Suns Rumors

2019 Offseason In Review: Phoenix Suns

Hoops Rumors is breaking down the 2019 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s moves from the last several months and look ahead to what the 2019/20 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the Phoenix Suns.

Signings:

  • Standard contracts:
    • Ricky Rubio: Three years, $51MM. Signed using cap room.
    • Kelly Oubre: Two years, $30MM. Re-signed using Bird rights.
    • Frank Kaminsky: Two years, $9.77MM. Signed using room exception.
    • Jalen Lecque: Four years, minimum salary. Third year non-guaranteed. Fourth-year team option. Signed using cap room.
    • Cheick Diallo: Two years, minimum salary. Second-year team option. Signed using minimum salary exception.
  • Two-way contracts:
  • Non-guaranteed camp contracts:

Trades:

Draft picks:

  • 1-11: Cameron Johnson — Signed to rookie contract.
  • 1-24: Ty Jerome — Signed to rookie contract.

Departing players:

Other offseason news:

  • Named James Jones permanent general manager
  • Hired Jeff Bower as senior VP of basketball operations.
  • Fired head coach Igor Kokoskov.
  • Hired Monty Williams as new head coach.
  • Hired Steve Blake, Willie Green, and several other assistant coaches.

Salary cap situation:

  • Used cap space; now over the cap.
  • Carrying approximately $120.86MM in salary.
  • No cap exceptions available.

Story of the summer:

After unexpectedly firing general manager Ryan McDonough just before the 2018/19 season got underway, the Suns didn’t name a permanent replacement until this past spring. James Jones, less than two years removed from appearing in the NBA Finals as a player, was placed in charge of Phoenix’s front office, with veteran executive Jeff Bower joining him in a key management role.

Although the Suns are in rebuilding mode, their offseason moves perhaps reflected the new front office’s belief that some veteran stability was necessary to complement its young prospects — and to help them develop.

It didn’t initially look like Phoenix would have any real cap room to work with in free agency, but the team managed to create a little flexibility by moving T.J. Warren and Josh Jackson – two players drafted by the previous regime – in separate trades. That newly-created room was enough to sign Ricky Rubio to a three-year, $51MM deal and to take on Aron Baynes‘ and Dario Saric‘s expiring contracts.

While Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker project to be the cornerstones of the Suns for years to come, they’ll need to some help to maximize their potential, and the front office identified those veterans as good candidates to move that process forward. Rubio will create easier shots for Phoenix’s young duo; Baynes will serve as a veteran mentor for Ayton; and Saric’s ability to stretch the floor will help open up space for both young stars to operate.

Read more

NBA Teams With Most, Fewest Guaranteed Salaries

At this point in the offseason, the majority of the NBA’s teams are carrying either 13 or 14 players on guaranteed salaries. Teams will have to pare down their rosters to no more than 15 players on standard contracts once the regular season begins, so having 13 or 14 players on guaranteed deals now gives those clubs the flexibility to allow one or two non-guaranteed players to make the team — or to carry an open roster spot into opening night.

However, there are currently a dozen teams around the league carrying fewer than 13 guaranteed salaries or more than 14. With the help of our roster counts tool, here’s a look at those teams, with details on what they might be thinking as the 2019/20 season nears:

Fewer than 13 fully guaranteed salaries:

  • Houston Rockets (10)
  • Miami Heat (12)
  • Toronto Raptors (12)
  • Utah Jazz (12)

With only 10 players on fully guaranteed salaries, the Rockets may have some competition for their final few roster spots in training camp. For now Isaiah Hartenstein and Gary Clark – each of whom have partial guarantees – look like good bets to earn spots, with Ben McLemore perhaps the frontrunner for the 13th spot. Anthony Bennett, Chris Clemons, Michael Frazier, William McDowell-White, and Shamorie Ponds are candidates to fill out the roster, though I wouldn’t be surprised if Houston eventually acquires a veteran or two with its open spots.

[RELATED: 2019/20 Non-Guaranteed Contracts By Team]

Duncan Robinson‘s and Kendrick Nunn‘s partial guarantees put them in good position to earn the Heat‘s 13th and 14th roster spots. The hard-capped club won’t have room for a 15th player to start the season.

Royce O’Neale is a lock to make the Jazz, and Georges Niang seems like a safe bet too. William Howard and Stanton Kidd could be the prime contenders for the 15th spot if Utah wants a full roster.

For the Raptors, second-round pick Dewan Hernandez, veteran point guard Cameron Payne, and returning role players Chris Boucher and Malcolm Miller are the top candidates for the final two or three openings on the regular season roster.

