Darius Bazley

Atlantic Notes: Quickley, Knicks, Pritchard, Porzingis, Giles

Teams are getting closer to training camp, which means lingering questions facing NBA clubs will be answered sooner than later. The Knicks, like every team, have several issues to sort out either before training camp or shortly before the season begins writes Zach Braziller of the New York Post in a mailbag.

The biggest question the Knicks must answer is whether or not Immanuel Quickley will get a rookie scale extension before the regular season tips off. In his own mailbag, SNY’s Ian Begley writes that New York and Quickley are expected to negotiate a contract sometime this month. However, if the Knicks decide to make him available via trade, they’ll have plenty of suitors, per Begley.

Begley hears that the Knicks had several trade talks with teams surrounding Quickley at the beginning of the 2022/23 season, prior to his breakout that saw him finish as the Sixth Man of the Year runner-up. However, Begley ultimately expects Quickley to extend with New York, and believes the team will begin extending other core players – Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle and Quentin Grimes – down the road.

Braziller concurs with Begley, and sees the two sides agreeing to a deal that winds up in the four-year, $90-95MM range. Other topics included in Braziller’s mailbag include the future of Evan Fournier and what a matchup between Team USA and Canada in the 2023 FIBA World Cup would look like, with Brunson and Josh Hart potentially squaring off against RJ Barrett.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Celtics guard Payton Pritchard has never averaged more than 19.2 minutes per game in his first three seasons in the league, with his playing time declining in each subsequent season. Jared Weiss of The Athletic explores what Pritchard’s role may look like in 2023/24, which will be instrumental in determining his future with the organization. Pritchard, who wished to be moved at last year’s deadline, could be in line for more minutes with Marcus Smart‘s departure, but will need to improve. Weiss does a full video breakdown of the guard’s game to determine how he can take the next jump.
  • Battling plantar fasciitis, Kristaps Porzingis was forced to be a spectator as Latvia made the final eight of the World Cup and fell to Germany in the quarterfinals on Wednesday. Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston writes that Porzingis choosing to preserve his body in such a crucial moment for his national team is a key indicator that he’s all in on the Celtics this year. Porzingis, whom Boston traded Smart for, is expected to be ready to go by the time the NBA’s training camps begin.
  • While Harry Giles has an uphill climb to make Brooklyn’s roster out of training camp, the Nets have one of the more interesting roster battles on deck, Lucas Kaplan of NetsDaily writes. Giles, Trendon Watford and Darius Bazley appear to be in direct competition for two roster spots on the Nets. Giles, who hasn’t appeared in a game since 2020/21, only has 142 games of NBA experience and is just 25 years old, indicating he may have plenty left in the tank.

Atlantic Notes: Bazley, Maxey, Herro, Tucker, Knicks

New Nets power forward Darius Bazley envisions himself as being a versatile, defense-first contributor for Brooklyn, writes Zach Braziller of The New York Post.

Following a 2022/23 season split between the Thunder and Suns, the 6’8″ big man inked a one-year, veteran’s minimum agreement with Brooklyn, citing the team’s energy and chemistry as reasons why the Nets appealed to him.

“Just watching them a little bit in the playoffs, also just throughout the course of the season, the new team that they had towards the end here, they looked like they had fun,” Bazley said. “They looked like they played hard and together. It was just something I wanted to be a part of. When it all came down to it, Brooklyn was the place to be.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • As chatter about Damian Lillard‘s demand to be traded to the Heat continues, league executives who spoke with Sean Deveney of Heavy.com suggested that a stronger package could be put together around Sixers shooting guard Tyrese Maxey, whom they see as a better young player than Miami shooting guard Tyler Herro. “I like Herro, I think everyone does,” a rival scout said. “But when you look at where these guys are gonna be in four or five years, you can see a lot more growth potential with Maxey. He is more of an attacker, he gets into the lane, he is a lot more efficient with his shot. And you know, in today’s game, efficiency is everything. So I mean, it’s a no-brainer in that respect.”
  • Sixers star guard James Harden continues to want out of town, while veteran power forward P.J. Tucker‘s name was recently floated as a potential piece to include in a possible trade. Kyle Neubeck of ThePhillyVoice.com wonders if it may behoove Philadelphia strategically to move off Tucker’s contract. Though the 39-year-old remains a high-level defender, his meager offensive contributions last seasons don’t necessarily portend a bright future in that regard. Neubeck notes that moving Tucker for cap relief and/or a more athletic player could help the club.
  • Although the Knicks have now signed three players to fill their three two-way contracts heading into the 2023/24 season, the team is not permitted to withdraw its two-way qualifying offer to Duane Washington Jr. without his permission, in accordance with NBA guidelines, as Fred Katz of The Athletic observes (Twitter links). If Washington were to accept his two-way QO, the Knicks would have to waive one of their two-way players, since they’re not permitted to carry four.

