A breakdown of the Phoenix Suns' cap situation


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.

And 1

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.

Per Coon’s FAQ,

“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).”

  • nolakid21

    He is staying with New Orleans. He had the choice to take the 5 mill and become UFA next off season, he didn’t. You guys need to start looking else where and pick up guys with character. Beasley? He is a thug and not a very good all around player. OJ Mayo is somebody who you guys should get or stick with Brown through the year.

  • GoSuns

    Actually, he can still take his qualifying offer and become an ufa next season

  • Tony

    @Michael,

    Seems as if the Suns FO is ont only moving on from the Nash-era, they are moving on with regards to bringing in knuckleheads instead of only high-quality team-oriented players. We all know about Beasley but judging by Gordon’s comments, he seems to be getting close to knucklehead status.

    In my opinion, the Suns are better off without Gordon. Even with him, they are at best a 7th or 8th seed in the west, and they desperately need better bigs, especially if they let Lopez go. I would prefer them to go after Mayo and retain Lopez or go after another big. I’m not convinced Gordon is worthy of a max contract. I mean a career 45% shooter, who is undersized, doesn’t play much defense, and gets hurt all the time should not command such a large salary. And if, judging by the way he’s behaving towards the Hornets, if he gets upset with the Suns for whatever reason, he’s obviously prone to pouting.

  • jeremie614

    Lol thug huh do u even know the meaning of thug Beasley is a nice pick who else where they gonna get these pieces will work for the Suns watch

  • jeremie614

    u guy’s are funny how can u say the guy ispouting cause he dosent wanna be in NOLA he didnt wanna go there in the first place now on the price range i agree with u but everybody knows what Gordon can do when healthy and the Suns training staff can keep him healthy add him with Dragic and Beasley and we will be nice specially for the future dont forget we are in rebuilding stage so stop with the we are only gonna be good enough for tha 7th or 8th seed which is damn ood for a rebuilding team

  • Desert dog

    What are the chances of Phoenix sending Warrick to NO plus a couple first round picks for Gordon? Warrick comes off the books at the end of next year (team option) so that might be inticing for NO. We could then use Warrick’s 4 million on Lopez and still have enough left over to sign Redd. Obviously we’d be giving up on Brown, Hill, and Brooks, but we’d have a pretty good front line, Gortat, Lopez, Frye and Morris, a good point situation, Dragic, Telfair, and the rookie, and Gordon/Redd at the 2, and Beasley/Dudley at the 3. That would be a competitive team that might surprise some people.

  • joey

    Im so excited about what the suns are doing!!! I would amnesty childress, trade lopez, warrick and future picks for gordon. and resign redd, and go after anthony randolph.!! he is a beast when given the opportunity, we dont need lopez, he is slow, cant shoot, cant rebound good, we need athleticism!!! bring in randoplh

  • Ty-Sun

    Even without Gordon I think we will have a slightly better team next season. Yes, Steve will be gone but Dragic is back and we also have Marshall who I think will quickly develop into a quality backup this season. And, depending on how quickly Marshall adapts to the NBA game, I can see he and Dragic playing together at times with Dragic moving over to the 2.

    Dudley will never be a star but he’s a solid and versatile player who can play at the 2 or the 3 spot.

    Beasley is really an unknown but even if he doesn’t get his head straight he will have some nights where he will play like a star. Hopefully he will have more of those nights than nights where he plays like a D-leaguer.

    Frye will hopefully regain his shooting touch but even if that doesn’t happen his defense and rebounding have kept improving over the years. Morris was a solid player last year and I think he will be even better this year after getting some experience under his belt and getting to go through a full training camp this year.

    And with Gortat and Lopez at the 5, I like our chances as is especially if we can get Redd back. I think Redd spent most of last season learning what he can and cannot do anymore and will be better this season too. I wouldn’t mind seeing him start next season if getting Gordon is a no go.

    And if there is no need to use the amnesty this season, I still haven’t completely given up on Childress. Give him some minutes at the 3 off the bench and see what happens. Playing Childress at the 2 is just a mistake. He doesn’t have much of an outside shot but I’ve seen him make a few fairly impressive moves to the basket during the rare times he was on the court.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m NOT saying that the Suns should stand pat with the team they have now but if Gordon stays in NO, the Suns might be better off sticking with what they have this season and saving their cap space for next year.

  • bk

    I think there is an assumption that Robin Lopez price tag is $4M and he is happy to stay in Suns or Hornets per year. That may not be true.

