How Did the Active Phoenix Suns Fare on Trade Deadline Day?
The Phoenix Suns were very active today before the NBA’s trade deadline came and went. Let’s look at their moves.
Suns receive: Brandon Knight, Marcus Thornton, Danny Granger, Justin Hamilton, the Cavaliers’ 2016 first-round pick, and the Heat’s 2017 and 2021 first-round picks
Suns give: Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas, Miles Plumlee, Zoran Dragic, Tyler Ennis, and the Lakers’ 2015 first-round pick
Wow. What a day.
If we’re judging these trades separately (which they were), they look very good for the Suns. Goran Dragic -- once proclaimed by Suns management to be a franchise cornerstone -- told the Suns that he would be signing with a free agent suitor this summer. To get two first-round picks for a guy who was going to leave in a couple months anyway is a great haul.
However, if you were wanting the Suns to win now and make a playoff push this year, you’re likely disappointed by today’s transactions. These are definitely moves for the future, as evidenced by adding three first-round picks along with a much younger guard in Brandon Knight, who just turned 23 in December.
Those first-round picks are risky for both organizations, mostly because it’s tough to predict where the Heat organization will be both in 2017 and especially in 2021. One is top-seven protected in 2017, but it could still be top-10. The one in 2021 is unprotected, and with the Heat’s main players of Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and now Dragic all moving past their prime in a couple of years (if not already), the Heat could very well be bad in 2021. And again, it’s completely unprotected.
Along with the important picks, the Suns get an important young piece in Brandon Knight, who is currently enjoying his best year in the NBA. Interestingly, Knight ranks ahead of Dragic in nERD -- 2.3 compared to 0.5. nERD indicates how many wins above or below .500 an average team could expect to finish with a given player as a starter. Similarly, Knight’s 1.78 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) ranks above Dragic’s mark of 1.53 this season.
Knight is an interesting prospect, especially along with remaining guard Eric Bledsoe, in that analysts still constantly debate his position -- is he a point guard or off-guard? That could actually be a good thing with the Suns -- Bledsoe is in that same mold and head coach Jeff Hornacek could use each player interchangeably. Knight is shooting a great 40.9% from the 3-point line this year and can probably complement Bledsoe better than Dragic or Thomas, who never wanted to be sidekicks, could.
Plus, Knight is cheap, at least for the rest of this season -- he’s making only $3.55 million this season and has a qualifying offer of $5.05 million next season. The Bucks wanted to move Knight probably because they didn’t want to have to pay him his next salary, but the Suns are probably fine with that, as they were going to pay the older Dragic or Thomas more than that anyway.
The Suns are now a little less cluttered in their backcourt and have two solid young guards to build around for the future.
Our numbers say the trades will hurt them this season by about two wins and their playoff chances by about four percent. However, they probably weren’t making the playoffs anyway based on how tough the West is. Now, they have a plethora of potentially very valuable picks and a young, talented backcourt to build around.