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Phoenix Suns

Derrick Jones Makes NBA Debut Near Home

  • Circumstances allowed Suns rookie Derrick Jones to make his NBA debut close to home, writes Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic. A native of Chester, Pa., Jones was recalled from the D-League after T.J. Warren was struck by illness and couldn’t travel to Saturday’s game at Philadelphia. Family members watched as Jones played the final 2:41. “I love the game and I love being part of the team,” he said. “I’m thankful. Out of all places, I’m coming back home for my call-up game. I got to pray and hope that I stay here now.”

NBA D-League Assignments/Recalls: 11/19/16

Listed below are Saturday’s D-League assignments and recalls from around the NBA. This post will be updated throughout the day if and when other teams announce moves.

6:47pm:

  • The Suns have recalled Derrick Jones Jr. from the Northern Arizona Suns, the team’s D-League affiliate, according to their Twitter feed.
  • The Clippers have assigned Diamond Stone to the D-League and he will play for the Santa Cruz Warriors, Marc J. Spears of ESPN.com tweets.
  • The Bucks have assigned Rashad Vaughn to the D-League and he will play for the Westchester Knicks, Chris Reichert of The Step Back reports (Twitter link).

1:11pm

  • The Spurs have assigned Dejounte Murray and Bryn Forbes to the D-League, according to the team. While the headline of San Antonio’s press release indicates Murray has been recalled from the Austin Spurs, the rookie had already been with the NBA club, and the release itself says he and Forbes are being sent to Austin, where they’ll be available for tonight’s game against the Erie Bayhawks. It’s already the fifth assignment of the season for Murray, and the third for Forbes.

NBA 2016/17 Dead Money: Pacific Division

The concept of “dead money” on a salary cap isn’t as common in the NBA as it is in the NFL, but it essentially functions the same way in both leagues. Dead money refers to the salary remaining on a team’s cap for players that are no longer on the roster.

For NFL teams, taking on a certain amount of dead money is a common practice, since signing bonuses affect cap hits differently, and big-money players are more likely to be released before playing out their entire contracts. That practice is less common in the NBA.

Still, with the NBA’s salary cap on the rise, teams may be a little more willing to part ways with players on guaranteed salaries, since that increased cap gives clubs more flexibility than they used to have. Within the last month, we’ve seen players like Ronnie Price and Greivis Vasquez, who each had $4-5MM in guaranteed money left on their contracts, waived in order to clear room for newcomers.

We’re in the process of examining each of the NBA’s 30 teams, breaking them down by division. We’ll determine which teams are carrying the most dead money on the cap for 2016/17, and what that information might tell us about those teams. We’ve already examined the Central, Atlantic, Southeast, and Southwest divisions. Today, we’ll turn our attention to the Pacific division.

Here are the 2016/17 dead money figures for the Pacific teams:

1. Phoenix Suns
Total dead money: $2,871,866
Full salary cap breakdown

While the Suns have a modest dead-money cap charge for Michael Beasley ($778K), most of the team’s dead money comes from Archie Goodwin‘s contract, which counts for $2.094MM on the 2016/17 books. Goodwin is still just 22 years old and was a surprise cut last month, having become expendable after the Suns added Leandro Barbosa and Jared Dudley in free agency. With Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, Brandon Knight, and Tyler Ulis also in the backcourt mix, Phoenix figured Goodwin wouldn’t have a meaningful role this season.

The Suns remain well below the salary floor, so that decision probably won’t affect them financially. Still, for a team not expected to be contenders this year, it was an interesting decision to spend on Dudley and Barbosa – two veterans in their 30s – rather than exercising a little more patience with the 22-year-old Goodwin.

2. Sacramento Kings
Total dead money: $1,682,829
Full salary cap breakdown

The Kings have a pair of veterans waived via their stretch provision counting against their cap, in Wayne Ellington ($883K) and Caron Butler ($517K). The team also paid $100K apiece to a pair of camp invitees, in Lamar Patterson and second-round pick Isaiah Cousins. However, Sacramento’s most interesting dead-money cap hits might belong to Jordan Farmar, who counts not once but twice on the team’s books, having already been signed and cut multiple times. Farmar’s two cap charges count for about $83K, which isn’t a bad haul for a player who spent six regular-season days on the roster and four on waivers.