  • JZ

    No matter what the suns do. They will still be given a C+ to B- for NBA off season. Several NBA Analysts are making fun of the Suns for not improving their front court and they should. Eric Gordon will be matched by New Orleans and they will most likely reject any sign and trade. Sarver wants to replace Nash with a big name player that is a RESTRICTED free agent. Why didn’t Phoenix just go and offer 7-8 million to O.J Mayo? I guess Sarver just wants to get another face for the franchise so he can sell tickets and stay as a middle rank team in the league. It just seems that they are also bringing Dragic back at 8 million per season just to appease the fan base. I believe Dragic and Lin are two players that are going to be overpaid just for marketing purposes. I just don’t know, but I am uneasy with the suns starting back court, front court, and bench. This roster still seems to have problems with defense…and offense.
    Why couldn’t Nash just wait one or two more weeks before choosing a team? Can Phoenix renege deals made with Dragic and Gordon and the Lakers? Could Nash change his mind before July 11?

  • Carlo

    I say we just trade Warrick, Lopez, and 2013,2015 1st round and 2013,2014 2nd round draft picks we recieved from lakers. We dont really need them. Suns still have a 1st round draft pick. Besides we’re not in desperate need of any rookies and dont forget we signed some pretty talented young guys for multi-year contracts. Next year we NEED to draft a Center. But if my plan is used (most likely not) we can amnesty Childress and Pick up Brown or redd perferably brown for 2-3 years and a cheap 1 year Center, until the 2013 Draft we can get a New Center.

  • Tony

    @JZ,

    The Suns FO didn’t want Nash back. Whether it was Sarver, Babby, or Blanks, besides not offering him an extension, they didn’t even have the decency to request a meeting with Nash to work on a deal.

    As far as the other moves made, only time will tell if they work. Dragic has great size, athleticism, and skill to become a great player, but does he have the mental toughness needed to become that kind of player? Again, only time will tell. I do think the FO overpaid him, probably due to appeasing fans about the Nash fiasco, but they didn’t overpay him all that much.

    Beasley is the wildcard. He could either really help the team or become another Childress. The fact that the team doesn’t have any veteran leadership at this point should make Suns fans cautious as to whether Beasley will stay in line or become too undisciplined. Especially considering Gentry’s low-key demeanor and the fact that he gives his players a lot of freedom, should give even more pause about how effective Beasley will be.

    All of this is predicated on NO matching the offer to Gordon, which is the most probable outcome. I don’t think he’s worthy of a max-contract anyway, but he certainly has tremendous offensive ability. So, a starting lineup of Dragic, Dudley, Morris, Gortat, and whomever they start at sf, with Marshall, Lopez, and eventually Frye as key reserves, is most likely another Suns lottery team. I know people are so excited to have Dragic back, I am as well, but it is not as if he took the Rockets to the playoffs and he had much more talent to work with than Nash had with the Suns.

  • joey

    we don’t need a center at all. gortat is a top 5 center in the nba. we need a scoring sg which is what gordon is and a power forward who can play in the post. we need to do what it takes to get gordon and then get childress and warrick off the books. we should have signed david west last year . suns are on the right track. gordon and beasley gives us 2 young 20ppg scorers and dragic is about 17ppg so our offense would be much better. plus nash was such a liability on defense it made the rest of the defense break down because the other pg had such an easy time getting to the rim that hill or dudley had to collapse to the lane and leave their man wide open.

  • joey

    freedom is exactly what beasley needs on the court. too many coaches get in the way of their players succeeding. you don’t contain a beast, u unleash it at your discretion. beasley is an offensive beast and gentry needs to just let him have freedom to ball. which i think gentry will do.

  • joey

    What about amnesty childress and sign antwan jamison? i think that would be a very nice pick up and he fits well with our versatile roster. just a though

  • JZ

    I don’t really believe Gortat is a top 5 center. Top 20 most likely. I just can’t forget how easily Dwight and Bynum handle Gortat. Even Brendan Haywood and Mahimi had good games against him. Pekovic scored 22 points and 9 rebounds(5 off.) in ONE half!!! Gortat makes opposing team centers look better. Do the Suns still have room to sign a pf like Ilyasova? I am really worried by how much Frye will regress.

