Phoenix Suns: 2019 NBA Draft grades

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Phoenix Suns
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The T.J. Warren Trade

For the Phoenix Suns to create max cap space this summer, they needed to dump both T.J. Warren and Josh Jackson without taking back any salary, and they also need to stretch and waive Tyler Johnson once he opts into his $19.2 million player option.

Consider this baffling move the first step in a risky gambit to get there. If Suns fans got nasty flashbacks of the mid-2000s when owner Robert Sarver dealt away first round selections in consecutive years for the infamous “cash considerations,” it’s only natural; there was an all too familiar vibe here.

The Suns’ ideal offseason was still mostly in play to this point, but dumping a 20 points per game scorer and improved 3-point shooter like T.J. Warren for virtually nothing was a move that could undoubtedly come back to bite them.

Warren’s value probably wasn’t as high as many Suns fans assumed, given the fact that he’s owed $35.3 million over the next three seasons, is a major negative on the defensive end and has missed 42, 35, 16, 17 and 39 games over his first five years in the league, respectively.

With that being said, the Pacers were able to convince Phoenix to send over a useful wing and attach an early second round selection — which they turned into three second round picks later in the night in a trade with the Miami Heat — to absorb Warren’s deal into cap space. This is a fundamental misallocation of resources, no matter which Suns regime is to blame.

Phoenix is not a prime free agency destination, nor has it been known for anything other than losing, front office chaos, player-management discord and a youth movement that’s still having trouble getting off the ground.

The natural question that stems from a confounding move like this is, does James Jones know something we don’t?

At the time, it was hard to judge this trade fully. In a vacuum, it was obviously a big-time loss. Warren may not have had a place with the team’s long-term core given his reluctance to embrace his calling as a sixth man and his inability to stay on the court, but dumping him for nothing but cap space was a hard way to cut one’s losses — necessary as it might have been.

Now the question is what the Suns will do with that cap space. They’re hedging their bets on free agency, and possibly the hope that Kyrie Irving joining the Brooklyn Nets will make restricted free agent D’Angelo Russell — a first-time All-Star and friend of Devin Booker — available.

Other options could include Patrick Beverley, Cory Joseph, Malcolm Brogdon or Ricky Rubio — who they’ll be fighting over with the Pacers.

Only time will tell whether this was the right play, or whether the Suns just made another shortsighted move to create space that was quickly filled by Dario Saric and Aron Baynes. For now, this is a losing trade, but it could turn around should Phoenix have a productive summer and put its cap space to good use.

Unfortunately, after adding Saric and Baynes, the extra $10.8 million Phoenix freed up from the Warren trade shrunk to $1.9 million.

One thing is for certain: Another season of failing to approach 30 wins can’t happen. This could be the painful, necessary first step to acquiring established vets to help get the Suns there, but for now, there’s only pain.

Grade: C-