3. Los Angeles Clippers
Total dead money: $1,412,964
Full salary cap breakdown

The Clippers, one of eight NBA teams without a D-League affiliate this season, didn’t bother inviting any undrafted rookies to camp, since the team had nowhere to assign them in the D-League, and had its 15-man roster fairly set. Still, while Los Angeles was able to avoid tacking on modest partial guarantees that way, the club is still carrying cap hits for former Clippers like Carlos Delfino ($650K), Jordan Farmar ($511K), and Miroslav Raduljica ($252K). Those dead-money hits total $1.413MM, and the Clippers currently sit $1.453MM over the tax threshold, making those charges even more costly.

4. Golden State Warriors
Total dead money: $1,380,126
Full salary cap breakdown

Despite carrying four All-NBA players on their roster, the Warriors don’t rank among the highest team salaries in the NBA, and their dead-money charges aren’t exorbitant either, a sign of solid cap management. Jason Thompson, waived back in February, is responsible for most of the Warriors’ dead money this year, with a $945K cap hit. Outside of Elliot Williams, who got a $250K guarantee but didn’t make Golden State’s regular season roster, the team’s other dead-money charges belong to players currently playing for their D-League affiliate: Cameron Jones ($50K), Elgin Cook ($50K), Scott Wood ($50K), and Phil Pressey ($35K).

5. Los Angeles Lakers
Total dead money: $1,184,636
Full salary cap breakdown

Anthony Brown and Yi Jianlian were initially viewed as strong bets to earn spots on the Lakers’ 15-man roster this season, but Thomas Robinson and Metta World Peace ultimately fit into those openings instead, leaving Brown’s $875K salary and Yi’s $250K guarantee on Los Angeles’ books. Along with Zach Auguste ($60K), those dead money charges cut into L.A.’s small amount of remaining cap room, leaving the team just $530K under the cap. However, adding $1.185MM in extra cap space wouldn’t change much — the Lakers still have their $2.898MM room exception if they want to sign a player for more than the minimum.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders was used in the creation of this post.

Community Shootaround: Brandon Knight

It was less than two years ago that the Suns sent Miles Plumlee and a first-round pick out as part of a three-team trade that netted them Brandon Knight. Phoenix signed Knight to a lucrative extension in the summer of 2015, and he seemed poised to become a huge part of the team’s future, but as we approach 2017, Knight’s place in the Suns’ long-term plan doesn’t look quite as clear.

The emergence of 2015 first-rounder Devin Booker has made the Suns reevaluate the roles of Knight and Eric Bledsoe, both now and going forward. Booker certainly isn’t going anywhere, and an October report from ESPN’s Zach Lowe suggested the team doesn’t want to move Bledsoe either, which leaves Knight as a potential odd man out. A strong start this season would have helped create a palatable trade market for Knight if the Suns wanted to deal him, Lowe wrote at the time.

Twelve games into the season though, that strong start hasn’t materialized. It’s still very early, but so far, Knight has posted career-worst marks in PPG (12.8), FG% (.377), 3PT% (.286), and APG (3.2), signaling that the transition to a bench role hasn’t been a smooth one. Still, in an appearance on Arizona Sports 98.7FM, Suns general manager Ryan McDonough said his club won’t rush into any major roster changes, and isn’t considering trading the veteran guard at this point.

We’re certainly not looking to move Brandon, we haven’t been close to trading Brandon,” McDonough said. “I think he’d love to be starting, we understand that. He’s accepted the role very well. I think you guys will see him go on a run here. As you know, watching him play the last couple years, he has the ability to get hot and put up a lot of points in a hurry and take over stretches of games — he hasn’t done that yet for us consistently but I think it’s coming.”

The Suns loaded up on young frontcourt talent in this year’s draft, using a pair of top-eight picks to snag Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss, but most of the team’s notable current contributors are guards or wings — Booker, Bledsoe, Knight, and small forward T.J. Warren are Phoenix’s top four scorers, with shooting guard Jared Dudley tied for fifth. If the Suns were to consider trading Knight, they could target a big man, or perhaps a shooter. A future draft pick or two would likely also appeal to the Suns, who aren’t necessarily looking to contend immediately.

Still, there’s no rush to move Knight. As McDonough notes, the 24-year-old is streaky and his stock isn’t particularly high at this point. He’s also under contract through 2019/2020, meaning the Suns can be patient and assess how their pieces all fit together as Booker, Warren, and the young bigs continue to develop.

What do you think? Should the Suns be looking to move Knight before this year’s deadline to address other areas of need, or to add future picks? Or should they wait things out, knowing that they could still trade Knight a year or two from now if their areas of need become more obvious by that point? Jump into the comments section and weigh in with your thoughts!

