330 million over a six-year period.

Although the Suns would surely trade that future flexibility for one of Miami’s stars in a heartbeat, Phoenix would be better off than most franchises if the new CBA involves a hard cap or another means of requiring all teams to spend around the same amount of money. Not sure what the Lakers would do with over $90 million a year committed over the course of the next three years or the Heat with just three players making a combined $43.5, $48 and $52.5 million the next three years.

The league would surely have to enact some sort of amnesty clause to allow teams like the Lakers and Heat to rid themselves of certain contracts without taking a salary cap hit. This could still be disastrous for the aforementioned teams since it could lead to the Lakers parting with Pau Gasol and Miami parting with Chris Bosh (or dealing them for cap relief), but such a clause would just put Phoenix in a better position to snatch up somebody else’s high-priced star.

Josh Childress has the highest remaining contract value for the Suns with $27 million coming to him the next four years. Next is Channing Frye at $24.8 mil including a $6.8 mil player option in the final campaign of his four seasons left. After that are two contracts that are steals for Phoenix: Marcin Gortat’s remaining three years and $21.8 million (including a final year ETO) and Jared Dudley’s five-year, $22.5 million deal that kicks in next season.

The only other Sun owed double figures (assuming the Carter $4 million buyout in all these calculations) is Steve Nash’s 2011-12 salary of $11.7 million.

You might wonder why Hakim Warrick isn’t on this list, and it’s because he only has $8 million coming to him over the next two seasons with 2013-14 being a $4 million team option that the Suns will almost certainly decline at this point. Warrick’s deal is seen as one of the worst on the Suns since he’s on the fringes of the rotation, but although paying a bench warmer $4 mil a season isn’t smart Warrick is far from crippling the Suns’ future cap.

As much as I think he will be better next season, if teams can cut one contract with no cap implications Childress is the no-brainer. Such a move would put Phoenix’s 2012-13 cap at $21.5 million and its 2013-14 cap at just over $18 mil. If you can buy out a second contract with no cap hit, you go with Warrick and get down to around $18 mil for both years.

None of us have any idea what the new CBA will look like, but if the owners succeed in depressing salaries, teams paying top dollar will be forced to scramble to lop off a good portion of their roster.

With so much future salary cap space, especially if they can rid themselves of Childress’ deal, the Suns appear to be in a good position to take advantage.

Gentry on new defensive assistant

The Phoenix Suns on Thursday officially announced the hiring of Elston Turner to serve as their de facto defensive coordinator, a role he previously held while working as the lead assistant in Houston.

“Elston Turner has been a player and a coach in this league and we’re confident that he will bring a new voice to our team that will help us improve,” head coach Alvin Gentry said in a statement.  “What made Elston the right candidate is his experience working alongside offensive coaches and his willingness to be creative defensively.  We have complete confidence in Bill Cartwright, Dan Majerle, Igor Kokoskov and Noel Gillespie, and adding a capable coach like Elston to our staff will make us that much better.”

Turner did not have a job after Houston fired his long-time head coach Rick Adelman. According to The Arizona Republic, no other coach received an offer for this position although talks progressed with Jim Boylan.

Pietrus to undergo minor knee surgery

Suns forward Mickael Pietrus will have minor knee surgery performed on his ailing right knee on Tuesday, according to Coro.

According to Pietrus’ agent Bill McCandless, the forward took a physical before France’s camp in advance of the European Championship and the French doctors declined to certify him for national team play, recommending the surgery to remove loose cartilage. Pietrus missed the Suns’ final 12 games with a quad strain and suffered from knee discomfort even at the beginning of the season in Orlando.

Unless the doctors find more issues when they perform the surgery, this should not affect Pietrus’ availability for the start of next season.

The Big Analytical joins TNT

The NBA better get its act together and ensure the 2011-12 season isn’t wiped out for no other reason than fans should not miss a second of a TNT studio featuring Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and The Big Analytical himself, Shaquille O’Neal.

Shaq signed on with TNT this week to create perhaps the most entertaining postgame crew ever assembled. I for one can’t wait to hear these two former Suns and Smith go at it on Inside the NBA.

Tags: Elson Turner Hakim Warrick Josh Childress Mickael Pietrus Shaquille O'Neal

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