Contract Details: Yurtseven, Micic, Jones, Craig, Banton, Bazley, Petrusev

The Jazz‘s deal with Omer Yurtseven is a two-year contract that features a partial guarantee for 2023/24 and is non-guaranteed in ’24/25, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link).

As previously reported, Yurtseven’s first-year salary is $2.8MM. His partial guarantee for the coming season is worth half that amount ($1.4MM), tweets Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype. The big man’s deal has a descending structure, Hoops Rumors has learned, so assuming he remains under contract through the first year, his cap hit for ’24/25 will dip to $2.66MM.

Here are more details on a few recently signed contracts from around the NBA:

  • Vasilije Micic‘s three-year, $23.5MM contract with the Thunder includes a team option in the third year, league sources tell Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link).
  • The Spurs signed Tre Jones to a two-year contract with a descending structure, Hoops Rumors has learned. The guaranteed base salaries are worth approximately $9.9MM and $9.1MM, for a total of $19MM. Jones can earn an extra $1MM in unlikely incentives to increase the total value of the deal to $20MM.
  • Torrey Craig‘s two-year deal with the Bulls, which includes a second-year player option, is for the veteran’s minimum.
  • Dalano Banton‘s two-year, minimum-salary contract with the Celtics is partially guaranteed for $200K in 2023/24. His guarantee will increase to a little over $1MM (50% of his salary) if he remains on the roster beyond the first day of the regular season. His second year is a team option.
  • Darius Bazley‘s one-year, minimum-salary deal with the Nets is non-guaranteed. He’ll receive a $200K partial guarantee if he makes the opening-night roster. That partial guarantee would increase to $700K if he’s still under contract beyond December 15.
  • The Sixers signed Filip Petrusev to a two-year, minimum-salary contract that is non-guaranteed in the second season. The first year is partially guaranteed for $559,782, which is half of the rookie minimum (and the equivalent of the full-season salary for a player on a two-way contract).

Darius Bazley Signs One-Year Deal With Nets

JULY 16: Bazley has officially signed with the Nets, the team’s PR department tweets.

JULY 14: The Nets are signing free agent big man Darius Bazley to a one-year contract, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Bazley was the No. 23 overall pick of the 2019 draft. He spent his first three-plus seasons with the Thunder prior to being traded to Phoenix at the February deadline.

Like all former first-round picks who have all four years of their rookie scale contract exercised, Bazley was eligible for restricted free agency had the Suns given him a $6.2MM qualifying offer.

They chose not to, making him unrestricted and free to sign with any team. It wasn’t surprising given that Bazley had limited role with Phoenix, only appearing in seven games and a total of 61 minutes down the stretch.

Overall, the 6’8″ forward/center has averaged 9.1 PPG and 5.3 RPG on .411/.310/.673 shooting in 218 career games (118 starts, 3.6 MPG) with the Thunder and Suns. Bazley is still just 23 years old, a high leaper, and has shown flashes defensively. He also handled his inconsistent playing time last season with Oklahoma City very professionally.

Brooklyn technically hasn’t used any of its mid-level exception or bi-annual exception, but I’m guessing Bazley will be on a minimum-salary deal, given the timing of it (two weeks into free agency) and the Nets’ proximity to the luxury tax.

The Nets have focused on youth and athleticism this offseason, also signing Lonnie Walker and Dennis Smith Jr., two more former first-round picks.

As Brian Lewis of The New York Post writes, Bazley will fill Brooklyn’s 15th and final standard roster spot for now. However, the Nets could have another spot open soon. Guard Edmond Sumner, whose non-guaranteed contract becomes fully guaranteed tomorrow after he agreed to push back the guarantee date, sent out a tweet talking about overcoming adversity.

No QOs For Suns’ Bazley, Cavs’ Windler, Heat’s Yurtseven

The Suns opted not to issue a qualifying offer to forward Darius Bazley, league sources tell Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link). As a result, Bazley will become an unrestricted free agent rather than restricted.