More than 14 fully guaranteed salaries:

  • Brooklyn Nets (15)
  • Dallas Mavericks (15)
  • Indiana Pacers (15)
  • Memphis Grizzlies (15)
  • Minnesota Timberwolves (15)
  • New York Knicks (15)
  • Phoenix Suns (15)
  • San Antonio Spurs (15)

The Grizzlies were the only team carrying more than 15 guaranteed salaries, but a buyout agreement with Dwight Howard changed that. If they reach a similar deal – or find a trade – involving Andre Iguodala, their roster count would dip to 14 fully guaranteed contracts.

The Nets, Mavericks, Pacers, Timberwolves, Knicks, Suns, and Spurs could shake things up with roster moves before the season begins, particularly if any of those teams is impressed by a non-guaranteed camp invitee. But for now, their regular season rosters look pretty set with their 15 players on guaranteed salaries.

Suns Agree To Sign Haywood Highsmith

SEPTEMBER 12: The Suns and Highsmith have reached an agreement on an Exhibit 10 deal, a source tells JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors (Twitter link).

SEPTEMBER 9: The Suns are expected to sign former Sixers forward Haywood Highsmith to an Exhibit 10 contract, league sources tell Gina Mizell of The Athletic (Twitter link). While the two sides appear to be moving toward a deal, nothing is official yet.

Highsmith, who went undrafted out of Wheeling Jesuit in 2018, signed a two-way contract with Philadelphia in January and spent the rest of his rookie season with the 76ers and the Delaware Blue Coats, the team’s G League affiliate.

Although he appeared in just five games for the Sixers, Highsmith was a solid contributor in Delaware, averaging 12.2 PPG, 6.8 RPG, and 2.5 APG in 46 games (32.3 MPG). He was waived in June by Philadelphia as the club signed Norvel Pelle and Marial Shayok to fill its two-way contract slots for 2019/20.

Highsmith, who recently worked out for both the Suns and Bucks, would be the 19th player on Phoenix’s roster if he finalizes a deal with the club. Currently, the Suns are carrying 17 players on standard deals (15 guaranteed) and one on a two-way contract.

Remaining Offseason Questions: Pacific Division

NBA teams have now completed the brunt of their offseason work, with the draft and free agency practically distant memories. Still, with training camps still a few weeks away, many clubs around the league have at least one or two outstanding issues they’ve yet to address.

We’ve spent the last couple weeks looking at all 30 NBA teams, separating them by division and checking in on a key outstanding question that each club still needs to answer before the 2019/20 regular season begins.

After focusing on the Atlantic, Southeast, and Central last week, we headed West and tackled the Northwest and Southwest this week. Today, we’re finishing things up with the Pacific. Let’s dive in…

Golden State Warriors
Will the Warriors try to create any additional breathing room under the hard cap?

As I noted earlier this week when I took a closer look at teams currently in luxury-tax territory, the Warriors are only about $407K from their hard cap, assuming they intend to retain Alfonzo McKinnie along with their 13 players on guaranteed contracts.

That proximity to the hard cap will significantly limit the Warriors’ roster flexibility this season. The Dubs won’t be able to carry a 15th man until late in the year. They’ll have little ability to replace an injured player on the roster. And they essentially won’t be able to take back more salary than they send out in any trade.

Warriors management would surely love to create some breathing room by cutting costs, but there aren’t many realistic ways for the team to move further below the hard cap. Only six players have cap hits greater than $2MM. Three of them – Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green – aren’t going anywhere, and the other three – D’Angelo Russell, Kevon Looney, and Willie Cauley-Stein – can’t be traded until at least December 15, even if the club wanted to.

In other words, if they want to create any extra room below their hard cap, the Warriors may have to get awfully creative.

Los Angeles Clippers
Who will be the Clippers’ 15th man?

The Clippers are carrying 14 players with fully guaranteed salaries and four with non-guaranteed camp contracts, leaving the door open for one of those non-guaranteed players – Donte Grantham, Terry Larrier, James Palmer Jr., or Derrick Walton Jr. – to claim the 15th regular season roster spot.

While it’s possible that one of those players will become the Clippers’ 15th man, I’d expect a team with title aspirations to be thinking bigger. Leaving that final roster spot open to start the season in case opportunities arise on the trade or buyout market is probably the most likely path for Los Angeles.

Still, it’s possible those opportunities will arise even before the season begins, as they did for L.A.’s other team when the Lakers signed Dwight Howard. Andre Iguodala is likely the Clippers’ top target to fill out the roster, but other veterans may shake loose as teams set their rosters this fall.

Los Angeles Lakers
Do the Lakers have a recovery timetable in mind for DeMarcus Cousins?

Assuming Dwight Howard looks okay in training camp, he’s on track to fill the Lakers‘ 15th regular season roster spot. Like the rival Clippers though, the Lakers are a team with championship aspirations and will want to make sure they’re optimizing all 15 roster spots. That’s where Cousins comes in.

