- Marcin Gortat ($7,258,960)
- Josh Childress ($6,500,000)
- Channing Frye ($6,000,000)
- Jared Dudley ($4,250,000)
- Hakim Warrick ($4,000,000)
- Markieff Morris ($2,005,560)
- Sebastian Telfair ($1,567,500; partially guaranteed for $550,000)
Free Agents (Cap Holds)
- Steve Nash ($17,533,593)
- Grant Hill ($9,750,000)
- Robin Lopez ($7,156,505)
- Aaron Brooks ($5,041,730)
- Shannon Brown ($4,200,000)
- Michael Redd ($854,389)
- Ronnie Price ($854,389)
- (Jalen Rose – $1,851,103)
- (Eric Piatkowski – $854,389)
- (Gordan Giricek – $854,389)
- 1st Round (13th overall, pending lottery; 0.6% chance at first overall pick)
- Guaranteed Salary: $30,564,520
- Non-Guaranteed Salary, Cap Holds: $49,967,987
- Total (not including draft picks): $80,532,507
Steve Nash may be 38 years old, but based on his 2011/12 performance, it seems he still has plenty left in the tank. The Suns didn't look like a Western Conference playoff team on paper, but with Nash leading the way, they hung around all year, eventually falling out of the postseason hunt in the season's last week. Now, the biggest question facing the team is whether or not to bring back its MVP on another multiyear contract.
There's been plenty of speculation on where Nash will land this summer, but it's impossible to predict the point guard's destination until we get a sense of his priorities. There have been rumblings that the Suns would offer Nash two years and $20MM, and I wouldn't be surprised if they up that offer to three years in a last-ditch attempt to retain him. Would Nash turn down all that money to play for a team like the Knicks or the Heat that could only offer him $3-5MM annually, albeit with a better chance at a title? The Suns' offseason plan hinges on that answer.
If Nash is willing to return, the team figures to use its remaining cap space to add a few pieces that can help the Suns contend right away. But Phoenix may be better off simply letting Nash walk and beginning the rebuilding process in earnest. The team has a number of assets at its disposal, including a huge chunk of cap space, the amnesty provision, and potential trade chip Marcin Gortat.
While it probably doesn't make sense to amnesty Josh Childress or Hakim Warrick unless the Suns have a specific alternate use in mind for that cap space, doing so could mean the team has nearly $30MM in cap room this summer. I doubt the Suns will convince Deron Williams to come to Phoenix, but all that room would allow them to bid on just about any other free agent they want, including their own. Plus, it would give the Suns the flexibility to take on another team's undesirable contract along with something of value — for instance, I imagine they'd be more than willing to take Lamar Odom from the Mavs if Dallas included a future draft pick.
Outside of taking on contracts, the Suns' options on the trade market aren't extensive, given Childress' and Warrick's lack of value. Channing Frye likely won't be a desirable trade target either, considering his salary, and I'd guess the Suns prefer to keep last year's first-rounder Markieff Morris. Of the players on guaranteed contracts, that leaves Jared Dudley and Gortat. If Nash leaves, it makes sense to explore trades involving those two veterans, since their value may never be higher — both are solid players, especially Gortat, but they're probably unlikely to repeat last year's production without Nash setting them up.
The Suns' offseason is hard to predict until we know whether or not Nash will be back. If he returns, it makes sense to bring back Grant Hill on a one-year deal, sign a couple other veterans, and make another run at the playoffs. But that's probably not the team's best chance at long-term success. If I were GM Lon Babby, I wouldn't be devastated if Nash signed elsewhere — it would make Aaron Brooks a larger free agent priority, make trades more likely, and mean cap space could be saved for future summers, as the team rebuilds through the draft. Either way, Babby and the Suns' staff have an interesting challenge ahead as they face the possibility of beginning the post-Nash era in Phoenix.