The decision doesn’t come as a huge surprise, since Bazley’s qualifying offer would have been worth approximately $6.2MM. While it’s not clear if Phoenix is interested in re-signing the former first-round pick, the team will hold his Bird rights and could probably re-sign him at a more team-friendly rate.

Cavaliers wing Dylan Windler also didn’t receive a qualifying offer and will become an unrestricted free agent, reports Scotto (Twitter link).

Windler was never considered likely to get a QO, which would’ve been worth just shy of $6MM. He has been limited by injuries in his first four NBA seasons and hasn’t become a rotation player in Cleveland, appearing in just 84 total games.

Heat center Omer Yurtseven is another player who was eligible for a qualifying offer but didn’t receive one, according to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press (Twitter link).

Yurtseven’s QO is only worth a projected $2.22MM ($200K more than his minimum salary), but the Heat will be cost-conscious about how they fill out their roster, given that their team salary projects to go well beyond the luxury tax line.

The following players did receive qualifying offers and will be restricted free agents:

Pacific Notes: Davis, Vezenkov, Lamb, Bazley

Terence Davis, an unrestricted free agent after the season, has seen his playing time plunge this month. He got a chance to play big minutes on Saturday due to injuries and delivered a 21-point, seven-rebound game for the Kings, Chris Biderman of The Sacramento Bee writes. Davis acknowledged that he needed an outing like that.

“I haven’t been playing well,” the Kings guard said. “So that’s just point-blank, period. I haven’t been playing well. I haven’t been locked in, honestly. I’m just trying to get that rhythm back. The opportunity opened back up for me and I was able to take advantage of it.”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Kings GM Monte McNair and VP of player personnel Phil Jabour traveled to Greece to watch draft-and-stash prospect Sasha Vezenkov play, columnist Shot Vetakis tweets. The Olympiacos Piraeus forward is considered the favorite for the EuroLeague MVP award, according to Javier Gancedo of EuroLeagueBasketball.net. Kings players have endorsed bringing in Vezenkov, who is averaging 18.2 points and 7.2 rebounds in 28 EuroLeague contests this season.
  • Anthony Lamb‘s new contract with the Warriors only covers the rest of the season, Hoops Rumors has confirmed. That will make Lamb a restricted free agent after the season. The swingman was promoted from a two-way deal to a standard contract on Friday.
  • Forward Darius Bazley said that getting traded from the Thunder to the Suns jolted him, per Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. “It was kind of tough,” Bazley said. “When it first happened, it was one of those moments when you’re like, ‘Dang.’ That’s all I knew. A lot of those guys, I’ve been with them since I first came here.  In the NBA, your teammates and staff, you spend more time with them than you do your own families.” A restricted free agent this summer if extended a qualifying offer, Bazley has only made two cameos with the Suns.

Trade Breakdown: Dario Saric To The Thunder

This is the sixth entry in our series breaking down the significant trades of the 2022/23 season. As opposed to giving out grades, this series explores why the teams were motivated to make the moves. Let’s dive into a deal between the Suns and Thunder

On February 9, the Thunder traded forward/center Darius Bazley to the Suns in exchange for forward/center Dario Saric, Phoenix’s 2029 second-round pick and $1MM in cash.

The Thunder’s perspective:

On the surface, this seems like a pretty minor trade that got lost in the shuffle a bit due to all the blockbusters leading up to the deadline. That said, I thought it was interesting for a number of different reasons.

As our Luke Adams explains in our glossary entry on traded player exceptions, even though this seems like a straightforward one-for-one swap, this was actually a non-simultaneous deal for both the Thunder and the Suns, making it mutually beneficial.

A non-simultaneous deal means a team can trade away a single player without immediately taking salary back in return, allowing it to create an outstanding trade exception.

This deal showed the value of having a large ($10,183,800) outstanding traded player exception, which permitted the Thunder to take on Saric’s $9,240,000 contract for “nothing.” That also allowed them to generate a new TPE, worth $4,264,629, which is what Bazley is making this season.

The Suns created their own TPE because they only traded one player and took back less salary than they sent out. It’s worth $4,975,371, which is the difference between Saric’s salary and Bazley’s. Both teams will have until next February to use their new TPEs.

There are plenty of examples of large TPEs not being used at all. Often that has to do with the team’s proximity to the luxury tax and its willingness (or lack thereof) to pay a huge chunk of cash for what could amount to a rental player (many players involved in deadline deals are on expiring or pseudo-expiring contracts — both Saric and Bazley could hit free agency this summer, for example).

