I understand it's early, but let's do this under the assumption the Phoenix Suns are going to finish with a top 10 draft pick. Some people are still holding out hope, its not a 100 percent lock the Suns bomb this year, but there is a strong possibility it could happen based on what we've seen so far from the 5-9 team.
Most agree at best Phoenix is an eighth seed or fighting it out for the final playoff spot so the ceiling isn't high anyway.
Assumption number two is Phoenix lets Nash play out his contract and he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
The situation sets up with the Suns having a ton of money to spend, maybe even enough for two max contracts depending on what the salary cap ends up being.
The players left under contract are Marcin Gortat, Josh Childress, Channing Frye, Hakim Warrick, Jared Dudley and Markieff Morris.
I would be shocked if Josh Childress wasn't amnestied during this offseason; Put it this way, Childress has a player option for $7,317,500 in 2014/2015.
Childress is gone.
Robin Lopez is a restricted free agent; they have to make a decision on him. Gortat, Frye and Morris are on the roster combining for $15,322,000. Is Robin Lopez at $5,000,000 per year worth keeping?
My hope with Lopez, and it hasn't happened, was he would play well enough to get his trade value up. Then you open up the possibility of finding someone desperate for a big man and trading him for a player with a smaller contract for more years or a second round draft pick with a one year salary matching up.
At this point, if the Suns don't work out an extension by the deadline, which they would be nuts to do, the best play is to lose him for nothing during the summer. If you can get Robin back at a reasonable price, something around $4,000,000 a year, then you could keep him.
So no Lopez and Childress with $24,212,000 invested in Gortat, Frye, Warrick, Dudley and Morris plus a 2012 draft pick.
Those are your assets right there.
First and the most obvious place to go is the free agent market. That isn't looking like too hot an option for the Suns right now.
Russell Westbrook, who I honestly thought if one of the player were going to slip through the cracks and sign somewhere else Westbrook was the guy. Dead wrong, he re-upped with Oklahoma City quickly and quietly.
The two big name unrestricted free agents are Dwight Howard and Deron Williams. By a show of hands does anyone think either of those two are coming here? No hands, ok were moving on.
Next up are the other top RFAs: Kevin Love, Eric Gordon, Brook Lopez, Nicolas Batum, Danilo Gallinari, JaVale McGee, Roy Hibbert, Omer Asik, D.J Augustin, O.J. Mayo, George Hill, Michael Beasley, Darrell Arthur, Semih Erden, Courtney Lee, J. J Hickson, Anthony Randolph, Jason Thompson, Jodie Meeks, Rudy Fernandez, Marreese Speights, Jerryd Bayless, Sam Young, Landry Fields, A.J Price, Brandon Rush, Bill Walker.
Let's start with the top.
Love, Gordon and Gallinari I would consider 100 percent locks to stay with their current teams.
If Batum, McGee and Hibbert don't get extensions done by the upcoming deadline, the Suns would likely have to over pay to get their current teams not to match.
I think it's fair to say Brook Lopez will probably be available. If a team offers him a deal right away as the Nets are waiting on decisions from Williams and Howard they have no choice, but to not match.
From Asik down if any of those players make it to the free agency period Phoenix could get them if the pay the right price.
This is the top group of unrestricted free agents: Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Steve Nash, Chauncey Billups, Jason Kidd and Andre Miller are all available. Only one in that group who makes any sense with Phoenix is Steve Nash, they don't have a shot at any of the others and they don't make sense for a rebuilding team.
That leaves you with this group for the pickings...Greg Oden, Raymond Felton, Goran Dragic, Carl Landry, Kirk Hinrich, Jason Terry, Carlos Delfino, C.J Miles, Spencer Hawes, Jeff Green, Ersan Ilyasova, Boris Diaw, Vince Carter, Marcus Camby, Mehmet Okur, Jermaine O'Neal, Chris Kaman, Marco Belinelli, Ian Mahinmi, Louis Amundson, Matt Barnes, Michael Pietrus, Leandro Barbosa, Ronny Turiaf, Nazr Mohammed and Anthony Tolliver.
Suns pay the right price they can have their choice of any of that group.
Within the two groups of players there are some nice pieces to teams. If a solid core is in place complimentary players to fill holes on a roster can be found.
The problem is the Suns have the complimentary pieces; they need players who make those pieces compliments instead of main cogs.
With a salary floor in place if the Suns miss on all of the top free agents Phoenix will still be required to spend money.
They can do the one year deal angle again accept the fact they aren't going to be good and grab another top draft pick.
The other option is they pay a few decent players, stay as a middling team with a ceiling of a first round playoff exit.
The worst case scenario theory they end up New Jersey Nets 2010 offseason missing out on their top targets and over pay guys like Travis Outlaw, Jordan Farmar and Johan Petro.
Ahh the New Jersey Nets, they didn't hit in free agency, but they got their big time player through a trade.
Do the Suns have the assets to make a trade for a true superstar happen and is there even a true superstar who is available?
Being under the cap is a good thing because it is easier for the Suns to make trades. Making contracts match-up is not an issue they can take on more salary.
If a high level player becomes available is a package of Morris and two future first round picks or Morris, the top 10 2012 pick and a future first round pick enough as a base of young assets to get a deal done?
You can always throw in any of the other players on the Suns roster, but will a team looking to make a deal want to take on any of their salaries? Not one of the Suns players locked in will be on an expiring contract after next season.
The Suns could do an actual basketball trade without anything to do with a team trying to rebuild looking for young pieces or free up cap space.
Something like moving Gortat, Frye, or Morris for a creating two guard or replacement at point guard if Nash moves on.
You could get something for Jared Dudley if you wanted to trade him. His contract is reasonable and on the right team he could be one of the best role players in the NBA.
How it actually plays out will be interesting to see. Unless there is a surprising move this season that seriously alters the current roster, the direction the Suns are going for the next five to seven years will likely be decided this summer.
Thanks to hoopshype.com for the salaries.
Thanks to Tom Ziller from SB nation for the free agent list.