Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team's offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.
Trades and Claims
Rookie Contract Option Decisions
For some teams, clearing cap space means creating the opportunity to make a run at the offseason's prized free agents. When the Heat, Knicks, and a handful of other teams cleared their books in anticipation of the 2010 offseason, the goal was to land members of one of the most impressive free agent classes of all-time. When the Mavs elected not to re-sign Tyson Chandler in December 2011, it gave them to chance to pursue Deron Williams in free agency in the summer of 2012.
Not all teams are lucky enough to be destinations that those top free agents would consider, however. Heading into this summer, the Suns were poised to clear a huge chunk of cap space, but the club was never seriously in the running for Williams, the top unrestricted player on the market. Phoenix used its cap space to make a play for Eric Gordon, but the club could only watch as the Hornets matched the Suns' offer sheet and brought Gordon back to New Orleans.
Cap space doesn't always have to be used to lure top free agents though. The Suns did use that room to bring in a few outside FAs this offseason, including Goran Dragic, who will give the team a younger, cheaper alternative to Steve Nash, and may end up being the more productive player of the two over the course of their new contracts. But the Suns also took advantage of their cap space to great effect with a couple of the summer's other major moves.
When players are released via the amnesty clause, only clubs under the cap are eligible to bid on them. Often, those amnesty victims aren't worth pursuing -- no teams were lining up to participate in the amnesty auction for Josh Childress, for instance. But occasionally an amnestied player will simply be the victim of a cap reshuffle, as Luis Scola was in Houston. Arguably the best player to be amnestied this offseason or last, Scola was snapped up by the Suns for only about $4.5MM annually over the next three years, a terrific price for a productive frontcourt piece.
Another benefit of having cap space is the ability to take other teams' unwanted contracts and receiving a little something for your troubles. In the Suns' case, that meant facilitating a three-way deal that involved acquiring Wesley Johnson from the Timberwolves. With Minnesota looking to make room for Andrei Kirilenko and the rest of the team's offseason additions, Johnson's $4.29MM salary was an albatross the T-Wolves needed to move. In return for helping out, the Suns landed the Wolves' 2013 first-round pick.
Minnesota's first-rounder is top-13 protected for the next two seasons and top-12 protected for the following two years, so it's unlikely to turn into a lottery pick, but considering the relatively small price the Suns paid to acquire it, it's a worthwhile asset. Throw in the future picks, including two first-rounders, that the Lakers sent over in the Nash sign-and-trade, and the Suns ultimately landed four picks (three first-rounders) in exchange for absorbing a little salary and giving up players they weren't re-signing anyway.
Having said that, I didn't like all the ways the Suns used their cap room this summer. The three-year deal handed out to Michael Beasley was a little eyebrow-raising, even if the third season isn't guaranteed. Still, in Beasley and Johnson, the Suns added a pair of players who were former top-five picks. With elite free agents unlikely to come to Phoenix, the team resorted to acquiring players who were viewed as elite talents in the past. If guys like Beasley and Johnson can recapture some of the promise that made them top picks, they'll be strong investments -- if not, at least the cost to take a look at them wasn't exorbitant.This Suns squad doesn't look like a playoff contender in the Western Conference, but that doesn't come as a huge surprise. Even with Nash still on the roster, the team fell short of the postseason a year ago, and with their franchise player gone, the Suns are entering a retooling period, if not a total rebuild. While I didn't love all their free agent signings, the team traded for a number of future draft picks, locked up a valuable asset in Scola at a bargain price, and retained enough cap space going forward that additional moves are still possible.