NBA PM: Phoenix Suns Pursuing Josh Smith
It’s no secret that the Phoenix Suns are trying to acquire a star player. Last offseason, the Suns signed Eric Gordon to a maximum offer sheet, but the New Orleans Hornets matched the contract. In recent weeks, Phoenix tried to acquire Rudy Gay, but the Memphis Grizzlies decided to send him to the Toronto Raptors instead.
Now, after missing out on Gordon and Gay, the Suns have shifted their attention to a new star that may be available prior to the Feb. 21 trade deadline.
The Suns are pursuing Josh Smith, according to multiple league sources. Phoenix will try to acquire Smith before the deadline or, if that fails, through a sign-and-trade deal next offseason.
The Suns are very interested in Smith and have had exploratory talks with the Atlanta Hawks about the 27-year-old forward. Phoenix views Smith as a franchise player who can be one of the cornerstones of the team for years to come. The Suns have been searching for a face of the franchise since Steve Nash’s departure last summer, and Smith could be exactly that. If the Hawks decide it’s time to part ways with Smith, the Suns will be one of the teams on the phone.
Phoenix has attractive assets, particularly Marcin Gortat, who could play alongside Al Horford and give the Hawks one of the best frontcourts in the Eastern Conference. They also have Jared Dudley and Michael Beasley as well as the expiring contracts of Wes Johnson, Shannon Brown (whose 2013-14 salary is non-guaranteed), Sebastian Telfair and Jermaine O’Neal. Phoenix also has several first-round picks – their own pick and two additional first-round picks that they acquired in the Nash trade with the Los Angeles Lakers and the Johnson trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Luis Scola could also be involved in the trade, but only if the deal is a sign-and-trade since he can’t be traded until July 1 due to the fact that he was signed by the Suns after being amnestied by the Houston Rockets.
Smith and his agent, Wallace Prather, are expected to meet with the Hawks at some point this week to discuss the forward’s future in Atlanta. The two sides met after Smith’s one-game suspension for “conduct detrimental to the team,” but Smith’s camp didn’t demand a trade. It’s unclear if Smith and Prather will ask for a trade during this next meeting, although many people in NBA circles believe that Smith’s days in Atlanta could be numbered. In recent weeks, more teams have been calling the Hawks and inquiring about Smith, especially since his public comments about being “a max contract player.”
While the Suns will express interest in Smith, they aren’t the only team that will make a run at the star forward. The Houston Rockets, Charlotte Bobcats and Dallas Mavericks have also been mentioned as potential suitors for Smith.
If the Suns trade for Smith and re-sign him over the summer, they could have as much as $20 million in cap space still left over, assuming all of their current options are declined and next year’s cap sits at $59 million as projected. That means they can add Smith and still have money to sign a second big-name free agent such as Dwight Howard or more realistic options like Monta Ellis, Andre Iguodala or Paul Millsap.
The Suns have been actively trying to acquire a star player for the last six months, and they’ll continue to swing for the fences in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline. If the Hawks decide to move Smith and get something in return for him rather than letting him walk as an unrestricted free agent over the summer, don’t be surprised if the Suns are one of the teams trying to acquire him.
Why the Grizzlies Traded Rudy Gay Now
Why didn’t the Memphis Grizzlies wait until after the season to trade Rudy Gay? That’s one of the biggest questions being asked after the Grizzlies decided to trade Gay to the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday evening. They were already out of luxury tax territory after trading Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington and Josh Selby to the Cleveland Cavaliers so why not wait and give their core group one more postseason to try to contend in the Western Conference?
While that’s a fair question, the answer is simple: Gay had grown unhappy with the situation in Memphis and it was time for both parties to move on.
Grizzlies brass had met with Gay last weekend and the small forward made it clear that he would welcome a trade.
Gay was also tired of hiding his frustration. While players like Mike Conley made it clear that they didn’t want management to make a trade and would be upset to see the team broken up, Gay didn’t seem like he cared what happened before the deadline. If the Grizzlies traded him, that’d be fine with him. Last week prior to the Grizzlies’ game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Gay was asked if he thought the front office would keep the team’s core together. He used this opportunity to voice his frustration and take a shot at management.
“It really doesn’t matter what they think about us,” Gay said of Memphis’ front office last week. “It’s all about what’s in the locker room and what we think we can do. It really doesn’t matter what they think.”
Gay was sick of the trade rumors. He was tired of seeing his name surface in report after report.
For quite awhile, Gay had told people in his inner circle that he would welcome a trade from Memphis. Last offseason, he reached out to several players on teams that were pursuing him to discuss the possibility of playing together. Gay was never too fond of Memphis. He seriously considered leaving when he became a free agent in 2010, but he couldn’t turn down a maximum extension. Gay signed for the money, not because he was attached or in love with Memphis.
Also, the Grizzlies were concerned that if they waited until the offseason to trade Gay, he would be able to hold the team hostage since he has a player option for the 2014-15 season. If Gay decided he was going to opt out of the final $19,317,326 of his contract to sign a new long-term deal, he would have some control over where he landed since he could scare teams off by refusing to make a long-term commitment. The Grizzlies didn’t want this situation to mirror what the Denver Nuggets had to go through when they traded Carmelo Anthony. Anthony was in the final year of his contract and he refused to commit long-term to any team other than the New York Knicks, which left Denver with limited options.
Another aspect that has been overlooked is Gay’s shaky relationship with Zach Randolph. Behind the scenes, Gay and Randolph had butted heads for quite awhile. While Gay and Randolph tolerated each other, they weren’t close and had several spats over the years.
There were a lot of things happening behind the scenes that forced the Grizzlies’ hand. Gay was already upset with the trade rumors and delaying the inevitable would have made things worse, especially considering their options could’ve been severely limited if Gay played his cards right. Not to mention, Gay and Randolph had butted heads, so it’s not like the Grizzlies broke up a perfect team that was guaranteed to make a deep postseason run. This was a dysfunctional situation.
Now, the Grizzlies not only shed some salary, but they also acquired Tayshaun Prince, who is a good fit in Memphis, as well as a very promising young player in Ed Davis.
This was the right time to trade Gay, even if it seemed questionable from the outside looking in.