Phoenix Suns trade Marcin Gortat to complete offseason of asset acquisition

The Suns traded Marcin Gortat and expirings for Emeka Okafor and another protected first-round pick. (AP Photo)

The Suns traded Marcin Gortat and expirings for Emeka Okafor and another protected first-round pick. (AP Photo)

After Amare Stoudemire departed as a free agent during the 2010 offseason, the Phoenix Suns spent two seasons wandering in the desert stuck between being a veteran team fighting for a playoff spot and a young team rebuilding.

They ultimately were neither as they failed to reach the playoffs in either of those campaigns and never acquired the kind of young assets that could jumpstart the rebuilding process.

After a holding steady kind of post-lockout 2011 offseason, the Suns finally started rebuilding during the 2012 summer by trading Steve Nash yet there was still an in-between sense by targeting young vets like Goran Dragic and Michael Beasley and making an attempt at a big splash with Eric Gordon that would have tied up cap space but perhaps made them a contender for a playoff spot with health. Last summer we heard the team’s GM talking about building a team that could make the playoffs while still thinking about the future.

This summer, finally, there is no debating whatsoever the franchise’s direction. The team is rebuilding with first-round draft picks, youth and cap space, and the final piece in that offseason plan finally came together Friday as the Suns dealt Marcin Gortat after trading Jared Dudley, Luis Scola and Caron Butler earlier in the offseason. Even Gortat knew he would be gone once GM Ryan McDonough caught a whiff of another first-round draft pick to add to his collection.

In McDonough’s latest conquest, he traded Gortat’s expiring deal along with the expiring contracts of Shannon Brown, Kendall Marshall and Malcolm Lee in return for Emeka Okafor’s massive $14.488 million expiring contract and a top-12 protected first rounder in 2014. The pick will be top-10 protected from 2015-19 and then have no protection thereafter.

This was the final stroke in a stunning offseason for McDonough in which he has turned Dudley, Gortat and Scola along with a slew of expirings and a second-round pick into Eric Bledsoe, two first-rounders, Miles Plumlee, a massive expiring contract and a few end of the bench guys while taking on just over a million dollars in 2013-14 cap space, with Green’s $3.5 million 2014-15 salary the closest thing to an albatross moving forward. That’s particularly impressive considering taking on excess money was a key component of the Bledsoe deal, but they were able to shed much of that in moving Butler.

The Suns added about $370K in the Gortat trade while dealing away at least two players (Marshall and Lee) they may have waived anyway. That’s pretty negligible with the Suns’ cap number now a hair under $53 million, which puts them about $5.7 million below the 2013-14 cap. Considering their cap status, the Suns only needed to include any one of the expiring players with Gortat to stay below the cap but were able to get Washington to take back all four to make this a wash financially. In other words, they could have kept Marshall if they wanted to.

The addition of Okafor’s massive expiring deal plus all that cap space gives the Suns further flexibility to make perhaps another move or two despite getting rid of their three most attractive veterans already. Along with Philadelphia, the Suns will be one of the first calls for any organization needing to get under the luxury tax or requiring a third team to facilitate a deal. It’s perhaps a long shot to think the Suns could squeeze another first-round pick for those services, yet with the majority of the league over the cap or just below that line, teams won’t have many options when they need another team to take on salary. The Suns have proven this offseason they will do everything possible to get in the middle of those negotiations. Assuming they pick up all of their young players’ options, Okafor will be their only expiring contract making more than $1.5 million.

Okafor and his contract can be attractive in a few senses. First of all, if he’s able to return from his neck injury later in the season, he could become a valuable interior defender and rebounder for a playoff team. If the return is good enough, the Suns could always help a team cut 2014-15 money by taking on a longer-term contract or two in return for his expiring deal in advance of another Summer of LeBron, and he could be the necessary trade ballast if the Suns are able to find a team willing to part with a stud on a big-money contract in return for a slew of picks. His veteran presence, particularly for a Suns team with so many young bigs, should be valued as well, although perhaps not at nearly $14.5 million.

The trade now gives the Suns access to as many as six first-round picks in the next two drafts, and four in the much-hyped 2014 draft, if they all convey in that time. Combined with their 2013 output, that could mean eight first-round picks in a three-year span. In addition, without Gortat manning the middle, the Suns figure to improve their chances at landing one of the uber-elite prospects at the top of next year’s draft while clearing playing time for rookie center Alex Len. Offseason trades that landed Miles Plumlee and Viacheslav Kravtsov give the Suns enough center depth to withstand Gortat’s loss without rushing Len’s development.

