Walker Kessler should be top offseason trade target for the Suns

Walker Kessler should be the Phoenix Suns' top offseason target if the Utah Jazz plan on trading him.
Cleveland Cavaliers v Utah Jazz
Cleveland Cavaliers v Utah Jazz / Alex Goodlett/GettyImages

Once the Phoenix Suns fill their last open roster spot with a free agent, they can turn their attention to the trade market. One potential target that immediately stands out is Walker Kessler, whom the Utah Jazz are reportedly considering trading.

Kessler will be entering just his third year, but he’s already one of the best rim protectors in the league. In his first two seasons, he’s averaged 2.4 blocks per game despite only playing 23 mpg. Also a tremendous finisher, Kessler has shot 69% from the floor during those two seasons.

That the Jazz would want to trade a young player like that is baffling, but then again, the way they used him last season was baffling. After a tremendous rookie year, he saw a minuscule increase in mpg, from 23.0 to 23.3.

His role on offense was changed dramatically, as the Jazz tried to accommodate their new, highly paid big man John Collins. There would be times when Kessler was completely out of the paint on offense, hiding in the corner and even spotting up for 3, despite his 22% mark from distance.

It makes you wonder if the Jazz aren’t high on his long-term development, but that shouldn’t dissuade the Suns since he’s already exactly what they need.  

Kessler’s shot-blocking and finishing ability make him essentially the complete opposite of current starter Jusuf Nurkić, and those are two areas the Suns were severely lacking in last season. Kessler is also as good, if not a better rebounder than Nurk, averaging more total, and offensive, rebounds per 36 over the last two years, so there would be no drop off on the boards. 

The Suns would be losing Nurkić's playmaking, but that isn’t something they’ll miss too much now that they finally signed a point guard, as well as acquired multiple big men who are skilled passers.

Moreover, Kessler’s low minutes and odd usage suggest that there’s an entirely new level that he can reach in a different setting. There’s no reason he shouldn’t have a starter’s workload, and having a rim protector like him playing 30+ minutes a game would transform the Suns defense into a top unit. 

The Suns also would also have no reason to have Kessler camped out at the 3-point line. As the lone big man, he would be used exclusively in the paint and as a roller, which is where he thrives.

What makes a Kessler trade so appealing for the Suns is his contract. Since he’s still on his rookie deal, he’ll be making just under $3 million this upcoming season. The only player the Suns could trade in a one-for-one swap for him would be Nassir Little. Little doesn't figure to be in the Suns' rotation, and likely has been held onto as a trade chip.

And while he isn't close to as impactful as Kessler is, Kessler's low contract number means that the vast majority of players in that contract range are players like Little. The Jazz wouldn’t be landing a star in a swap for Kessler, and will be prioritizing picks in return for him. The Suns can offer their 2031 1st, which is one of the best picks on the market, along with several second rounders.

Trading for Kessler means that Nurkić would likely be moved, one way or another. In an ideal scenario, Nurk would be the one involved in the Kessler trade. His $18 million contract means the Suns could get an additional player such as Jordan Clarkson back.

dark. Next. 3 players the Suns missed out on in opening days of free agency. 3 players the Suns missed out on in opening days of free agency

Unfortunately, the value isn’t quite there for the Jazz with the Suns having no additional picks to attach. Instead, Nurk would have have to be moved in a separate trade, which could shore up the Suns depth. 

Regardless of who’s involved, the Suns would also be acquiring Kessler’s bird rights, allowing them to go over the cap to extend him. That means this is a rare opportunity to acquire a talented, cost-controlled player without giving up a star of your own.

Kessler’s fit with this team would be great, but his contract situation and potential cost in a trade should make him the Suns top target during this next part of the offseason.