Luis Scola a savvy acquisition for Suns franchise that is spending money smarter


Luis Scola will be taking his talents to Phoenix after the Suns won an amnesty auction for him. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Luis Scola will be taking his talents to Phoenix after the Suns won an amnesty auction for him. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The Phoenix Suns chose not to seriously negotiate with Steve Nash because they wanted to get younger and then aggressively pursued a handful of free agents in their early-to-mid 20s.

So how exactly does a 32-year old Luis Scola fit the rebuilding plan of a team with four power forwards already?

Suns PBO Lon Babby has said in the past that not every move this offseason will be for a player that gets the Suns to the “promised land.” Instead they will acquire players who will be “part of the process to get there,” and Scola is an ideal bridge piece who may one day turn into attractive trade bait.

That’s the way I see this Scola acquisition, and although it will be hard to really give a hard opinion on how good a move it is until we find out Scola’s price tag, presumably he was a bargain.

That’s quite difficult to find when you are a rebuilding franchise spending dollars on the free-agent market. Unless you have some sort of hometown discount or are a serious championship contender, free agents often will only sign with you if you make the best offer.

As you may know, teams must bid actual dollars under the salary cap for a player in an amnesty auction. Especially at this point in the offseason when so many signings have already taken place, not many teams have much cash to throw around, and most of those that do are not interested in a 32-year-old power forward.

But the Suns were able to parlay their cap space advantage into a player who just two years ago averaged 18 and 8 and is a career 51 percent shooter who is now a decent bet to become the Suns’ leading scorer.

Although the Suns are prohibited from trading Scola until next July 1 (and can never trade him to Houston), depending on where his salary comes in at they just acquired a very attractive future trading piece. Even as he ages a durable, productive and cheap power forward is the kind of trade chip the Suns have lacked in recent years when frankly there has not been much of interest to entice trading partners.

Or the Suns could just keep him as every young team needs a few vets to show them the way (although with Scola that way will be rather dirty), and having a starting four man who should get you at least 16-7 for cheap will allow you to utilize more resources elsewhere. If you remember the Suns’ last win in Houston, you know the Suns are getting a player who has perfected the art of flopping as well.

He’s also a bonafide starting power forward who could allow the Suns to pass on Robin Lopez and make Channing Frye the main backup at the center position, where he has thrived in the past. A frontcourt with Gortat, Scola, Frye and Markieff Morris is already crowded enough, especially since some think Beasley is best as a four as well.

I assume the Suns needed to amnesty Childress as a corresponding move to make space under their cap. Per Larry Coon’s salary FAQ, teams “must make the cap room available immediately upon being awarded the amnesty claim” and this can be done “by waiving non-guaranteed players, but not by making trades.”

In Saturday’s release, Babby said the Suns were waiting for Eric Gordon to pass his physical to restore their cap room. Assuming that has not happened yet, the Suns would only be able to bid a bit over $3 mil based on their cap predicament (if they maintained Lopez’s cap hold but none of their UFAs) before the Childress move.

However, if the Suns want to sign a quality shooting guard (and especially if they still want Lopez) along with the players they have already committed to signing, an amnesty was likely inevitable.

Babby said the Suns would not hesitate to use amnesty to better their team, and today we found out that was true as Robert Sarver swallowed hard and agreed to pay Josh Childress $21 million not to play for his team the next three seasons. That’s quite a chunk of change to just swallow for an owner who is supposedly so thrifty.

Although there was some merit in amnestying Hakim Warrick if the Suns felt they needed space this year, especially since Hak doesn’t really have a role on this team, in reality Childress was always going to be the amnesty guy, the only question was when.

The Suns could have used Chilly as a de facto “keeping powder dry” hold in that they knew they could wipe his salary from the books anytime in the next three years that they needed a bit more cap space. If they did not need the cap room this year, they could have spent another season trying to get something out of J-Chill on the court before potential swinging the amnesty hammer next summer.

I do worry that without that hold the Suns will not keep their future books clear enough, but the Phoenix Suns will be a better team with Scola rather than Childress and likely at a cheaper price to boot.

I will wait for the dust to clear on all of the Suns’ upcoming moves before delving deeper into their salary situation, but with the Suns’ second-highest paid player now on waivers the Suns will have $41 million in committed salary before factoring in Scola or Lopez but including Dragic and Beasley. No matter how much they offered for the Argentinean big man, they will have plenty of room left to sign O.J. Mayo or Courtney Lee and bring back RoLo if they so choose.

