The Phoenix Suns have been having a hard go of things since they were in the Western Conference Finals in 2010. They lost all their iconic star players that caught the attention of the casual fans. For example, Amare Stoudamire went to New York City to play for the Knicks, who paid him a lot of money to do so. Also, this last offseason, Steve Nash and Grant Hill both went to Los Angeles to play for the Lakers and Clippers respectively.
With all these great players leaving, there was one upside, a kind of silver lining for the hardcore fan. The superstar’s massive contracts also left with them.
Phoenix has a salary of $56,446,401 for this season, according to ballislife.com. That figure lands the Suns at 24th out of the 30 teams in the National Basketball Association.
Last on the list is the Cleveland Cavaliers who have a total salary in 2013 of almost $49 million, causing the Suns to only be 7 million dollars from the last team on the list.
Of all the teams below Phoenix, (Sacramento Kings, Atlanta Hawks, Minnesota Timberwolves, Indiana Pacers, Houston Rockets, Cleveland Cavaliers) all the teams are towards the beginning of the rebuilding ladder or have recently come to prominence on the NBA scene and still have their stars on good contracts.
At the top of the list is the big-spending Los Angeles Lakers, who have a total salary for only this year of $99,140,731, a little less than twice the Suns total and double Cleveland’s.
There is a big void between L.A.’s current salary situation and the next two teams in line. Brooklyn is in the number two slot at just over $84.4 million, but they just moved and built a new stadium, so they will get their money back as long as that franchise is reasonably competitive in the foreseeable future.
In the third spot is the “big three” down in South Beach. The Miami Heat’s total salary is about $82.6 million for this year, but they are coming off a championship season with the best player on the planet in Lebron James and two other All-Star starters to accompany him, so they will be fine.
However, the Phoenix Suns are not in that position. They have been so good over the course of the franchise, with the fourth-best winning percentage of .554 since their addition to the NBA in 1969, that the expectations are that they always have to be good. Above Phoenix on that list is the Los Angeles Lakers (.618), Boston Celtics (.595) and the San Antonio Spurs (.590).
It is very hard to stay competitive in this league and the Suns are on the right track to get back into contention in the playoffs in a few years.
This year their best player is making the most money (Goran Dragic $7.5M). That’s what you want. Also, in three years they will only have two starters (Dragic and Dudley), two current sophomores (the Morris twins) and a rookie, (Kendall Marshall) on their books. That is the way to rebuild.
Their situation is improved with the fact that Phoenix is already under the salary cap $6.4 million, and have an exception of $2.575 million that lets them exceed the cap by that amount at a later date.
The Suns have unfortunately already used their “amnesty clause” on Josh Childress that enables a team to get rid of a player and allows them to split that player’s salary across more years of the cap. That clause is how Phoenix acquired Luis Scola in the off-season. The Houston Rockets amnestied him, then the Suns won the auction for the Argentinian.
Draft Picks in 2013 (from HoopsWorld.com)
- Owed second-rounder (protections TBD) to the Houston Rockets (Marcus Morris).
- Owed first-rounder (unprotected) from the Los Angeles Lakers (Steve Nash). If the Lakers are a playoff team, the Cavaliers will swap the least-favorable pick with the Lakers (which transfers on to the Suns). The Cavs will chose from their own pick, the Miami Heat’s or Sacramento Kings’.
- Owed first-rounder (top-13 protected through 2014, top-12 protected through 2016) from the Minnesota Timberwolves (Wesley Johnson)/ The Wolves may send first-rounder (lottery protected) from Memphis Grizzlies instead, whichever is lower.
- Owed second-rounder (top-40 protected) from the Los Angeles Lakers (Steve Nash).
These draft picks are in addition to Phoenix’s own, which will be pretty good this off-season. The Suns own a miserable 18-39 record and will probably fall a little further as their season goes out with a whimper.
They are practically tied with the Washington Wizards for the third-worst record in the NBA, and the Wizards now have a healthy John Wall and therefore are on the rise. By season’s end Phoenix probably won’t be as bad as either the Orlando Magic or the Charlotte Bobcats.
Therefore the Suns will probably have the third-best odds at the number one pick in the 2013 NBA draft. Out of the 14 teams that miss the playoffs the previous year (lottery teams), the ping-pong balls determine who will get the top three picks then the rest is determined by inverse regular season record from the previous year.
So, the Suns future is looking up . . . from a deep, deep well. It will take some time but everything is in place for the return of orange to the postseason in the future.
Cap flexibility combined with good, young players and a multitude of great to decent draft picks is the perfect formula for making a good basketball team. The future holds only good things for the Valley of the Sun.