The Phoenix Suns are inching towards the NBA Trade Deadline with a surprising amount of money to play with to create the perfect deal.
The most valuable trade piece in any NBA general manager’s arsenal is the expiring contract, something that Phoenix Suns general manager James Jones has plenty of.
A team acquiring that contract knows that at the end of the season they will then own a little extra room under the cap to maneuver and make whatever necessary moves to enhance their own roster.
Being able to take on contracts that end at the end in June gives team-builders ample options to re-design a roster at a much quicker pace than with their current long-term contracts still on the roster.
All of this though, you already know.
All of this too, may work heavily in James Jones’ favor as he looks to make a deal (or deals) to improve his own roster not only for the stretch run but for the future.
At this moment, the Phoenix Suns have four players in the final years of their respective deals, two of whom are unrestricted free agents, and two of whom who are restricted.
Either way, none of them must be re-signed by either Phoenix or the team that may acquire them by the deadline (and likely, none of them will be on the Suns’ roster by training camp 2020 anyway – so why both let them finish out the year here?)
The most prominent, of course is Tyler Johnson (unrestricted), and the $19,245,370 he is owed this season (all four of the deals are pro-rated, of course), the biggest trade chip should Jones wish to acquire a big-name, or at least high-dollar, contract by the deadline.
Johnson had no role on the roster from the get go, and was only acquired by Jones (via a deal involving Ryan Anderson) to give the Suns GM an extra season with a large, expiring contract to play with (Anderson’s contract ended after 2018-19).
The second most expensive expiring contract is Aron Baynes (unrestricted as well), who was owed $5,453,280 at the start of the year.
Baynes’ fast start ingratiated himself with the fanbase tremendously (16.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 50.0% from beyond the arc in the first ten games of the year), unfortunately though, over his last seven games played, he has averaged a mere 6.0 points and 5.3 rebounds, while shooting only 19.0% from beyond the arc
Further, his current injury aside, he had already seen his role diminished considerably since the return of Deandre Ayton.
The combined between those two players though alone is already a tremendous sum of $24,698,650.
The third largest expiring contract at Jones’ disposal is Dario Saric‘s (restricted) $3,481,986.
What seemed to be a decent acquisition when it occurred (grabbed from Minnesota, along with the draft pick that would eventually become Cameron Johnson), Saric’s 3-point shooting has been his most valuable, and at times, lethal, skill throughout his career.
Yet for Phoenix, he is shooting a meager 32.4% from beyond the arc – hardly the kind of percentage that would help the Phoenix Suns shoot their way into the playoffs.
Those three equal a combined $28,180,636.
Cheick Diallo (team option) made $1,678,854 this season, and is an end-of-the-bench-type player, but one who could potentially assist a playoff team with emergency depth, or be the fourth player on an expiring contract to potentially be moved by James Jones.
Those four players equate to a handsome $29,859,490 to potentially move.
Finally, although probably least importantly, is Jevon Carter and his $1,416,852 (restricted) contract.
Carter is the team’s third point guard on the depth chart, and while he competes with Baynes and Kelly Oubre for the most energy at any given time on the roster, his game has been inconsistent and Monty Williams has struggled to find a regular role for him.
No one is acquiring Carter for any other reason than his meager deal helps match up the contract being moved around overall, but should his deal be needed, it could still help James Jones and his quest for a high-dollar deal.
Add up all five players’ salaries, and James Jones has a whopping $31,276,342 in expiring deals to move by the trade deadline – a hefty amount for another team (or teams) to potentially acquire for the long-term contract the Phoenix Suns would desire to have for themselves.
As unlikely as it would be that all five would be traded at the same time, and as impossible as it would be for Jones to do so without acquiring at least three players to help fill the otherwise gaping gap in the roster, the accumulative of all five contracts is still very enticing to teams who have a larger piece that Jones wants.
There are only 12 days until the NBA’s trade deadline (February 6), but James Jones has the Phoenix Suns in a very good position to make a stronger run at the playoffs by using these contracts to acquire a bigger-named player; or acquire further capital this offseason to improve the roster over the summer.