This also obviously opens up plenty of future cap space as starting next offseason Frye’s deal will be the only bad one left, and I still see him as a very useful albeit overpaid NBA player. In one fell swoop the Suns’ mistakes from the summer of 2010 have all but been eliminated save for one last season of Warrick.

The front office now must hope that none of the contracts signed this summer will become a similar albatross.

How the Suns got Scola

Due to some complicated CBA logistics, not many teams were likely eligible to bid on Scola.

Per Coon:

The minimum bid for a partial waiver claim is whichever of the following is larger:

  • The sum of the player’s minimum salary for all remaining years of his contract, except for completely non-guaranteed seasons (seasons with 0% salary protection) which are ignored for this purpose.
  • The sum of all non-guaranteed salary in partially-guaranteed seasons.

For example, if a 10+ year veteran is amnestied in 2012 with three years remaining on his contract at $10 million each season, and his salary is guaranteed 100% in 2012-13, 60% in 2013-14, and 0% in 2014-15, then the minimum bid for a partial waiver claim is $4 million — the unprotected amount in the partly-protected 2013-14 season, which is larger than the sum of the minimum salaries for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons. Since the 2014-15 season is completely unprotected, it is ignored when determining the minimum bid amount.

As Eric Pincus explains over at HoopsWorld:

His final season is for $11.0 million with just $1 million guaranteed.

Therefore a minimum amnesty claim for Scola would start at the non-guarantee portion of exactly $10,041,037.  That amount needs to be paid over three years, so the lowest claim would be $3,347,012.

Few teams have that kind of cap space which may open the door for Luis to clear waivers completely.

This CBA rule may have allowed the Suns to steal a player of Scola’s quality for a relatively cheap price without too much bidding competition. As Marc Stein reported, the Dallas Mavericks are the only other team known to have put in a bid on Scola, but with their stated goal of keeping their future books as clear as possible I imagine they did not bid much more than the minimum necessary.

Suns fans now have a reason to watch the Olympics

The Suns missed out on Eric Gordon, who did not make the US Olympic team anyway, but Scola has starred for the Argentinean squad for years and will represent his native country in the 2012 Games as well.

Per the Suns’ release:

It will mark the third Olympic appearance by Scola, who helped lead Argentina to the nation’s first men’s basketball gold medal in 2004, and also a bronze medal in 2008.  He was the MVP of both the 2009 and 2011 FIBA Americas Championships, and averaged 27.1 points at the 2010 FIBA World Championships, the most by an Argentinian in tournament history.

Reunited with The Dragon

Scola and point guard Goran Dragic spent last season with Houston, so those two presumed members of the Suns’ starting lineup are already plenty familiar with each other.

According to the NBA’s advanced stats tool, Scola shot a bit better with Dragic on the floor (50.2 percent compared to 48.0). The Rockets outscored opponents by 1.5 points per 100 possessions with Dragic and Scola together compared to their plus 0.6 overall rating.

Tags: Luis Scola

  • nick

    i see the rotation like this…

    C: Gortat , frye
    PF: Scola , Morris
    SF: Beasley, warrick
    SG: Mayo, Dudley
    PG: Dragic, Marshall , telfair.

    id rather have someone else as beasleys back up but unfortanatley ,warrick is the only person left after him…

  • http://n/a David

    The more I hear the name Zoran Dragic, the more I can’t read anything posted by people on this site, suggesting to sign someone who can barely get on the floor in summer league and has never made an NBA training camp. I even heard someone suggest we sign him and have him start next to his brother wtf.

  • Scott

    @Andy -

    Instead of thinking of Scola as NOT being a 30 ppg scorer, think of him as being a savvy veteran PF on a suddenly young team. He won’t have to play heavy minutes each night if the Suns can fill in the rest of the roster properly. He’s there to solidify the position with his maturity, so Gortat won’t feel he’s on an island with a bunch of crazy kids. ;)

    With a height of 6’10″ and weight of 235, Beasley is better suited to play PF than Warrick. He probably doesn’t have the heft, though – or enough “sand in his pockets” – to bang with some of the bigger starting PFs. Guys like Nene would just run him down.

    With the players the Suns have available in the front court right now (which means we’re not counting either Frye or Lopez), they could start C Gortat, PF Scola, and SF Dudley, and run C Morris, PF Beasley, and SF Warrick on the 2nd unit.

    IMO, the Suns at this point need to acquire one straight up scoring SG, one combo guard, and a backup wing.

    If they plan on getting rid of Warrick they’ll need another SF, and if they get a good combo guard and backup wing, Telfair becomes surplus.