The Thunder were in the sweet spot of being over the cap but far enough below the luxury tax line that they could use their large TPE to create an additional asset of sorts to possibly create future value. It also netted them a second-round pick and a little cash, since the Suns were motivated to move off Saric’s contract.

Cap aspects aside, when it was first announced, my first thought was to wonder if Saric might reach a buyout agreement or get waived, even though the Thunder were (and still are) in the play-in race. A handful of days after the deadline, it definitely sounded like he wasn’t going to pursue a buyout, praising the organization and saying he was “open-minded” about his potential role.

However, a report late last month indicated that he nearly was waived as Oklahoma City sought flexibility with its last roster spot, instead choosing to release Eugene Omoruyi.

My second thought was, wait, did the Thunder just make an on-court upgrade and get draft capital back? That very rarely happens.

That’s not to say the Thunder made a win-now move, far from it. The primary objective was landing the second-round pick and creating a new TPE. Saric is on an expiring contract and I’m sure the Thunder’s front office wouldn’t mind if they missed the postseason, though they haven’t shown any signs of blatantly tanking to this point.

He may not be a household name, but Saric is an accomplished player, providing solid value with all three of his previous clubs (he started with Philadelphia and was traded to Minnesota in the Jimmy Butler deal back in ‘18/19). He holds career averages of 11.2 PPG, 5.6 RPG and 1.9 APG on .443/.360/.838 shooting in 402 games (217 starts, 24.0 MPG).

Saric missed all of last season while recovering from a torn ACL he suffered in Game 1 of the 2021 NBA Finals. He had a second surgery last May to repair a torn meniscus, making it an open question what his form would look like upon his return from two major knee surgeries.

He (understandably) had a very slow start to 2022/23, only appearing in 22 of Phoenix’s first 41 games with averages of 3.8 PPG and 2.8 RPG on .358/.351/.857 shooting in 11.6 MPG. That’s why I said his free agent stock was trending down when I wrote about him in January.

However, he was a rotation fixture in the 15 games (seven starts, 18.5 MPG) leading up to the deadline, averaging 8.8 PPG, 5.4 RPG and 2.3 APG on .485/.438/.800 shooting. Saric’s solid play has continued post-trade, as he’s averaging 10.1 PPG and 3.7 RPG on a scorching hot .627/.458/.889 shooting line through nine games with the Thunder (14.9 MPG).

The 28-year-old has an excellent feel for the game, using his high basketball IQ to overcome his relative lack of athleticism. He is a below-the-rim finisher, but has good touch and lots of tricks around the basket – he’s shooting 67.1% at the rim this season, which ranks in the 71st percentile, per DunksAndThrees.com.

The Thunder run a five-out offense where every player on the court is capable of dribbling, passing, screening and shooting. All of those are strengths of Saric’s.

He isn’t a great defensive player at either frontcourt position, and he’s undersized against some centers (he’s listed at 6’10” and 225 pounds). That said, he’s generally in the right spots, he just lacks the foot speed to stick on the perimeter and the length to protect the paint.

Oklahoma City has had a ton of draft picks over the past few years, and still has loads more in the future. Bazley was one that didn’t work out.

The No. 23 overall pick of the 2019 draft, Bazley entered the NBA as an excellent athlete with raw skills. He turned into a solid defensive player, but struggled mightily offensively.

I gained a newfound respect for Bazley as a person after I saw a video of him talking about his diminished playing time this season (he only appeared in 36 of 54 games for an average of 15.4 MPG). His team-first attitude and self-awareness were admirable.

While Bazley is certainly young and talented enough that he could develop elsewhere, he was viewed as unlikely to be in the Thunder’s long-term plans even if they had kept him through the deadline. The harsh reality is trades are part of the business.

The Suns’ perspective:

Phoenix’s primary, secondary and tertiary reasons for making this deal were financial. As Luke Adams details in our glossary entry, the NBA’s luxury tax is set up so that the penalties become increasingly punitive the further teams go beyond the tax line.

Trading Saric for Bazley saved the Suns approximately $20MM toward their estimated luxury tax payment. According to Eric Pincus of Sports Business Classroom, the Suns are currently $22,249,841 over the tax with an estimated luxury tax bill of $53,436,904. And that’s after this trade was made.