A torn ACL isn’t quite as serious as a torn Achilles, so it’s possible Cousins will be able to make it back before the end of the 2019/20 season. But it’s his third major leg injury in the last two years, so he certainly shouldn’t be in a rush to return.

Cousins’ contract with the Lakers is only for one year, and he’ll receive his full $3.5MM whether or not he spends the whole season on the team’s roster. If the Lakers determine Cousins will miss the entire season, it would probably make sense to waive him and open up that roster spot for someone who could contribute in 2019/20.

While releasing Cousins now would create some added preseason roster flexibility, the Lakers won’t necessarily have to make this decision before the season begins — waiving him in, say, January would still open up opportunities at or after the trade deadline. His contract could also be used for salary-matching purposes in a deal.

Phoenix Suns
Is Devin Booker happy with the Suns’ offseason?

With the 2018/19 season winding down in March, Booker spoke about being involved in the Suns‘ offseason roster moves, suggesting that there was an “understanding” when he signed his five-year contract extension with the club that he’d have a voice in those decisions.

Booker hasn’t spoken in depth this summer about the Suns’ offseason, so it’s not clear if he pushed for – or voiced support for – any of the team’s acquisitions, such as Ricky Rubio, Dario Saric, Aron Baynes, Frank Kaminsky, or first-round pick Cameron Johnson. We did hear in the spring that Booker had no input in the firing of Igor Kokoskov, and a report during free agency suggested that Phoenix opted not to pursue point guard D’Angelo Russell despite Booker’s advocacy.

The Suns certainly have no obligation to run every move by their star guard, and as long as the on-court results start to improve, Booker should be on board with the direction of the franchise. Still, it’s a situation worth keeping an eye on. Even though he’s several years away from free agency, any sign of tension between Booker and the Suns would be a cause for some concern.

Sacramento Kings
Will the Kings sign Buddy Hield to a rookie scale extension?

With Ben Simmons, Jamal Murray, and Caris LeVert locked up to rookie scale extensions, Hield (along with Raptors forward Pascal Siakam) may be the next in line for a new deal. The Kings have until October 21 to get something done with their young sharpshooter, and GM Vlade Divac confirmed this week they’re working on it.

It will be fascinating to see if the Kings and Hield’s camp can agree on a fair price in the coming weeks. If he replicates or builds upon his impressive 2018/19 season, Hield can reasonably expect to get big-time offers as a restricted free agent in 2020, especially given how weak next year’s free agent class projects to be. He has some leverage, and won’t necessarily have to settle for a team-friendly deal.

The Kings, on the other hand, will have to be careful in negotiations with Hield, since he’s the first of many young players they’ll need to lock up in the coming years — De’Aaron Fox will be extension-eligible in 2020, with Marvin Bagley to follow in 2021. The higher they go for Hield, the less flexibility – and leverage – the Kings will have in those future negotiations.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Suns Notes: Highsmith, Baynes, Booker

The Suns are working out Haywood Highsmith this week, Ben Stinar of Amico Hoops reports (Twitter link). The small forward, who split time between the Sixers and the G League last season, recently worked out for the Bucks as well.

Here’s more from Phoenix:

  • The Suns traded for Aron Baynes early in the summer and Gina Mizell of The Athletic hears that Phoenix is hopeful that he’ll serve as a mentor for Deandre Ayton. Mizell discussed Baynes with The Athletic’s Jared Weiss, who believes the big man’s skill set meshes well with Ayton’s and that the veteran center will be a positive influence in the locker room.
  • In the same piece, Weiss argues that new addition Dario Saric is the best frontcourt partner for Baynes. The scribe compares the Baynes-Saric fit to the Marcus Morris-Baynes combo in Boston last season.
  • Devin Booker decided not to play for Team USA so he could get healthy for the upcoming NBA season, though the decision didn’t sit well with everyone. ESPN’s Nick Friedell believes Booker’s move was “awful,” as he explained on The Jump.

Isaiah Taylor Worked Out For Suns

  • Free agent point guard Isaiah Taylor is working out for the Nuggets in Denver this week, league sources tell Harrison Wind of BSN Denver (Twitter link). After spending the 2017/18 season with Atlanta, Taylor was pushing for a spot on Cleveland’s roster last fall when he suffered a stress fracture in his leg and was subsequently waived. Now healthy, Taylor has also worked out for the Suns and Celtics, according to Wind.

NBA Teams With Open Two-Way Contract Slots

Only a small handful of two-way players from 2018/19 had their contracts carried over to the 2019/20 season. A couple more of last year’s two-way players have signed new two-way deals. For the most part though, NBA teams have filled their two-way contract slots for the coming season with new faces, including several rookies who went undrafted in 2019.