Suns' Future Tied To Devin Booker's Development

  • The Suns didn’t have massive expectations for Devin Booker when they selected him 13th overall in the 2015 draft, but just a year and a half later, the future of the franchise is tied to the young guard’s development, writes Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post.

Bender Understands Defense Is Key To Playing Time

  • Suns rookie Dragan Bender‘s offensive skills are his calling card, but the young big man understands that it is his defensive development that will determine his playing time, Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic writes. “I learned the hard way,” Bender said. “I came to a big club [Maccabi Tel Aviv] and thought I didn’t need to play defense because of the shooting ability and everything. But once the coach puts you on the bench and freezes you for a couple games, you realize as a young guy you have to come inside and play defense and bring the energy. Defense is just a will. It’s just a matter if you want to play it or not. You have to follow the coaches’ instructions about how you’re going to defend those teams. It doesn’t matter if you’re weak or have less muscles than those guys, you just have to fight with them for better position and get them out of there.”

Edy Tavares To Join Raptors’ D-League Affiliate

Former Hawks big man Edy Tavares, waived by Atlanta earlier this season, is nearing an agreement to join Raptors 905, Toronto’s D-League affiliate, reports international basketball journalist David Pick (via Twitter). If and when Tavares officially signs, he’ll remain an NBA free agent, as the Raptors would only hold his D-League rights.

Players can’t sign outright with D-League teams, instead signing a D-League contract and entering the league’s player pool, where teams can claim them. As D-League Digest tweets, the Northern Arizona Suns, the club with the top waiver priority in the D-League, claimed Johnny O’Bryant today. With the move, the Raptors’ D-League squad has moved up to the top waiver spot, giving them the opportunity to land Tavares, per Chris Reichert of The Step Back (Twitter link).

The 43rd overall pick in the 2014 draft, Tavares joined the Hawks for the 2015/16 season, appearing in just 11 games and averaging 6.6 minutes per contest. The 24-year-old Cape Verde native also made 29 D-League appearances, averaging 9.2 PPG, 8.4 RPG, and 3.3 BPG in 21.6 minutes per game. The Hawks decided to move on from him earlier this year when they needed an opening on their 15-man roster to sign Ryan Kelly.

Tavares received interest from the Spanish club FC Barcelona, according to a recent report, and likely would’ve had other opportunities overseas if he chose to pursue them. His decision to head to the D-League instead suggests he hopes to get another shot with an NBA team.

Dudley Provides Punch To Second Unit

  • Jared Dudley has been moved to the Suns’ second unit to give it an offensive boost, Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic relays. Phoenix has placed rookie Marquese Chriss into the starting five at power forward. Dudley was expecting to be a starter until about midseason, when either Chriss or fellow rookie Dragan Bender would take that spot, but coach Earl Watson felt he needed to make a switch much earlier because the reserves were getting dominated, Coro adds. “The second-unit was suffering, especially we need to get B-Knight (Brandon Knight) going, and he’s such a huge part of us,” Dudley told Coro.

Chriss Adjusting To NBA; Gentry Likes Dudley, Barbosa

  • The Suns are thrilled by what they’ve seen from rookie power forward Marquese Chriss, who was acquired in a draft-day trade with the Kings, according to Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee. Phoenix is bringing Chriss along slowly, giving him 15 minutes per night in his first six games, and he has responded with averages of 6.2 points and 3.3 rebounds. Although he is only 19, Chriss believes he is mature enough for the NBA. “Off the court I’ve never had any problems, I never get in conflicts or things like that,” he said. “I’m real mellow, kind of just handle my business and put my head down. I’m just adjusting like everybody else is, getting up every morning, coming to the gym with the mentality that I want to get better and every day has a purpose.”
  • Former Suns coach Alvin Gentry thinks the team made wise moves in reacquiring two of his former players this offseason, relays Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic. Gentry had high praise for Jared Dudley and Leandro Barbosa, who both returned to Phoenix as free agents. “When I was there, they were great,” Gentry said. “They’re great locker room guys. There’s a maturity about them that they understand where they are in their careers and they’re going to do everything they can to help the young guys. You can put them on the court and they can be productive. That’s a win-win-win all the way around.”

Len Sets Up Shop In Post, Becomes More Potent

  • Suns center Alex Len is setting up in the low post more often and that decision is paying dividends, Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic notes. Len had 18 points in 21 minutes off the bench against the Trail Blazers, mainly by staying in the paint. “Alex Len perfected simplicities of the game,” coach Earl Watson told Coro. “He kept it simple, and his numbers were better.”

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