    Redd might be able to play as backup wing. Mayo would be an example of the combo guard, as would be Courtney Lee and Zoran Dragic. Take Redd and any two of those guards and the team is basically set.

    If they can’t sign Lopez to a decent contract, they may need to pull in a bargain C, like Siler, for at least the first half of the year. If they do get Lopez, they can count on Morris as the 3rd C till Frye returns.

  • Scott

    @David -

    I’m the ONLY ONE mentioning Zoran. Just FYI.

  • Scott

    The Kings just signed Aaron Brooks.

    ESPN has an article on top FAs still available:

    http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/47864/free-agent-bargain-bin-whats-left

  • Tony

    @Andy,

    you make some great points, although I do think you are underestimating the importance a savy veteran such as Scola can provide for a young team like the Suns. Young teams need veteran leadership otherwise they are a talented but directionless team, ala the Kings.
    WIth that being said, I do agree that the Suns FO strategy at this point seems to be to maintain some competitiveness while slowly trying to become an elite team once again. However, they are getting very close to using up all their cap space on average players, which is obviously not a recipe for success. Furthermore, the FO is taking a very big risk by bringing in guys like Beasley, Dragic, and possibly Mayo; players who haven’t established themselves as legitimate starters. Dragic is close, but I believe he only started 17 games with the Rockets and when he did, the team had already developed good chemistry, something that probably won’t be there for the start of the Suns season. So, only time will tell if the FO moves will work. Personally, I don’t think the Suns win more than 35 games tops.

    @Mel,

    I couldn’t disagree more. Firstly, the Suns FO has gutted the roster over the past two years. In fact, I would go so far as to say ever since the JJ fiasco, the FO has slowly depleted the talent on the Suns roster. So, while the Rockets in particular, have gutted their roster over one summer, the Suns have argubably been doing the very same thing, just over a longer period of time.

    Secondly, we should not praise the FO for not repeating the horrible mistakes Sarver made in the aftermath of Amare leaving. I hate it when fans do that because by doing so, they set their expectations so low that so long as the FO doesn’t repeat such disasterous moves as in 2010, they deserve praise. We, as Suns fans, should maintain an expectation of playoff competitiveness and not be lulled into accepting a borderline 8th-9th seeded team at best.

  • http://twitter.com/auggie5000 Auggie5000

    Let Lopez loose and bring back Redd as a back up or starter if they can’t get Mayo. Warrick does not need to see the floor. At all. But Redd must come back because we just lost our best shooter and he should be solid next season.

  • http://none.com Russell

    BTW you guy’s everyone in the league knows Beasley is not 6″10, it was a huge issue before he was drafted and even he admitted he was no where near close that. I would say Beasley is at best 6″8.

    Look at Beasley in games against Shawn Marion (Marion listed at 6″7) Marion looks taller then him.

  • steve

    Fyi, draftexpress had Beasley at 6’7″ without shoes. That’s not PF height unless you know how to use your body like Sir Charles or Rodman. He was longer than 7′ with his wingspan, so that helps out a bit, but it would be a stretch to say that Beasley is suddenly going to learn to be a hustling beast and dominate the glass like a 4 should.

    In college, his height wasn’t that much of an issue and he was so athletic the boards came naturally. These are the big leagues. Nothing comes easy, except two extra steps.

  • Scott

    On Beasley’s height … I know Draft Express uses the measurements from the draft combine, so assuming Beasley has not grown substantially since then, I’ll take that as the actual figure. So … 6′ 8″ in shoes.

    FWIW, I just finished watching another Rockets summer league game. Zoran Dragic was excellent again. The broadcasters loved him, and you can see his teammates like him and so do the coaches. He needs to be able to score more and more reliably, that’s all.

    I will be shocked – shocked!!! – if the Rockets don’t try to find a way to add him to their roster. If they can ditch Toney Douglas, I bet they pen ZD in as a combo guard.

    Likewise, I believe the Rockets will not want to part with Marcus Morris, but if they have to pick between the two, Dragic is the more impactful and promising player.