Even if they all convey in that time it’s unlikely that the Suns will make all of those picks, as how many rookies can one roster handle? Instead now the Suns have the necessary currency to insert themselves in any conversation for a star player who needs to be dealt. In other words, they are a year too late for James Harden, because if Sam Presti needed to make that trade today, the Suns surely could beat Houston’s offer. They will also have the ability to maneuver around the draft, trading up or trading down as they please like the Rockets have done in prior years. With a landmark draft coming up, that’s a great spot to be in.

With no guaranteed money involved in the deal past 2013-14, the Suns are in the same situation they were for 2014-15 except we know Kendall Marshall won’t be part of that future. It’s impossible to start thinking about next summer before knowing if they extend Bledsoe and pick up the options on the Morris twins and Plumlee, not to mention the fact that their number of first-round cap holds is unknown at this point as well. If they keep everyone and all the picks, they won’t have many roster spots and possibly not even max cap space. We will have a better handle on what 2014-15 will look like come Halloween.

The deal also clears up their roster glut, putting the Suns one below the league roster maximum with 14 players. They will have plenty of cap space to sign a vet if they so choose or they have the roster spot to do another Dionte Christmas-type deal with a young prospect whose rights they could obtain for multiple years at minimum salaries with non-guaranteed future years. It also means Ish Smith and Christmas will both make the team, barring any further moves.

As for the trade itself, the Suns got about as good of value as they could have hoped for in return for Gortat. Consider the fact that last year only one first-round pick changed hands at the deadline, and that was for a draft few thought was that excellent. I wasn’t sure that a first-rounder would even materialize for Gortat, and yet they got one that Kevin Pelton projects to be in the 15-16 range. Not many teams possessed a need at center, matching expiring contracts and a first-round pick they would be willing to give up, and although demand may have increased with injuries later on, the kind of teams interested in Gortat likely would have been better than Washington.

The trade ends the Kendall Marshall era in Phoenix before it began although he was likely days away from being cut anyway. His No. 13 overall selection in the 2012 NBA Draft will go down as one of the worst moves of the Lance Blanks era, with the Suns coming up with nothing to show for a lottery pick just one year later.  Yet with eight picks over these next few drafts, the sting from the Marshall bust will be greatly mitigated.

The Suns have aced these past two offseasons of asset acquisition, as they are set up well to take advantage of one of the best drafts this decade. Now they have their work cut out for them scouting all areas of the first round to turn all these first-round picks into building blocks for the franchise going forward.

Tags: Emeka Okafor Kendall Marshall Malcolm Lee Marcin Gortat Ryan Mcdonough Shannon Brown

  • http://none Keith

    Amazing. We are so lucky to have McStunna running the ship. Cannot wait until next year’s draft. That is going to be wild. Suns are in good shape (much better than Philly!)

  • Scott

    I could still go for a trade of the Morris brothers ….

    BTW, if the Suns end up with a top draft pick in 2014, won’t their 2nd round pick also be pretty high? Practically another first rounder, most likely. ;)

  • Azbballfan

    Wow, Keith i was i had come up with McStunna

    oh well!

  • Rian

    Over at Brightsideofthesun I’ve seen him called “McMiracle”. And that is exactly what he is pulling off.

  • hawki

    Just woke up…..dreamed the Suns had 4 picks in next year’s draft.

  • hawki

    Cavs waived Kenny Kadji yesterday….would love to see the Suns pick him up for a look-see.
    Still think he has good potential as a stretch 4.

    After scoring 15 pts & grabbing 6 boards in only 12 minutes in the pre-season opener, for some reason didn’t get much burn after that.

    The 6’10″ Kadji avgd 5 pts 1.7 boards in 9 minutes for the pre-season.

  • Sillmarillion

    Still, picks aren’t proven or even good players yet. As for now the Suns have 4 (maybe less, if some teams fail) virtual players on their future roster.
    What if the 2014 class isn’t that good at all as everyone keeps saying now?
    What if the Suns waste another high pick? Remember the current FO already showed that the draft isn’t their strong side (vide Len).
    What if they against all odds don’t earn a top3 pick?