Saric started to pick up steam prior to the deadline, was a key contributor to the team’s culture, and played a role in its run to the Finals a couple years ago. Would he have provided $20MM worth of value for the remainder of this season? In the most optimistic scenarios, maybe? But probably not.

Trading for Kevin Durant means there won’t be many minutes at power forward in the playoffs. Ditto at center behind Deandre Ayton. The Suns still have several options to explore backing up those frontcourt spots, including Torrey Craig, T.J. Warren, Ish Wainright, Jock Landale, Bismack Biyombo and Bazley.

Maybe the Suns like Bazley as a defender and believe he has untapped upside on offense. He’s still just 22 years old. But he had also only appeared in one of a possible seven games (for seven minutes) entering Wednesday’s matchup with his former team.

In all likelihood, Bazley’s role will be minor going forward. As a championship hopeful, the Suns can’t really afford to play him when it counts, because opposing teams dare him to shoot and he’s only converting 50% at the rim, which is in the sixth percentile of all players, per DunksAndThrees.

Given Phoenix’s cap situation going forward, plus its window of contention and where Bazley is at in his development, the odds of him receiving a qualifying offer to become a restricted free agent seem slim. If that scenario plays out, he would instead become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason.

The $4,975,371 TPE the Suns created as part of the deal could be used to acquire a player who makes more than the minimum at some point in the future. Losing one second-round pick several years down the line isn’t a big deal, as a few are typically up for sale in every draft.

How far the Suns go in the postseason will ultimately be determined by their star players’ health. Obviously, Durant suffering an ankle sprain just three games after returning from a knee injury isn’t ideal, but they’ve still been on a roll lately, winning 16 of their past 21 games.

The Suns are betting they have enough depth behind Durant and Ayton that losing Saric won’t come back to bite them – a reasonable position, particularly considering how much money they saved by moving him.

Thunder Notes: Saric, Deadline Deals, Omoruyi, Sarr

Although he’s still just 28 years old, Dario Saric suddenly finds himself in the position of being his team’s oldest player following a trade from Phoenix to Oklahoma City last Thursday. Saric, who referred to the Thunder as a “high-level organization,” doesn’t sound like someone who will pursue a buyout from his new club, suggesting on Monday that he’s looking forward to taking on the role of veteran mentor in OKC.

“You’re always surprised,” Saric said of the trade, per Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. “That’s kind of how things go. At the end of the day, happy to be here. Happy to be part of this organization, a part of this group of young, talented guys who have a lot of years in front of them to play basketball.”

Asked about the role he anticipates playing with the Thunder, Saric said he doesn’t have any real expectations and is happy to play things by ear.

“I think I will go with the flow,” he said. “We’re gonna figure out everything, how the games go. I’m here open-minded, and coach (Mark Daigneault) says he’s open-minded.”

Here’s more on the Thunder:

  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is looking forward to seeing what Saric brings to the Thunder, but admitted it was tough to say goodbye to Darius Bazley and Mike Muscala at the trade deadline. Gilgeous-Alexander referred to the club’s locker room as “close-knit” and added that Bazley is “like a brother” to him. Daigneault, meanwhile, said he hopes Bazley and Muscala thrive with their new teams, Mussatto writes for The Oklahoman. “We want those guys to move on and continue to have success and contribute to the teams that they’re on,” the head coach said. “I think that would be a good reflection on the program.”
  • Eugene Omoruyi‘s new contract with the Thunder is a two-year, minimum-salary deal that isn’t guaranteed beyond this season, Hoops Rumors has learned. Oklahoma City will hold a non-guaranteed $1,927,896 team option on Omoruyi for the 2023/24 season following his promotion from a two-way contract last week.
  • As for Olivier Sarr‘s two-way deal, it only covers the rest of this season, Hoops Rumors has learned. Players who sign two-way contracts during the second half often agree to add a second year, but that’s not the case for Sarr, who will be eligible this summer for restricted free agency.

Suns Notes: Durant, Warren, Payne, Shamet, Crowder, Wainright, Ayton

The Suns have confirmed that Kevin Durant, who is still recovering from an MCL sprain, won’t play until after the All-Star break, but the star forward “looked great” in his first practice with the team on Monday, teammate T.J. Warren said, per Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Durant, who wasn’t wearing a brace on his injured knee, played some 1-on-1 with assistant coach Jarrett Jack, Rankin writes.

