8:10pm: Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports hears the Suns aren't expected to participate in any major deals (Twitter link), so it appears they may not bite on Smith after all.
7:55pm: Having already participated in a smaller deal this evening, acquiring Marcus Morris from the Rockets, the Suns are discussing a proposal for Josh Smith that would send Marcin Gortat, Jared Dudley and a first-round pick to the Hawks, tweets Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times. Woelfel adds that Phoenix is the primary contender for Smith, thought to be the biggest name with a reasonable chance of heading elsewhere.
Such a trade would eat into the Hawks' cap space that they've prioritized for next summer, since Gortat and Dudley are signed to long-term deals. Still, the move would leave them enough room to add a max player through free agency. They've been looking for a "quality young center" in return for Smith but perhaps would settle for Gortat, who just turned 29 and is on a reasonable deal that pays him $7.26MM this season and $7.73 next year. Dudley would also be an economical pickup, as he's set to make $4.25MM through 2016. The swingman has been a part of several rumors lately, prompting him to express his desire to stay in Phoenix. He can't veto a trade, however, so the Suns can move him out if they find a deal they like.
The Suns, wary of their ability to re-sign Smith when he hits unrestricted free agency this summer, were reportedly out on Smith as of this weekend, but perhaps they've become more willing to take the risk. If they trade for him and can't convince him to stay, they'll have cleared about $12MM in cap space for this summer, if nothing else.
1:02pm: Coro follows up on his initial report, tweeting that apparently talk of a deal between the Suns and Thunder was just a "league rumor" during the All-Star break, rather than the two sides actually talking about it. So it sounds as if there's nothing to this one.
12:31pm: The proposed Gortat/Perkins deal is "not going to happen," according to John Gambadoro of 620 KTAR in Phoenix (via Twitter).
7:34am: According to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic, the Thunder have been exploring a deal with the Suns that would send Marcin Gortat to Oklahoma City. In the hypothetical trade, the Suns would receive Kendrick Perkins, Jeremy Lamb, and a first-round pick from the Thunder in exchange for Gortat and P.J. Tucker.
Coro writes that the Suns would have some interest in Perkins, who would fit the team's new defensive culture, and that Phoenix likely would have drafted Lamb 14th overall last June had the Rockets not taken him two spots earlier.
Perkins' contract, which is more expensive and lasts a year longer than Gortat's, isn't viewed as a favorable one, and Lamb's stock may have fallen a little since last summer, so I'd imagine the first-round pick in the deal would be Toronto's pick. That choice, acquired by the Thunder in the James Harden trade, figures to be more valuable than any of Oklahoma City's own picks or the Mavericks' heavily-protected first-rounder.
Still, according to Coro, it's not likely that the Suns pull the trigger on a deal with the Thunder. Coro reports that it's more likely Phoenix simply stands pat to protect its future first-round picks and cap space, which should give the club room for a max free agent this summer. Small deals involving players like Sebastian Telfair or Jermaine O'Neal are also possible.
Last night, ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported that many teams around the NBA are convinced that the Hawks will move Josh Smith by Thursday's trade deadline. Stein cited the Celtics as one team with interest, but wrote that he couldn't see them giving up Paul Pierce in a deal for Smith. We'll likely hear a few more rumors and rumblings on Smith today, so we'll round all those up in one place, with the latest updates added to the top of the page throughout the day:
Already today, we've passed along a few trade rumors from Ric Bucher of 95.7 The Game and Steve Kyler of HoopsWorld. Now, it's Chris Broussard's turn, as the ESPN reporter has published a lengthy Insider-only piece on the latest rumblings from around the league. Here's what Broussard has for us:
The last-place team in the Western Conference at 17-35, the Suns are lottery-bound, but with cap space to spare and a handful of movable assets, the club is expected to be active at the trade deadline. In his latest round-up of the trade rumors surrounding the team, Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic reports that the Suns have shown interest in Al Jefferson and Gordon Hayward.
While it's not clear if the Suns and Jazz have engaged in discussions about a possible deal, Coro notes that Jared Dudley, who has been the subject of trade rumblings himself, could be a potential outgoing piece, with Marcin Gortat likely needed to make a deal for Jefferson work. Although Jefferson is set to be an unrestricted free agent at season's end, his Bird Rights would come along with him in any trade, giving his new team a bit of a leg up in re-signing him this summer.
For his part, Dudley is trying to avoid letting trade rumors faze him, pointing out that it's just flattering to be drawing interest.
"When my name came up before, I was a throw-in," Dudley said. "Now, I think I’ve worked on my game where I could be a good piece or asset for the Suns or any team."