    Michael is right, a year ago you could have hired Harden who is a very good player which is clear to everybody. But right now all the Suns have is some picks. Not that much imo.

  • hawki

    “Saw” RudeCorona over at bsots…invited him to drop in at VOTS now & then.

    @ Sillmarillion
    I’m on record as saying trading away vets for possible stars in the draft is a dangerous business….however, at this point it’s the Suns best & possibly only viable option to bring Phoenix a Championship caliber club.

    Plus, some of those picks could be used to facilitate a trade for a veteran star.
    We don’t have much choice right now except to trust in McDonough’s vision for the future.

  • east coast

    Very, very nice.

  • EBJM

    Considering the huge mess Sarver had put the Suns in, I think McMiracle has to be thrilled with the direction of the team. Dumped all the undesirables not named Morris. Six picks in the next two drafts and everyone know is this upcoming draft is at least as strong as the previous two combined.

    Next summer they dump another $19 million. Summer of ’15 another $11 million in Frye & Green. Then after loading up on rookies old man Dragic’s $7.5 comes off the books.

  • SkyBill40

    I’m not a fan of this move seeing as Okafor isn’t available and there’s no timetable for his return. So, what does that leave us to man the pivot? Channing “never seen a shot I won’t attempt” Frye and Alex “All hype and little substance” Len?

    Horrible. I would rather have seen Gortat play through the season and walk away at the end of it than this. Three of those four picks are lotto protected and thus relatively questionable.

    The ONLY good move here was purging the roster of Kendall Marshall.

  • Red

    0-82! Tank tank tank!

  • Ty-Sun

    I think that the Suns will start the season with Plumlee at the 5. Frye’s probably still not in shape for major minutes but the Suns could start him at the 4 and shorten his court time with Markieff Morris being the 1st man off the bench.

  • EBJM

    Who in their right mind even cares about Okafur ever donning a Suns uniform?

    Expiring $14.5 million contract. #1 pick potentially 13- 15. Sarver does not eat the $3 million for waiving Marshall & Lee.

    Plumlee, Lee, & Kravtsov get the whole season to develop while the Suns lose towards a top three pick.

    McMiracle has had an Executive of the year summer.

    Plumlee will earn Most Improved Player.

  • Scott

    Yup, all signs point to Plumlee starting at C for the Suns this season, with Frye starting at PF in the season opener against Portland (due to the suspension of Markieff). Marcus Morris will be the backup for Frye.

    BTW … take note … it’s looking like Frye will start at PF for the season, despite all the concerns about needing months to get back into shape. (!)

    Also BTW … I’ve recently read that while Lopez will start at C for Portland, Joel Freeland has replaced Meyers Leonard as first off the bench at C, due to superior defensive effort.

  • east coast

    Take a deep breath, Skybill. Getting anything, particularly a first rounder, for Gortat is better than letting him walk after a last place finish. Also, there are 5-7 players in this upcoming draft that would have probably been picked ahead of Bennett for #1 last spring. Everyone’s all up on Wiggins, but Randle, Parker, the Harrison brothers, Smart, and Dante from down under are all building blocks (at least for now – they could just be next year’s Shabazz).

  • east coast

    Sorry, Arizonans, that list undoubtedly should include Aaron Gordon, too.

  • EBJM

    I love the Plumlee & Kravtsov combo at center because they have NBA bodies with chips on their shoulders. What they lack in skill I think they will willingly make up with physicality, allowing the less physical Len and Frye to keep out of foul trouble.

    I do not mind seeing this group lose, but who knows? They might actually win a few games but hopefully not more than 21, I just closed out my 401 retirement account. This looks like the only sure thing this season. Thanks Hawki!

  • EBJM

    Shannon Brown’s renewed life as @ Sun sure was short-lived. I wonder what his thoughts are about getting sandbagged?

  • Zack B.