Warren, who was sent from Brooklyn to Phoenix along with Durant, said it was a “surreal feeling” to return to the place where he spent the first five years of his career and to have a chance to play alongside superstars and contend for a title (Twitter video link via PHNX Sports).

During Warren’s first five seasons in Phoenix from 2014-19, the club posted a dismal 126-284 (.307) record. This time around, the Suns are the betting favorites to make it out of the West and play in the NBA Finals.

Warren and fellow Suns newcomer Darius Bazley aren’t on the injury report for Tuesday’s game vs. Sacramento, so they should be available to make their debuts for the team, tweets Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports.

Here’s more on the Suns:

  • Suns guards Cameron Payne and Landry Shamet, who are both dealing with foot injuries, will remain sidelined through the All-Star break and will be reevaluated next week, tweets Rankin. Payne hasn’t played since January 4 due to a right foot sprain, while Shamet has been out since Jan. 16 as a result of right foot soreness.
  • Now a member of the Bucks, Jae Crowder declined to take any parting shots at the Suns when asked about the situation that led to him sitting out the first several months of the season. “Obviously I’ve been working with these guys for a trade partner for months now. I think, give or take, they did exactly what they said they were gonna do. Took longer than what we all expected, but it got done,” Crowder said (Twitter link via Eric Nehm of The Athletic). “… I’m thankful for the organization embracing me the past two years — we had a great run and we did some great things in Phoenix and we turned their culture around. So I’m happy for those guys. I wish them luck moving forward.”
  • Suns two-way player Ish Wainright can only be active for two more games before he reaches his limit for the season, tweets Bourguet. Given that Phoenix plays twice before the All-Star break and then is off for eight days, the club will likely have Wainright active for both of this week’s contests and then use the time off to decide whether to promote him to a standard contract, Bourguet observes. The Suns currently have two openings on their 15-man roster, though Terrence Ross is expected to fill one of them.
  • Deandre Ayton remained with the Suns through the trade deadline, then faced the Pacers on Friday, seven months after signing an offer sheet with Indiana that Phoenix quickly matched. Despite some speculation during the last year about whether Ayton really wanted to be with the Suns, he said he wasn’t thinking last week about what could have been, Rankin writes for The Arizona Republic. “I enjoyed playing against (Indiana) and being out there, but I’m happy with my Suns, though,” Ayton said. “Forget that. That’s behind me. I’m happy I’m with my Suns.”

Suns Trade Saric, Second-Rounder To Thunder For Bazley

7:53pm: The trade is now official, according to a press release from the Thunder. Phoenix sent its own 2029 second-round pick and cash to Oklahoma City in the deal.

1:00pm: The Suns are trading forward/center Dario Saric and a second-round pick to the Thunder in exchange for forward/center Darius Bazley, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter).

As John Hollinger of The Athletic tweets, the deal was possible because of a large traded player exception the Thunder created when they dealt Derrick Favors to Houston before the 2022/23 season started (Favors was subsequently waived).

Both players are impending free agents — Saric will be unrestricted and makes $9.24MM in the final year of his contract, while Bazley is earning $4.26MM and will be a restricted free agent if Phoenix gives him a qualifying offer.

Considering the Suns went all-in in their blockbuster trade to acquire superstar forward Kevin Durant, I’m a little surprised that they’re moving a second-round pick — and perhaps the better player — to save money in this deal. Saric missed all of last season while recovering from a torn ACL and he had a very slow start to ’22/23, but he has played his best basketball as of late, averaging 8.8 PPG, 5.4 RPG and 2.3 APG on .485/.438/.800 shooting over the past 15 games (seven starts, 18.5 MPG).

It’s definitely not certain that Saric is a better player than Bazley right now. Both players have been in-and-out of their teams’ rotations, but Bazley (22) is six years younger than Saric (28) and is a superior athlete and defender, while the Crotian veteran has been a better all-around offensive player to this point in their careers.

Perhaps the Suns didn’t want to bring back Saric in free agency, or they were worried about his fit with the new roster. Either way, they will save a significant amount of money toward the luxury tax and get a look at a versatile defensive player who might have some untapped upside in Bazley — his next contract should be relatively affordable, if they choose to re-sign him.

For the Thunder, they add a veteran in the frontcourt after agreeing to trade Mike Muscala to Boston, and add another second-round pick to their ever-growing draft cache. Stylistically, Saric fits well with what the Thunder like to do offensively, as he’s a good screener, passer and play-maker, while Bazley is more limited in that regard.