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

  • Tony

    Michael, I cannot see a hard cap coming into place in the next CBA for the simple reason that it will create too much parity. Imagine if teams like the Bucks against the Grizzless were in the Finals, it would ruin the NBA. The league is dependant on bigger market teams succeeding, as that is where the ratings are and thus the advertising dollars are.
    As far as Sarver is concerned, with him running the show, there’s no question the Suns would be better off with a hard cap installed. But even so, the Suns don’t have a young superstar type player at a lower rookie level contract. So even if the CBA is drastically lowered, we will all have to be dependent on Sarver to sign a superstar or trade for one. Since the team has no tradeable assets other than Gortat, it makes trading for a superstar very difficult.

  • Roger

    Love to see hard cap but depends on how skillfully Sarver and company can put together a winning team. Hopefully we don’t ever again see avatars of Hakim and Hedo. I think it’s still premature to talk about future flexibility considering we don’t even know what the new CBA and transition rules from the current CBA will look like.

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

    @Tony I’m not sure it will be a completely hard cap (especially off the bat), but I’m pretty sure some measure to depress salaries will be instituted. Perhaps there will be a soft cap at a certain level like now but then a hard cap at some level about that to prevent the Lakers and Knicks from just outspending everybody. It’s anybody’s guess what will specifically happen, but spending will be curbed in some way and the Suns could be in position to take advantage of some of these new rules.

    It seems to me the best way to acquire a future superstar at this point will be through a 2012 lottery pick. The tradeable assets (Gortat and Dudley) should not be dealt to begin anyway. It’s too early to say what free agency will look like in the summers of 2012 and 2013, but I’m just saying the Suns may have a few solid young assets and plenty of cap space at that point.

  • Phx suns fan in la

    Maybe we can get andre Drummond next year he is amazing!

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    Parity has never ruined any league. When executed correctly, it has always enhanced them instead.

    These big market franchises have had many many years of terrible basketball. Years when they didn’t have a star player or a playoff run, (or chance). Those teams still did well because of location. That’s not what this hard cap is about.

  • Lloyd I. Cadle

    I agree that parity has never ruined any league.

    Kudos to the NFL owners for being smart enough to have a 120 million hard cap and for working the CBA within that framework. (They sure know what they are doing.)

    As a fan of both the NFL and NBA, I can only wish that the NBA owners were that smart. But, it will probably be a lot of showboating before the NBA just agrees to the same old stuff and in retaining the same old problems. No hard cap. No parity. Only a few winning teams. Only a few teams making money.

  • Al

    Suns need to acquire some skill SG once the CBA ends. After reading a couple articles at BR, I’ve fallen in love with the idea of doing a sign and trade with Denver that involves Pietrus & 2nd round pick for J.R Smith. I also would love to see the Suns sign Shannon Brown as a free agent at around $5.5 million for 4-5 years. Both J.R and Shannon would be vital pieces for the Suns. They can both attack the rim and be able to receive alley oops from Steve or go for monster slam dunks. The Suns are known for spreading the floor and that would give plenty of room for both this guys to slash through the defense. Also, Brooks should also be given another shot, because he can surely get back to form in training camp. Just imagine:
    PG- Steve/Brooks
    SG- Shannon/J.R (vice-versa?)
    SF-Grant/Dudley/Childress (if Hill comes back)
    C- Gortat/Lopez?/Siler

    That would be a contender indeed.

  • Scott

    Shaq will probably be more entertaining than I expect but I was surprised at what Chris Webber brought to the table. Cwebb is smarter, funnier and more cogent than I expected and and I’m a little bummed out that he has to be bumped. Don’t know how much other fans liked him…

  • Steve

    I don’t know if Shaq will last long as an analyst… but then again, they haven’t fired Magic yet. I think CWebb has filled that role significantly better than Shaq will. Every game where Shaq has offered analysis (deep into the playoffs when he’s sitting at home), it has pained me to listen to him. I love his interviews as a player, but his basketball analysis is pretty spotty. Then again, maybe I’m jaded because he was the big one who came out against the Suns saying, “Rules are rules. They’ve got to follow the letter of the law,” in response to the suspensions.

    Anyway, on to the issue of parity. I think it would be a great thing for the league. The best times this league has ever seen (mid-late ’90s), neither the Lakers nor the Celtics were contenders. I realize the greatness of Jordan could make up for that in some poeple’s minds, but I really don’t think that that the Celtics and Lakers need to keep winning every other championship this league has to offer. I think the Clippers winning would do wonders for the league. I think the Suns no longer being the winningest franchise without a title would do a lot of good for the league. I think the league would be better served if the small- or mid-market teams didn’t have to take gambles on players like Gilbert Arenas, Andrei Kirilenko, Rashard Lewis, Ben Gordon, John Salmons, and the like because players like LeBron, Wade, Kobe, Howard, Paul, Durant, etc., would never even look their way.

    Bill Simmons offered some great methods to “solve” the lockout in his most recent article, and almost everything he presented would make the NBA more like the NFL.

    You want to know one option that I think would solve a lot of the NBA’s issues? Downsizing. I don’t think there are enough quality players in the world to support as many teams as the NBA has. One way to get the Joe Somebody’s of the world to watch a team that isn’t theirs is to have that team be impossible to miss because the talent and beauty of the game. The NFL has that. People from all over the country will watch the Lions play every single Sunday because, even though the Lions suck, the level of talent to make something happen is there. Every new season, every team feels like they have a shot at the division.