    Young prospect, multiple year contract non-guaranteed? Sounds like Terrence Williams to me. He was solid for the Celtics yet they waived him after he got accused of domestic violence, despite the later ruling by prosecutors that it was self-defense. I said it before and I will say it again. The Suns need to pick up T-Will for that 15th spot. He’s the definition of low-risk high-reward. He can definitely play his way into the end of our rotation. Anyway, we better hope this draft works out. I think we should trade for Rudy Gay, make sure we keep at least two picks…now you talk about Bledsoe, Rudy, and two top rookies for the future…I like that much better, I like the idea of combining draft AND free agency to rebuild, not either or. And that’s what McD has hinted at, being quoted previously saying we’re in position to acquire an excited player, making the disgruntled star comment…I say extend Bledsoe, package Dragic, Morris Twins, and picks and make two great deals out of that. And with the picks we keep, draft wisely and we should be good.

  • Noitall

    Shannon Brown should be thanking us for that $3.5 M check he has been getting.

  • Mel.

    ^I seriously wouldn’t be surprised to see him sign with the Lakers in the next few days. Following Jordan Farmar’s re-signing, there was a weird rally by the fans for Buss to bring back Brown and Sasha on a series of nostalgic stunt deals.

    If he’s smart, he’ll go for a comparably decent payday with a squad that’s desperate for some high-octane, Nate Robinson-style energy off the bench. Celtics, Bucks, maybe?

  • Scott

    @EBJM -

    If nothing else, Brown may get more time to spend with his wife and new child. I’m sure he’ll find another team, though. After all, this summer he was wowing crowds in Eastern Europe … surely his agent could see the writing on the wall, even if Brown hoped to remain in the NBA.

  • EBJM

    Brown already has a guaranteed $3.5 million regardless. All that matters is when another team signs him in regards to who will foot the bill. That was an equally sweet part of the trade, Wizards are basically paying $14 million for Gortat but he is still earning $7.7 or whatever.

  • hawki

    @ east coast
    re Arizonans:

    There are Sun Devils & there are Wildcats… and never the twain shall meet.

  • DBreezy


    Your comments on how the Suns have to rebuild now are spot on. You know for years over at AZC I preferred not to do the complete teardown rebuild model, but not in the way the Suns front office did it. You can’t hold on to all of your stars until you’ve milked every last bit out of them and get nothing in return while simultaneously trading picks away or drafting poorly.

    They’re not only devoid of stars at the moment, they are woefully short of rotation players that could contribute to a playoff team. While I do think McD’s desire is to use both the draft and trades to rebuild the team, I wouldn’t be completely surprised to see them use all of their picks next summer. I don’t think they’re going to make a trade just to make a trade, but will do what Houston did. If a great deal like a Harden comes through fine, if not they just keep plugging away with young assets.

    I don’t think teams care as much as they used to about having too many young guys on a team. Houston was one day away from going into last season with only 4 vets and 12 players with 2 years or less experience with one roster cut to go and didn’t seem too worried about it. Much like Scott Brooks back in the day, a good portion of the veteran leadership on this team is going to come from Hornacek and staff anyway. If the Suns strike out on a good trade, I don’t think McD will feel all that bad about a more quality youth movement in 2014-2015 with another good pick(s) and hoping to turn it around in 2015-2016. If McD’s scouting is good, they should be solid then even if there are a couple of misses.

  • KD

    Zack don’t get this infatuation with Rudy Gay. He was (probably no longer) overrated and definitely overpaid. Shooting percentages stink. Keep the picks until draft day and make the moves then.

  • Smovas

    It’s been a whirlwind of an offseason/preseason for the Suns. I hope that Sarver is really taking on the roll that he had in 2004, where he brings the wallet but leaves the decision making to the basketball minds.

    Here’s to the Sarver disease staying in remission!


  • hawki

    @ DBreezy
    Thanks for the compliment…coming from you, the most knowledgeable person on pro basketball I know means a lot.
    ps…Who killed Paulie Gatto ? :)

    @ Smovas
    Excellent comment over at Bsots young man….It would have taken me 2 paragraphs to explain what you so eloquently did in one sentence.

  • http://none Keith

    Lol, AZ. I didn’t come up with it either. But it’s a good one, probably his best nickname! He’s definitely been McStunna so far!

  • DBreezy

    That would be one Peter Clemenza Hawki, the cannoli was mercifully spared.

  • Smovas

    Thanks, Hawki

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  • Chad

    Suns are in the best possible position they could
    be. Great read, Michael.

  • Chad

    Big no on any trade for Rudy Gay. Would love to see suns get Greg Monroe after hearing talk of him being shopped but I think that could be a difficult trade for the suns to execute.

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