  • Carlo

    @joey idk if the center part was for me, but Yes we do. WE may end up trading Lopez and possibly warrick for Eric Gordon. So who the heck is gonna play Back up center? Frye? Hahaha thats a funny one. Frye is an okay rebounder but I dont trust him with guarding the paint because he always gets himself into foul trouble. I say we give up Lopez although he showed signs of a good center at the end of the season, but thats too little to convince us he’ll be a reliable center in the future. Sign a backup SG like i said b4 Brown or Redd perferably Brown for 2-3 years. Amnesty Childress for cap space and sign a one year center, like Mahimi or Aaron Gray idk. then during the summer of this up coming season we can draft a YOUNG center. This plan only works if the NOH agree to a Eric Gordon for Lopez and Warrick and the 4 draft picks we got from lakers.

  • joey

    if you look at just stats then gortat is a top 5 center. as far as us needing a backup center is lopez is traded for gordon, then i would rather thhey amnesty childress and sign ilysova or Jamison. gray or mahimi would just be a waste or cap room. at least ilysova or jamison can score and rebound very well. play small ball and then try to draft a center if we need to. that’s what i would try for. i really like ilyasova. he boards and blocks shots very well and he can stroke 3′s.

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

    I originally made a mistake in that I thought Lopez’s $4,001,917 qualifying offer was his cap hold. That’s wrong, he has a $7,156,505 cap hold. I have adjusted the article to reflect this accurate information.

  • Scott

    @Desert dog -

    I think the chances are good.

    This salary cap stuff outlined by Michael suggests to me this is evidence of Babby’s hand at work. The numbers come out right for all the situations the Suns are involved in. Nothing here looks like it was “seat of the pants” GMing.

  • Scott

    @Michael -

    Thanks for attempting to explain this. I might have got lost somewhere around “renounce a potential renouncement … needed to renounce … rescind renounce” … but otherwise you made a mysterious situation relatively clear.

    A few more in-depth articles like this, and I might catch on. :)

    Oh, one other question. I’m glad you noted Robin’s Bird status. As for the type, I’m guessing he’s a Big Bird? :D

  • Mel.

    There’s no way in hell that you can find 14 LEGITIMATE (i.e. this is the first and only position that they play) Centers better than Gortat in today’s NBA.

    He may not be Top 5, but he’s the kind of player who would put an OKC, CHI or MIA into legitimate position for a dynasty run, based on his athleticism and improved post game alone.

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

    Definitely a big bird!

    Haha yeah, that renouncement sentence was inherently confusion, but glad you felt the rest was clear.

  • Majestic One

    @nolakid21:

    He can still take his qualifying offer to put the pressure on the Hornets to deal him, else he walks for nothing at end of season.

  • Carlo

    @joey umm ok like i said idk who would be a great center. I didnt really want gray or mahimi but w/e. oh Btw your dumb cuz jamieson and ilyasova or w/e are FORWARDS not CENTERS ./facepalm

  • joey

    @carlo
    i guess u missed the part where i said play small ball with ilysova or jamison. of course i know they’re FORWARDS. my point was i would rather the suns go get a athletic pf who can score and rebound, than see then waste cap space on some slow big dufuss like aaron gray or mahimi. But carlo next time read the whole context of what someone says first, then reply.

  • Artur Mascarenhas

    What about shipping Frye to NO (I really dont like his contract) and try to sign Rashard Lewis for a cheap price? I gotta say I like him a lot, specially on a team needing some veteran leadership.

  • joey

    rashard lewis would be better than fry. but jamison would fit the suns perfect. plus he rebounds better and has a post game. So i would find a way to get rid of childress and warrick. Maybe get hornets to take frye and lopez. That’s about 17-18mil with those 4 gone. Sign jamison for 5-6mil 3 yrs, sign ilyasova for 6-7mil for 4yrs and still have about 7mil left to get oj mayo. That’s what i would try. suns starting five of dragic, gordon, beasley, jamison, gortat would be a playoff team for sure. with a awesome bench of marshall, mayo, dudley ilyasova, morris, and telfair. that’s a pretty sweet young squad who could do some damage now and only get better in the following years.

  • Ty-Sun

    Screw it. Get Gordon to sign the offer sheet and if NO matches, fill out the roster with the best players we can get on cheap one year contracts and make a run at signing Monta Ellis next year. I’d rather have him than Gordon anyway (although neither is perfect) but Ellis will be an unrestricted FA next season and at least he doesn’t have the injury history that Gordon does. He’ll want a max contract too and I’d rather take a chance on him than Gordon. Besides, the Suns could get lucky in the draft next year and get a quality SG there. If NO is intent on hanging on to Gordon, let them keep him, we re-sign Redd and see what he can do as a starter.

  • Judson Covert

    @NolaKid21 He would be taking a HUGE risk by opting to take his QO because he would get paid poorly compared to his max contract AND he is risking getting injured next season and watching his value dimish to nothing.