    And not only are there too many teams in the NBA, there are too many games in the regular season. The NBA doesn’t matter until April to the fans because it doesn’t matter until April to the players. The reason the Bulls were one of the most exciting teams to watch in the regular season was because Derrick Rose hasn’t learned yet that he doesn’t have to try until the Playoffs roll around.

    Ugh, the NBA just frustrates me. I’m as big of a Suns fan as there is, but I HATE the NBA. That might sound weird, but trust me, it’s possible.

  • Lloyd I. Cadle

    I enjoy listening to Colin Cowherd and Ron Wolfley, and both made some interesting remarks this morning……

    Cowherd stated that most of the NFL titles are won by small market teams. Wolfley stated that he believes that there will be a new pro league starting some day in Europe. Just think of the free agent frenzy if there is another pro basketball league.

    One last thought on the hard salary cap: The NFL owners got their way on the big and most important issue and that being a 120 million hard salary cap.

    They conceded to the players on a lot of smaller issues, knowing that the hard cap will lead to parity and all of the teams making money. That is a good thing.

    If the owners settle for a soft cap, they are only hurting the future of the NBA.

  • Steve

    Aside from him being an elitist DB, I don’t mind Cowherd all that much. Yesterday, I had to leave work for a moment while his show was on, and in the 10 minutes I listened to the program, I heard a handful of snobbish remarks that would rival LeBron James’ “You all can go back to your pathetic lives while I party on my 200-foot yacht with 20 18-year-olds to whom I’m about to start sending child support checks.”

    The one that stuck out the most was, “Talented people have options.” You might not think that’s such a bad and snobbish thing to say, but if you listen to his program enough, you would know he says these things every single day. He’s all about the high profile athletes and all about himself, thinking that his awesomeness has got him to where he is. He is better than every other broadcaster on the planet, and that’s why he’s privy to certain information, that’s why he’s allowed in certain circles. He’s the “chosen one.” I really think that’s why he’s such a LeBron fan. He’s like LeBron in that he thinks he’s better than everyone else and he deserves a bigger piece of the pie than anyone else because he’s more special/talented/charismatic/what have you.

    “Talented people have options,” but average Joes are stuck working their pathetic jobs in their middle-class home with their old toyota camry’s and nothing to do on weekends but catch up on their filthy yard and watch more glamorous people live the life they’ve always dreamed of on their basic cable.

    I’m all for capitalism, and I don’t believe everyone is cut out for success to the highest degree. But Cowherd has ground that point to a fine powder, such that I could never respect the man any more than I respect my neighbor’s annoying dog.

    He’s right sometimes, but I have a hard time getting past how annoying and foolish he is.

  • Lloyd I. Cadle


    A lot of my listening time is spent on theological shows like Issues, Etc. or programs like the White Horse Inn. I also enjoy some of the political talk shows and some of our local sports talk programs as well. (I sell insurance and I am in my car a lot.)

    I am actually surprised myself on how I can enjoy listening to Colin Cowherd. I don’t agree with him on a lot of the issues, but, it is a different type of sports talk show.

  • Steve

    Yeah, I get what you’re saying, it defintely is different. And despite the fact I think he’s an arrogant, disillusioned jerk, I actually like listening to his show. Same thing with Rome. I don’t like Rome at all, but I never really feel like turning him off. And sorry if I made it seem as if I was calling you an elitist snob. That isn’t at all what I was trying to say. Not everyone who listens to Cowherd is like Cowherd (thankfully, otherwise I’d be even more pompous and narcissistic than I already am).

    Btw, thought of another thing that totally turned me off to his show yesterday. He was fielding calls for alternatives to penalty kicks in WC games. I don’t know what his solution was (although I would guess he would say we should leave everything the same because PKs are quick, easy, and guaranteed to get a result), but one of his callers gave the idea to award the team with the most shots on target at the end of regulation/regulation+extra time with the victory, thus rewarding pressure, offense, possession, etc. I don’t think this was a good idea either, but the caller’s argument was to reward the team that was most focused on creating offensive opportunities for themselves (he didn’t get to finish his argument because Colin immediately interjected). “You waited a long time on hold for that, and that was just ridiculous. That’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard. ‘Let’s call up the Bill in accounting, have him crunch some numbers to figure out who won the game.’”

    Like I said, I don’t agree with what that caller was saying, but Colin’s immediate counter-argument is to insult the man’s intelligence, act as if this guy is a moron with no life because he has nothing better to do than wait on hold for his 10 seconds of fame just to fall on his face when he gets it, and offer a ridiculous scenario that is nowhere near true (a ridiculously fast-paced soccer game might have 20 shots on goal on each side. If he thinks it takes an advanced mathematician to count to 40, then Colin is a bigger moron than I ever imagined).

    So, I’m disgusted with his snobbish behavior, but when he’s actually talking about SPORTS, I like to hear what he has to say.

  • Lloyd I. Cadle

    Steve -

    At least Colin has a respect for soccer. I cringe when I hear some of the national folks say that most people in the U.S. don’t like soccer. The T.V. ratings for the World Cup are huge.

    Jim Rome is good at interviews, but he acts too much like a high school kid. That “clone” stuff is for kids on skateboards. I’m too old for that. And so is Jime Rome.

    Check out the Doug and Wolf show in the morning– it is good stuff. The Gambo and Ash show is another good show. Gambo always has a lot of inside stuff on the Suns.

    By the way, Cowherd says that Phoenix is a great basketball town.