Shortly after completing their trade that sent Trevor Ariza to Washington and Kelly Oubre and Austin Rivers to Phoenix, the Suns and Wizards each lined up an additional roster move — the Suns are parting ways with Rivers, while the Wizards are re-signing Chasson Randle.
Rivers’ release was somewhat unexpected, and there’s more to the Wizards’ decision to re-sign Randle than initially meets the eye, so let’s take a closer look at each move…
Suns parting ways with Austin Rivers:
The Suns, who have had a revolving door of starting point guards this season, were said to be shopping for a play-making guard when they put Ariza on the trade block. The centerpiece of the deal they ultimately made was another forward in Oubre. However, their return also included Rivers, who is capable of handling the ball, even if he’s not a traditional point guard.
As such, it came as a surprise when Phoenix quickly reached an agreement to part ways with Rivers. The Suns and Rivers’ camp reportedly agreed that he’d be a better fit with a more veteran team that’s in playoff contention.
The Suns, under new interim GM James Jones, had already shown a willingness this year to part ways with a useful veteran player well in advance of the NBA’s typical buyout period, as they reached an agreement to cut Tyson Chandler in early November. In Chandler’s case though, the Suns at least got a little money back in a buyout. As Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports confirms (via Twitter), Rivers’ release won’t include any form of buyout, since he doesn’t have his next team lined up yet.
It’s possible that no good would have come of keeping Rivers around for the next couple months — maybe he would have been upset about being sent to the worst team in the West and wouldn’t have been a good fit in Phoenix’s locker room. Perhaps the Suns couldn’t have flipped him for anything worthwhile in another deal before the deadline.
Still, it looks like an odd move on the surface. The Suns recently carried 13 players for nearly two full weeks and still had just 14 players on their squad before making the Ariza trade, so it’s not as if they’re desperate to open up a roster spot.
Even if Rivers had no interest in suiting up for the Suns, they could have kept him under contract for the time being to see if his $12.65MM expiring contract had any use on the trade market. Once they formally waive Rivers, the Suns’ most valuable expiring contract will be Dragan Bender‘s, worth $4.66MM. That’s not a big enough cap figure to match a contract in the $10-15MM range if another trade opportunity opens up for Phoenix, which could limit the club’s options at the deadline.
Wizards re-signing Chasson Randle:
The Wizards‘ latest reunion with Randle may not be as interesting as the Suns’ release of Rivers, but it’s somewhat noteworthy.
The NBA allows teams to dip down to 13 players for two weeks at a time before getting back up to the minimum of 14 players, and the Wizards have been bouncing back and forth between 13 and 14 players so far this season in an effort to keep their projected luxury-tax bill in check. Washington had already waived and re-signed Randle once earlier this fall in order to reach the league’s minimum roster requirements.
The Wizards slipped back to 13 players as a result of the Ariza deal and have until New Year’s Eve to add a 14th player, so they’ll once again sign Randle to get back to the minimum. However, in this case, it appears they’ll sign him well before that deadline arrives. As cap expert Albert Nahmad observes (via Twitter), re-signing Randle right away instead of waiting the two weeks will cost the Wizards about $294K in salary and tax savings. So why bring back Randle so soon?
Well, having traded away Rivers and Oubre, the Wizards could use the depth. John Wall, Bradley Beal, Tomas Satoransky, and two-way player Jordan McRae are essentially the only backcourt players available for Washington at the moment, so if one of those players were to go down with an injury, the club would be in a pretty tough spot. Given the Wizards’ limited backcourt options, Randle, who didn’t appear in a game during his earlier stint with the team, might actually get a chance to play this time around.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.