The Phoenix Suns have had a fantastic summer, but that alone does not guarantee success next season. Nice as it is to have Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal, there are a whole host of question marks that come with employing that trio.
Booker might be owner Mat Ishbia’s “superteam insurance“, but nobody knows how many games Durant is going to wind up playing. Similarly with Beal, in theory he is going to be an upgrade over Chris Paul because he is younger, his body hasn’t broken down and he fits in here nicely.
Getting better around the fringes of this roster is a goal the Suns should continue to pursuit, and Jae’Sean Tate of the Houston Rockets represents exactly that.
Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report recently examined some trade targets at this point in the offseason, and he had this to say about the Suns and Tate potentially finding a home with one another;
"That’s why the Suns’ search for role players could carry over into the regular season. They still couldn’t aim very high, but maybe an established veteran like (Nicolas) Batum or (Joe) Ingles would be a modest upgrade. Tate, meanwhile, might be one trade away from earning glue-guy status by making a host of hustle plays for a winning team."
Let us disregard Ingles and Batum here, because both are older shooters whose best days are behind them. The Suns showed this summer that they can go out and get players of a better calibre in Yuta Watanabe on minimum deals, making the need to go shopping in the Ingles/Batum section of the league less important right now.
Why though was Tate brought up by name? Not only is he of a better age profile for the contending Suns at 27-years-old, but he ticks a lot of boxes for the franchise. A forward who can do a bit of everything, and who has the younger legs to be able to play a larger role during the regular season.
Tate also has less question marks as a player than the likes of Keita Bates-Diop, Drew Eubanks, Chimezie Metu and especially Bol Bol. All of these were great acquisitions this offseason (literally, A grade additions), but unfortunately it would be frankly astonishing if every single one of these guys worked out exactly as the organization wants them to.
There’s a reason none have stuck elsewhere in the NBA, and all were willing to take the minimum to boost their stock in the league and hopefully make more money elsewhere in future. It is true none are bad players (except Bol’s defensive ability…), and it may also be that they were in the wrong situations in the past.
But no team overhauls their roster completely and watches as each new piece slides into their role and performs it fantastically. So the need for the Suns to keep wheeling and dealing once the regular season kicks off is important. This is where we return to Tate, who has started 142-of-179 games for the Rockets.
This offseason, his team went out and spent big on Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks. They also added two lottery picks in Amen Thompson and more interestingly as it pertains to Tate, Cam Whitmore. Complicating matters further, and your favorite player’s favourite teammate Jeff Green was also added to the mix.
The Rockets look like they’re going to push for the postseason– certainly their summer moves would indicate as much. Green will come off the bench in spot minutes and do what he does as a veteran leader. But it is Whitmore who is going to be given plenty of run to hopefully show that the organization were right to draft him.
It gets worse for Tate though, as Jabari Smith Jr. was the Rocket’s top three pick last season, and is the unquestioned starter. Big man Alperen Sengun looks like he is about to break out, and former Suns big man Jock Landale has landed in Houston as well.
Nice as it would be to have the luxury of Tate, the Rockets just aren’t in a position to give him the role he deserves right now. If the Rockets get off to a hotter than anticipated start, while the Suns stutter out of the gates, it would be no surprise if the two engaged in trade talks.
Tate is making $6.5 million this coming season and wouldn’t you know, the Suns have a trade exception for exactly that amount from the deal that sent Cameron Payne to the San Antonio Spurs. The Rockets wouldn’t be inclined to help the Suns for no reason, but they also have players like Watanabe who could help to get a deal done as well.
The Suns replenished some second round draft stock this summer, and they have a little bit of pure cash left in the coffers if they needed it to get a Tate deal over the line. As has been mentioned, he is a glue guy with the potential to make a difference on the defensive end. If the Suns start slow and the pieces don’t fit, they’d be crazy not to enquire about Tate.