With just two and a half weeks remaining until this season's trade deadline, Bill Ingram's NBA PM piece at HoopsWorld today focuses exclusively on players who could be on the move on or before February 21st, or players who have already been dealt. Here are the highlights from Ingram:
FRIDAY, 7:49am: According to John Gambadoro of 620 KTAR in Phoenix (Twitter link), the Suns have "zero" interest in trading for Smith. Gambadoro adds in a second tweet that the Suns have not even had a conversation with the Hawks about Smith.
THURSDAY, 5:02pm: Having missed out on Rudy Gay and Eric Gordon, the Phoenix Suns are making an effort to trade for Josh Smith, Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld reports. Kennedy writes that the Suns are intent on acquiring a max-level star to make into a cornerstone of their franchise, and have had preliminary discussions with the Hawks regarding possible trade packages.
Kennedy reports that a Suns package would likely be based around center Marcin Gortat, as well some combination of the expiring contracts of Jermaine O'Neal, Wesley Johnson, Shannon Brown, and Sebastian Telfair. Luis Scola could be involved as well, although since he was claimed off amnesty waivers, any deal including him would have to be a sign-and-trade made after July 1. The Suns also own multiple first-round picks, including their own, one from Minnesota, and two they received from the Lakers in last summer's Steve Nash trade.
In the past week, speculation is growing around the league that Smith's tenure with the Hawks may be coming to a close. Executives believe that he does not intend to re-sign with Atlanta this summer, when he will be an unrestricted free agent.
Marc Stein of ESPN.com has posted his latest Weekend Dime column, which features updates on a variety of trade-related topics from around the NBA. Here are the highlights:
One of the reasons Alvin Gentry is no longer coaching the Suns is reportedly because the team wants to focus on developing younger talent, and doesn't think Gentry's the guy to lead that effort. Marcin Gortat, who turns 29 next month, isn't exactly a perfect fit in a youth movement, either, so it's reasonable to expect he could be the next guy heading out of Phoenix. It's harder to get rid of a player than it is to dump a coach, but despite a regression in his performance this year, there should be no shortage of teams lining up to acquire the 6'11" center.
Gortat is coming off a career year in 2011/12, when he put up 15.4 points and 10.0 rebounds per game in his first full season as a starter. This year, those numbers are down to 11.6 PPG and 9.0 RPG, but he's not the first player who hasn't looked as sharp when he's no longer part of nightly pick-and-rolls with Steve Nash. Gortat is seeing 9.4 shots per game as opposed to 11.7 last season in a nearly idential amount of minutes. Still, his 16.5 PER is lower than in any of his six NBA seasons, aside from 2009/10. The sudden lack of efficiency probably can't be pinned on Gortat breaking down, as he hasn't missed a game the past two seasons, so it likely has to do either with the absence of Nash or the indifference that comes from playing on a last-place team.
Gortat vented his frustration earlier this season about the Suns' style of play and his role in the offense to a reporter in his native Poland, and he turned down Phoenix's offer of a contract extension over the summer. Still, he said he won't ask for a trade, feeling an obligation to stick it out with his struggling team.
The Suns might let him off that hook, and if they do, the Celtics have been linked to him as a potential suitor. That stands to reason, given Boston's rebounding deficiencies and lack of a true center. The C's could give up someone from their crowded backcourt — perhaps Courtney Lee, who was reportedly drawing interest around the league a couple of weeks ago. No one has collected fewer rebounds this year than the Heat, who would no doubt love to bring Gortat back to Florida, but they probably don't have enough assets to engage the Suns other than their three stars, whom they're reluctant to break up. The Rockets have been eyeing Gortat as well, and they certainly have enough young players to fit Phoenix's new player development focus, but I'm not sure the Suns would be willing to give up Gortat for anyone Houston would probably dangle.
What the Suns do with Gortat before the trade deadline will have a lot to say about the direction of the franchise. If they deal him, it clearly signals full-scale rebuilding, a step forward with the process that began when they let Nash go last year. If they keep him, it either means they see him as a building block for the future or believe they'll get a better deal for him next year, when he'll be on an expiring contract. Much will depend on the market, but competent NBA centers are usually in high demand. With whispers that the jobs of basketball president Lon Babby and GM Lance Blanks are in jeopardy, I'd bet that a team will come forward with enough of an enticement to get the Suns to trade Gortat before this year's deadline passes.
The news today that the Suns and coach Alvin Gentry decided to part ways didn't register nearly the reaction that coaching changes by the Lakers and Nets did earlier this season. That stands to reason, given that L.A. and Brooklyn are media hubs, but even the end of Scott Skiles' tenure in Milwaukee seemed to have more gravitas than what went down in Phoenix. Last-place teams typically don't generate much press, though, particularly when they're devoid of any notable star. Phoenix has had plenty of stars in the past, though, and one of them weighed in on today's move, as we pass along below with other notes from the Valley of the Sun.