  • Greg

    Just because I have read people take a previous post out of context, the person who claimed Scola will score 30 a night? It has been taken out of context.Obviously he cant score 30 a night, no one in the league averaged 30 last year. What the poster meant is that hes capable, even if its 2% chance. Just how Goran and Beasley are capable of 30 on any given night. This is nice to have, but the Suns will need someone to emerge as the primary guy. A Mayo signing excites me, and gives them another go-to guy, but what happens when Goran Mayo and Beasley are all “feeling” it? Could cause problems sharing and moving the ball. Goran’s our best player and will be for the next 4 years as he gets better yet. I have been watching tons of video on him, he is legit, real deal, big time scorer. He was slightly inconsistent, following 25 point games with 10/12 point efforts, but is still developing considering his euro background. We all know this isnt a title team, and we all should know its most likely not a 4 or 5 seed, as Ive heard some people mentioning. We, as Suns fans, need to be happy with a 6-8 seed and hopefully an entertaining playoff series. I see the Lakers sweeping suns out in first round, talk about worse possible scenario lol. Suns could have tanked, got a top 6 or 7 pick in a significantly weaker draft, and sucked the next year too after they likely strike out on all of the MAX free agents wed be saving for. People need to stop complaining, realize this team loads of potential, whether its to succeed or fail. If Goran takes next step, and becomes a fringe top-tier PG in next couple years, Suns will always be battling for some type of relevance, even if its for a 7 or 8 seed.

  • Tony

    @Greg,

    no disrespect intended, but the current Suns FO loves fans like yourself. To be relevant, a team needs to be better than a 7th or 8th seed team that gets swept in the 1st round. I also disagree with you in that Suns fans should not be happy with a 6th-8th seeded team. As Suns fans, we should not be satisfied until the FO puts together a team that has a realistic chance to win a championship.

  • Midas

    @Steve, Sounds like you have mental issues.
    The kind where you think you know reality and others do not.

    So Scola is not any better then other PF’s(im just going to guess you have half the brain to mean starters)
    And you gripe about his pay(which you should be thrilled at) as you not only get him at a bargain basement price, but even with all houston paid him last year. hes a bargain compared to others.

    Lets set you to rights shall we.

    Scola is over priced except in the NBA which is what we are talking about. His average scoring for the last 3 years puts him around 26th in the league. His rebounding average will put him almost exactly the same(24th thru 26)

    His Hussle and Hard Nose no doubt puts him in top 15. But Lets just say for you 26th.

    Now that looks like the 26th best player in the league, which you keep pretending hes “Not that Great” and along with your other comments. Obviously your just not manning up comming to your point. But I will. Hes not over rated except by you and other nimwits.

    This guy is right around where his numbers show him to be, the 26th best player.
    Now is he in the top 50 highest paid players in the NBA. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

    Probably go around 65. Just eat your corn chips and swig it down with some Grape Aide and let the thinking part slide on by.

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    Actually, I would be freakin excited if the Suns landed a playoff seed this year for a couple of reasons.

    First, real quick, this draft coming up isn’t that hot anyway.

    Secondly, If the Suns crack the playoffs, that means all of these free agent signings actually WORK together. It also means that getting into the playoffs, even if they get swept or go down 4-1, shows that the team is in fact heading in the right direction.

    From there, you know exactly what you need, who you could do without, plus studs around the league who are nearing free agency and want to chase rings can look at PHX as a franchise on the way up when most Western Conference power teams are on the way down.

    Being a 6-9 seed the last 2 years was a bad thing, because there was no chance of growth.

    Being a 6-9 seed this coming season is a good thing because the team is on the way up.

  • steve

    Should I bother? Nah.

    Good one, Midas. With spell check at your side, and you could be a real force on the internet.

  • Greg

    @ Tony, i meant 6-8 seed in the immediate future, as in 1-2 years. the suns are rebuilding a different way and i like it. we wont see goran or beasley’s potential till years 2-3/4 in my opinion, when they are in their true primes. when teams rebuild the old fashion way, chances of being successful are slim. the suns front office has given us title contending teams, i think they should have won a title or two in last 6-7 years, suspensions/tim donaghy and richardson box out on artest. we have been in contention and relevance for better part of last 8 seasons, and the number of teams that have won a title are few, the elite have been at the top and other teams hope to swoop in and shock people some years. so hoping for a title contender year in and year out is irrational. the front office has given us title contenders. basketball success is a cycle, suns were good for 5 years, couple down years, and now hopefully working their way back, which requires a 6-8 seeded season. i didnt mean the rest of their future….that would be sad, but we have to be pleased with the process and potential progress made so quickly, not many teams that lose their star and face can actually get better and suns have chance to do that.

