Vince Carter was never going to play this season for the Phoenix Suns at an $18.3 cap number, the only question was whether the Suns would find a suitable trade partner before waiving his largely non-guaranteed contract.
A Carter trade does not appear to be in the cards, however, as ESPN’s Marc Stein and Chris Broussard reported Sunday that the Suns will indeed waive Carter within the first 72 hours of free agency before his 2011-12 salary becomes fully guaranteed. Carter’s contract calls for $4 million of guaranteed money, but the Suns can forego paying the remaining $14.3 million by releasing him.
By ValleyoftheSuns’ salary numbers, the Suns will be on the hook for about $53.5 million in salaries after waiving Vince, but that number is over $64 million when you add the cap holds on Grant Hill and Aaron Brooks into the equation. When you consider both players will likely play for something closer to the $3 million-plus range (if Brooks plays at all), that puts Phoenix at $60 million (without including Markieff Morris’ deal).
Although we don’t know exactly what the new luxury tax will be, if it’s close to the $70.3 million from last season then most any deal involving taking back salary for Carter would have pushed the Suns into the tax unless the deal involved taking on pretty lengthy contracts for less dollars, which the Suns don’t want to do since their long-term plan is predicated on 2012 cap space.
Therefore, deciding to waive Carter was not exactly the most difficult post-lockout decision this front office will make.
Carter averaged a career-low 13.5 points per game as a Sun to go along with 3.6 boards and 1.6 assists per game while shooting 42.2 percent from the field. He exploded for big scoring games at times but too often was plagued by inconsistency and inaccurate shooting with Phoenix. Vinsanity never did become the go-to scorer the Suns had hoped they were acquiring and he was replaced by Jared Dudley in the starting lineup late in the year, making this move a foregone conclusion more or less.
The ESPN report included a couple more juicy tidbits on the Suns’ thinking:
The Suns’ plan, sources said, is to bring back Hill if possible and make a playoff run this season, then proceed to the summer of 2012 armed with salary-cap space to make major upgrades to the roster.
Sources said the Suns have yet to receive any indication from star guard Steve Nash that he wants to be dealt to a contender, which is why management clings to the hope that the two-time MVP — who is also headed for free agency in July 2012 — will retire a Sun.
This is essentially the plan the Suns spoke of in the aftermath of 2010-11. We know 2012 is the year the Suns plan on making wholesale upgrades and we know they do not want to start rebuilding now without Nash to plan for that future.
So long as they don’t trade him, Nash should make the Suns good enough to contend for a playoff spot throughout the season. The downside is that would prevent the team from earning a top-10 draft pick that could be a major piece of their rebuilding project, but so long as the Suns do commit to keeping him and bringing back Hill they owe it to those vets to try to stir up the magic one more time.
Toward their goal of trying to win one more year (at least) with Nash, The Arizona Republic reported that the team is interested in adding a wing and a backup point guard to the roster. It will be interesting to see if the Suns offer anything more than a one-year deal as they pursue free agents in the hopes of preserving their voluminous amount of 2012 cap space.