Isaiah Thomas will join the Phoenix Suns via a sign-and-trade deal that gives his old Sacramento Kings squad a $7 million trade exception and the rights to 2013 second-round pick Alex Oriakhi, reports CBS Sports’ Ken Berger. Thomas, a restricted free agent, agreed to sign an offer sheet with the Suns worth four years and $27 million before the two teams worked out the intricacies of the trade.
The trade was first reported by Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski.
Berger also reports the Suns front-loaded Thomas’ contract. He will make $7.2 million in the first year of the deal and the salary will decrease from there, a sign Phoenix is fine taking on bigger salaries with loose cap room this year while keeping long-term flexibility down the road.
UPDATE: Thomas’s contract will pay him $7,238,606 in 2014-15, $6,912,869 in 2015-16, $6,587,132 in 2016-17 and $6,261,395 in the 2017-18 season, according to ShamSports.
Thomas, the 60th draft pick in 2011, left Sacramento hoping for both a starting gig and starter’s money. By technicality, he won’t get the former with the Suns, but he’ll surely play a significant role as a change-up guard.
As Paul Coro noted on Thursday and other reporters confirmed Friday, the acquisition is not to say Phoenix won’t bring back point guard Eric Bledsoe.
The Suns see Thomas as a third guard and likely an upgrade over Ish Smith. Perhaps it leads us to believe that Phoenix is wary about the duo of Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, both of whom struggled to stay healthy last season. Dragic, after running himself into the ground during the season, will go through his Slovenian nation team duties this summer, and Bledsoe’s knee history could prove troublesome down the line.
After the Suns drafted point guard Tyler Ennis with the 18th pick in June, general manager Ryan McDonough said adding to the Dragic-Bledsoe backcourt duo was important.
“As you know, we start two guys who I guess would primarily be defined as point guards,” he said. “We really value having multiple ball-handlers on the floor. We think our ability to run pick-and-rolls on either side of the floor, and also to push the ball in transition either via the pass or via the dribble, we feel like that’s a strength for us. We wanted to keep adding to it. We had some injuries last year to Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe.”
The acquisition probably means Smith’s non-guaranteed deal will not be picked up. It also puts into question what Phoenix will do with Gerald Green and Archie Goodwin, who fit in a log-jam at shooting guard if Dragic and Bledsoe are playing alongside Thomas.
Thomas averaged 20.3 points and 6.3 assists for the Kings last season.
There’s understandably going to be some questions popping up about this signing. Is another trade to follow? Why pay so much for a backup point guard?
For perspective: The man the Kings signed that pointed Thomas’ way out of Sacramento was Darren Collison, who on average will be making just $1.5 million less per season.