[RELATED: Hoops Rumors Glossary: Two-Way Contracts]

At the moment, 44 of 60 league-wide two-way contract slots are occupied. A 45th appears set to be filled if and when the Knicks finalize their reported agreement with Kris Wilkes. That leaves just 15 two-way deals available across the NBA as training camps approach.

Some clubs may not fill these slots before camps get underway, preferring to sign players to non-guaranteed NBA contracts and then convert those deals to two-way pacts later, depending on how players perform in camp and in the preseason. By the time the 2019/20 regular season begins though, I don’t expect many two-way slots to still be open.

With the help of our two-way contract tracker, which lists all the players currently on two-way deals, here are the teams who can still offer two-way contracts without waiving anyone:

Two open slots:

  • Houston Rockets
  • Miami Heat
  • Toronto Raptors

One open slot:

  • Brooklyn Nets
  • Charlotte Hornets
  • Chicago Bulls
  • Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Denver Nuggets
  • New York Knicks
    • Note: The Knicks only have a slot available if their reported deal with Wilkes isn’t finalized.
  • Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Phoenix Suns
  • Portland Trail Blazers
  • Washington Wizards

Pacific Notes: Moore, Suns, Cousins, Warriors

Ben Moore‘s NBA track record is about as limited as possible for a player who has technically appeared in the league. The young forward played a total of nine minutes in two games for the Pacers during the 2017/18 season, recording one assist, one rebound, and four personal fouls. However, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando (Twitter link), the Suns are intrigued enough by Moore to bring him in for workouts this week.

As Carchia explains, Moore “opened eyes” with his performance for the USA Basketball Select Team that suited up against Team USA’s World Cup squad in Los Angeles last week. The Select Team upset the varsity club more than once during their scrimmages.

Moore, who spent last season in the G League, averaged 12.8 PPG and 8.7 RPG on .556/.368/.783 shooting in 47 games for the Austin Spurs and Fort Wayne Mad Ants. It remains to be seen whether he’ll get a chance to attend camp with an NBA team this season.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • During a recent appearance on Glenn Clark Radio, Suns assistant coach Steve Blake said that Ricky Rubio will help his new teammates “have fun” on the court this season and added that the Suns “definitely expect a lot” from newly-acquired forward Dario Saric. Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic has the details and the rest of Blake’s quotes.
  • With the NBA investigating allegations that Lakers center DeMarcus Cousins threatened his ex-girlfriend, legal expert Michael McCann of Sports Illustrated takes a deep dive into the situation, exploring what factors the league will consider and how the investigation will proceed.
  • It’s officially the end of an era for the Warriors. According to Anthony Slater of The Athletic (Twitter link), the team began to fully shift its business operations from its Oakland facility to San Francisco’s Chase Center this week.

Heat Notes: Free Agency, Leonard, Okpala, Mooney

The Heat won’t be in the market for any of the remaining free agents unless they trade someone from their current roster, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. The hard cap that the team has been operating under since the Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade has put a severe limit on its flexibility. Miami is already uncomfortably close to its $138.9MM limit.

That means potential additions such as Jamal Crawford, J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony are off the table unless the Heat make another move to open space. They could release Kendrick Nunn, whose contract isn’t fully guaranteed, but Winderman considers that unlikely. If they decide to trade someone in exchange for a lesser salary, Winderman identifies Meyers Leonard, who will earn $11.3MM this season, as a possibility. He adds that they may try to move Goran Dragic by the deadline or save their next significant moves for next summer.

There’s more this morning from Miami:

  • Second-round pick KZ Okpala wouldn’t object to spending time in the G League if it’s necessary to get consistent playing time, relays Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Jackson notes that a similar path worked for Josh Richardson, who played four games for Sioux Falls as a second-round pick in 2015. “I trust the staff and whatever they say is best,” Okpala said. “I believe in that and will go into it with a good foot forward.”
  • Free agent guard Matt Mooney, who agreed to sign an Exhibit 10 deal with the Grizzlies last week, received the same offer from the Heat, Jackson notes in the same story. It’s a similar situation to Rayjon Tucker, who recently joined the Bucks, as both players worked out for Miami and were interested in two-way contracts. However, the Heat have decided to let players in training camp compete for two-way deals.
  • Jackson rates the Heat’s potential interest in six players recently identified by former Hawks GM Wes Wilcox as among the most likely to be traded: Chris Paul, Kevin Love, Bradley Beal, Andrew Wiggins, Andre Iguodala and Devin Booker. Miami’s interest in Beal is well known, and he would be at the top of the list if he becomes available. The Heat had discussions about Paul, but won’t make a deal unless they get their two first-round picks back from Oklahoma City. Jackson doesn’t believe Miami would want Love because of his age, contract and injury history, while Iguodala fits better on an immediate contender. However, Jackson sees Booker and Wiggins as possible targets in the future if the Heat can’t land another star in free agency.