Aaron Brooks' restricted rights best preserved for summer

Wilson Chandler has spent the past several days frantically seeking clearance from FIBA to return to the NBA all the while flirting with teams everywhere from Toronto to Italy to create leverage for his negotiations with the Denver Nuggets, the NBA team that owns his restricted rights.

Chandler was finally granted clearance yesterday, which leaves just one NBA player still in China: the Suns’ Aaron Brooks, a player who seems in no hurry to leave.

While Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith have been back for a while and Chandler is now on his way, no such plans have been made by Brooks, at least in the public sphere, as he navigates Chinese powerhouse Guangdong through the CBA playoffs.

With Guangdong awaiting its semifinal matchup after blazing through the CBA regular season with a league-leading 27-5 record and then sweeping Fujian in the quarterfinals, it’s safe to say Brooks will still be abroad when Thursday’s deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets from other teams hits. That means if he returns to the NBA this season, it can only be with the Suns.

In looking at Phoenix’s future options with Brooks, it’s unfortunate that a sign-and-trade is out of the question. As Larry Coon wrote, sign-and-trades are not allowed once the season begins, and a source informed me today that Brooks will not be eligible for a sign-and-trade next summer either due to a new rule in the collective bargaining agreement aiming to prevent a situation from a few years ago when a retired Keith Van Horn was traded for cap purposes to make the Jason Kidd-to-Dallas trade work.

This puts the Suns between a rock and a hard place because their only options with Brooks are as follows: sign him for whatever is left of the season (the CBA playoffs could extend until March 30), which would make him an unrestricted free agent next summer; sign him to a long-term deal; extend the qualifying offer again next summer and try to get Brooks to agree to a one-year deal; or just let him walk.

I don’t see much point in signing him for the rest of the season with the team likely headed for the lottery anyway, especially considering an adjustment period would likely be necessary and there would be barely a month left in the season.

The Suns also shouldn’t sign him to a long-term deal before other aspects of their summer come into focus, and I’m not sure if the Suns should want Brooks a part of their future anyway.  Now is not the time to eat into this summer’s healthy amount of cap space for a player who did not prove himself to be part of the solution last season.

That’s why the Suns should punt the decision until next summer and then either let him go if they need the cap space or sign him to the one-year qualifying offer if they have the room and Brooks doesn’t field any favorable offers. If they have the cap space available after doing the bulk of their summer business, it would not hurt to bring AB back for one year at the qualifying offer (last year’s QO was just under $3 million); from there the Suns would get one more look at him before making a long-term decision or they could potentially trade him before  next season’s trade deadline.

If they do let him walk it would be regrettable from the standpoint of not getting much return on the Dragon trade, but you can’t cry over spilled milk. It would be better to cut their losses now than compound the issue by inking Brooks to a bad long-term deal.

As I have written previously, before last summer the best potential resolution for the Brooks situation seemed to be a sign-and-trade whereby the Suns recoup some assets from the failed Dragic trade. However, the lockout hit before the Suns could execute such a maneuver and Brooks was already locked away in China for the start of this season by the time they learned of the new CBA details that will bar a sign-and-trade from Brooks next season.

The Suns deserve blame for making the Brooks trade in the first place, yet bad luck on situations out of their control have prevented them from getting some kind of return on Brooks with a sign-and-trade now out of the question. At this point the Suns would be best served to forget about Brooks or to give him one last chance on a one-year deal.

CBA writer lauds Brooks’ play in China

I traded emails with Jon Pastuszek from the Chinese basketball blog NiuBBall.com about Brooks’ performance in China and he had this to say:

He’s played very well — unlike Wilson and J.R., he has very talented Chinese teammates, four of which play prominent roles on the Chinese National Team. So there’s not a ton of pressure for him to go out and score 30+ points a night. Instead, he’s picking his spots and getting into the lane at will, where he can either finish over the trees or dish off to open teammates. Since no foreigners play ‘D’ out here and no Chinese have necessary athleticism, nobody stands a chance of staying in front of him here.

Pastuszek said Brooks is indeed committed to finishing the season with Guangdong and that since they are expected to win the championship, he likely will not return to the States until late March.

Tags: Aaron Brooks

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