Believe it or not, the Phoenix Suns are still in the race for the playoffs. Acquiring Danilo Gallinari would help them a lot in their push to get there.
The Phoenix Suns have two glaring weaknesses: a solid scoring power forward, and a veteran backup point guard.
The hope was that Dario Saric would fill one of those needs, and to a certain extent, he has.
Although while Saric has absolutely been better than recent power forwards Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender, he still has been far too inconsistent to make the kind of mark that the team needs to win with greater regularity.
Currently averaging only 10.8 points per game and shooting a meager 33.1% from beyond the arc (far below what he had been averaging the last two seasons), Saric is in the final year of his rookie contract, and while at only 23-years-old there is probably still some upside to his game, it seems more and more likely that he is not to be a starting power forward for a contending team, but that of a backup – if his 3-point shots are falling.
If James Jones could somehow pull off a trade for a better power forward and keep Saric on the roster concurrently, then I think you would see a good, solid playoff team with Dario coming off the bench.
That could occur should the Suns trade for Danilo Gallinari, who, although not a star, is a much better version of Saric, and an acquisition that likely would not break the Suns’ bank.
According to a recent Bleacher Report article by Eric Pincus, he speculated that with the Thunder currently hovering in the low-end of the playoff picture at the moment, if Phoenix is more desperate to make a playoff push this year than Oklahoma City (which is really a “duh” proposition), than maybe OKC could get a package of Tyler Johnson and a first round pick for their starting power forward.
For Phoenix, the upgrade would be tremendous.
The 31-year-old Gallo is currently averaging 18.1 points per game and shooting 39.4% from beyond the arc. His spike in offense is what would be most coveted and most visible as the two power forwards are averaging nearly identical rebounds, steals, and blocks per game.
Like Dario, Danilo is in the final year of his contract so the long-term risk is low.
However, while Saric will be a restricted free agent coming off of his rookie contract, Danilo will be an unrestricted free agent making the loss of a first round pick (as projected by Pincus) much more difficult to swallow if for some reason James Jones is unable to retain him.
Obviously, the Suns could bank on making the playoffs and simply require lottery-protection on the pick so that if the still ended up missing the postseason, they wouldn’t have lost out on a first round pick for no reason (here’s looking at you, Lance Blanks, who once traded both Goran Dragic and an unprotected first round pick for Aaron Books, only to miss the playoffs and see Brooks in a Suns uniform for a whopping 25 games).
To be fair with Oklahoma City with this scenario, the Thunder have no reason to make this trade. ‘
As of January 2, they are in the seven-seed of the Western Conference, and pretty solidly so, 3.5 games ahead of the San Antonio Spurs for the eight-seed, while only 3.0 games from the five-seed.
They appear to be far more likely as adders than subtractors, so trading Gallinari at this moment does not seem all that likely.
However, Gallinari is absolutely the perfect short-term solution to power forward for the Phoenix Suns, and if for some reason the Thunder would be willing to trade him – or the Suns were able to make a not-back-breaking offer that Oklahoma City cannot refuse – then James Jones should make a trade in a heart-beat.
At this point, here is to hoping that between now and the trade deadline OKC takes a nose-dive in the standings and not only drops out of the playoffs but turns themselves into abject sellers while the Suns remain somewhat afloat, so such a deal can be made.