If the Phoenix Suns and New Orleans Hornets work out a sign-and-trade for Eric Gordon, then in one fell swoop the Suns will have spent their cavernous amount of cap room to acquire Gordon, Goran Dragic and Michael Beasley.
The following analysis of the Suns’ cap is unofficial without knowing the exact starting salaries of the acquisitions quite yet, but here are the scenarios the Suns are currently faced with. Gordon’s deal should start at about $13.7 mil, Dragic’s should begin at about $7 million and Beasley’s $5.74 mil.
First off, a team’s cap is charged the “equal to the rookie minimum salary for each player fewer than 12,” per Larry Coon’s salary FAQ. If the Suns renounce all their unrestricted and restricted free agents to free up all their cap space to sign the three free agents, they would be left with 11 players (Kendall Marshall included) plus the minimum cap charge for an overall bill at about $60 million if they start Dragic and Beasley as low as possible.
That means the Suns would need to amnesty a player or send one back that makes at least $2 million in a Gordon deal to stay legal with the cap.
If Robin Lopez is not involved in a Gordon deal, the Suns will need to resolve his situation before moving forward with all their transactions. He currently possesses a $7,156,505 cap hold and has been extended a $4,001,917 qualifying offer that makes him a restricted free agent.
Any new contract would presumably be lower than his cap hold and could then be fit under the cap by amnestying Childress or potentially Warrick depending on whom the Suns give up in a Gordon trade. But short of that, the Suns would need to renounce their rights to him to make room for their other acquisitions.
Per Coon, the Suns could later renounce a potential renouncement on Lopez in the event that they needed to renounce his rights to create the cap room to sign Gordon but the Hornets match. Teams cannot rescind a renouncement if doing so takes them over the cap, but eliminate Gordon’s fat deal from the equation and the Suns would have plenty of cap space once again and could certainly fit Lopez’s cap hold.
However, if a Gordon trade goes down and the Suns do not send back enough salary to allow them to preserve Lopez’s rights, they would obviously need to amnesty Childress or Warrick to create the cap room to keep him. If the Suns renounce Lopez, they could still sign him if cap space is created later (through amnesty or trade) or by using an exception, they just would not own his Bird Rights anymore.
The Suns could also ask Dragic and Beasley to wait to sign until after there is a resolution on the Gordon situation so that they don’t need to renounce Lopez, but since they could always renounce the renouncement on Robin presumably the Suns would not want to take the chance of Dragic or Beasley feeling disrespected (since that seems to be such a hot topic these days) and reneging on what is only a verbal agreement at this point.
If the Suns use up all their cap space, they will still have one more cap exception to utilize to fill out their bench. Although teams are not allowed to have cap room and exceptions at the same time, once the Suns get within $2.5 million of the cap they will have access to the room mid-level exception, which allows them to start a deal at $2.575 million.
That sounds like a great tool to sign a vet like Michael Redd or to bolster whatever depth is lost if the Suns lose players in a Gordon deal.
In summary, assuming these free agent salary figures are right, the Suns should be about $2 million over the salary cap even if they renounce all their free agents if they were to outright sign Gordon, so they will need to either send salary back to New Orleans or make an amnesty move.
If Gordon is matched, they will have plenty of flexibility to re-sign Lopez and offer a free-agent shooting guard a deal that starts at up to around $7 million (if Lopez signs for around his QO). At that point I would recommend a one-year deal for a scoring wing to save some powder for next year when Warrick’s $4 mil contract is coming off the books. Combined with a potential Childress amnesty, the Suns could then be players for a big fish next season in this case.
If the Suns acquire Gordon in a sign-and-trade and send back less than Lopez’s $7.16 million cap hold to the Hornets (plus the $2 mil they are already over), they will need to amnesty Childress ($6.5 million) or Warrick ($4 million) to create cap space for Lopez, who the Suns have said is a priority, or any other non-cap exception signings.
If Lopez is part of a Gordon trade or if the Suns don’t care about bringing him back, then they probably don’t need to amnesty anybody and can use the room mid-level to add depth so long as they send the $2 mil in additional player salary over in a Gordon deal.
Because the Suns will be under the cap before making their signings, they will not get a trade exception out of the Nash deal, which I believe to be the case regardless of how the Suns time their signings and trades on July 11.
“A team’s exceptions may be lost entirely, or the team may never receive them to begin with. This happens when their team salary is so low that when the exceptions are added to the team salary, the sum is still below the salary cap. If this happens when the exceptions arise, then the team doesn’t get their exceptions at all. If the team salary ever drops below this level during the year, then any unused portions of their exceptions are lost (and do not return if the team salary increases).”