  • Greg

    its not like the path or options to build contenders are available every year. it takes alot of luck and careful planning. looking at next years Free Agents, outside of the max guys, no one jumps off page at me as a guy that can make the Suns contenders. That is why Mayo, in my opinion, is the best free agent they can sign this year or next at his price tag. Harden is RFA, potential to match, just like Hornets did with Gordon. Chris Paul and Howard are big market fish, PHX, a nice place to play/be, is not on their short lists. Josh Smith would be a nice pick up, but Atlanta has been a team that gets to the 2nd roundin the EAST with him jj and horford, so is he the best option for a max deal? My point is, the Suns have to choke down some water before they can swim, which is why a 6-8 seed will be satisfying for a year or so, playoff bball is exciting to watch, even for one or two rounds. If one of Beasley/Mayo fulfills their true potential, couple that with Goran’s all-star ability, Gortat, and some other small pieces, I believe that is a contender, and thats what the front office is looking at.

  • Tony

    @Gregg,

    I appreciate your well-thought out response and I agree that rebuilding by tanking has often been a lengthy process for many teams. I do disagree with you on a few points. Firstly, this current Suns FO, including owner Robert Sarver, had nothing to do with the Suns success since 2004, when he became the franchise’s principal owner. Amare, Nash, JJ, and Marion were all the result of Jerry and Brian Colangelo in drafting and signing these players. Sarver inherited a team with a ton of talent and potential and from there, it was a steady decline in terms of talent. With this being the case, the only the current FO has not proven itself worthy of putting together a contending team.

    In terms of what the Suns FO has done so far this off-season, I know I’m in the minority, but I just don’t see the additions of Dragic, Beasley, and four most likely very late draft picks, a “home run” when the consequences of these additions has been the loss of the franchise’s best player in Nash and the franchise’s best perimeter defender in Hill. Furthermore, since many Suns fans have gotten caught up in the hype of Beasley and Mayo, they have either ignored or forgotten to look at both players’ career production, which is far from very appealing. Beasley, in particular, was not even in the Timberwolves rotation last season and he was one of the least efficient players’ in the league. Mayo had a very nice first two seasons, although he still wasn’t an efficient scorer, but the last two seasons he’s basically been relegated to a role player and has played as such.

    I do really like the Scola pickup but that’s only if the FO still intends on keeping Lopez. If not, then it’s a bad move as it would make very little sense for a rebuilding team to bring in a 32 year old pf at the expense of giving up on a young and athletic 7 footer.

    @Rich,

    if the Suns make the playoffs next season, then that will be a remarkable accomplishment considering the roster at this point. I don’t see it happening even with Mayo. Maybe if the Suns were in the eastern conference, but the west is still a much better conference overall. I definitely think the Suns should surpass the Rockets but what other team that finished with a better record than last season’s Suns team will they finish ahead of this coming season? The teams that finished below the Suns last season are all likely to be better this coming season as well.

  • Tony

    Well Suns fans, forget about Mayo as it’s being reported he’s agreed to terms with the Mavs! Cuban is really making up for his disasterous start to the off-season.

  • Greg

    @ Tony, I will accept your point about the front office, but lets switch gears

    To say that O.J. Mayo “had a very nice first two seasons, although he still wasnt an efficient scorer”

    His first two years he averaged 45%/38%/84% FG/3PT/FT….Kobe Bryant has never had any two year span where he has accomplished that line and he has only one single season where he has reach all three of those. So to say Mayo wasnt efficient, unless you are saying Kobe is also inefficient, is not correct. Those are very efficient numbers from a scoring two guard, not many can match.

    Now lets keep in mind, you mentioned he was relegated to a bench role and he played as such. True, but his points per 40 minutes actually increased despite his 40.7% FG, but his 36% from 3pt and his 77% from the free throw line are still very respectable percentages. His decline in field goal% resulted from a couple of things. As the 6th man coming off the bench, He was literally one of the only scoring options, which seems like it would be in his favor, being a scorer, but when you have to create on your own with little help, its natural your percentages will decline. Not only that, but they had him controlling the ball alot of the bench, almost in a point guard type role, and thats not his game at all. He struggled because he was in a spot that wasnt going to allow him to succeed. He is a nice player, and the Mavs will get alot of production from him, and he may take the next step in his career.

    Beasley was hurt off and on last year and it really affected his stats/rotation consistency. He did score 19 ppg on 32 mintues the year before. Look at his game longs he never put together a full healthy month last year with consistent playing time to get a sample, but in 32-35 minsa game, he will probably be a 16-18 and 7 guy, which is good production from the 3, unless his defense keeps him off the floor for longer periods.

    Robin Lopez. has lost his athleticism we saw from a couple years ago after his foot injury. I like Lopez, but his ceiling is not high. He does some nice things, but with the types of contracts 7 footers are getting, we wont get him for less then 4 million, and if we do….it shows that the other 29 teams didnt value him at 4 mil a year, which says alot about him.

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