The 2023 NBA Trade Deadline is officially over, and the Phoenix Suns landed the biggest fish imaginable, making the biggest splash in franchise history — and arguably in NBA history as far as midseason deals are concerned. Kevin Durant is joining the Suns, along with T.J. Warren, while the Suns shipped out Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder, four unprotected first-round draft picks and swap rights to another first-rounder in 2028.
Phoenix followed up that Wednesday night blockbuster with a depth move on Thursday, dealing Dario Saric and a second-round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder for wing Darius Bazley, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
There are plenty of ripple effects to examine from the KD trade, but for now, the Suns will turn their attention to the buyout market to fortify their depth for a potential championship run. Including their two starting wings — and another no-show in Crowder — robs the Suns of their depth at that position. That means “wings” and “perimeter defense” have officially been added to “backup ball-handler” on the team’s list of needs.
With Cam Payne and Landry Shamet both banged up (and often unreliable even when healthy), the Suns could use an upgrade in their backup backcourt. Saben Lee has been better than expected, but it’d be risky to entrust a new arrival with that role if the goal is to win a title. The Suns also need a wing that can fill Bridges’ role as the lead point-of-attack defender without sacrificing too much firepower on offense.
The Suns currently have two open roster spots and their full taxpayer mid-level exception at their disposal. One of those spots could be used to convert Ish Wainright’s two-way deal, but that MLE comes with a starting salary up to $6.5 million, automatically giving them an advantage in wooing any player who gets bought out.
Couple that with the allure of playing with KD, Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Deandre Ayton, Monty Williams, James Jones and new owner Mat Ishbia, and Phoenix should be aggressive in pursuing upgrades on the buyout market. Here are a few candidates who would not only make sense in the Valley, but could very well be available on the buyout market soon.
We start with the Suns’ best option to upgrade the backup point guard spot.
After being traded from the LA Clippers to the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday, Jackson will reportedly reach a buyout with his new team, according to Charania. If Chris B. Haynes is to be believed, the Suns will be in the mix for his services:
"Reggie Jackson…Look for him and the Suns to make some contact in their near future."@ChrisBHaynes gives the latest on the buyout market pic.twitter.com/GNzGxRjOpD
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) February 10, 2023
So far this season, Jackson has put up 11.0 points and 3.5 assists per game, starting in 38 of his 51 appearances for the Clippers. While his numbers have slightly dipped from last year’s 16.8 points and 4.8 assists per game, he’s also playing fewer minutes this year.
Jackson’s 41.6 percent shooting from the field and 34.9 percent shooting from long range isn’t anything to write home about, but he’s a capable ball-handler, experienced floor general and a guy that can get hot off the bench in a hurry.
He’s not a great finisher, but he can put pressure on the rim, ranking in the NBA’s 81st percentile in drives per 75 possessions, per The BBall Index. He’s also a decent playmaker, placing in the 85th percentile in high-value assists per 75 possessions. Perhaps most importantly, he can defend, ranking in the 91st percentile in on-ball perimeter defense.
If the Suns are looking for a potential Payne upgrade/insurance on the buyout market, it probably doesn’t get much better than Reggie Jackson.
Green is admittedly a bit of a gamble, given that he’s only played three games since returning from the torn ACL and LCL in his left knee that sidelined him since May of 2022. That’s concerning for a 35-year-old who’s bounced around to five different teams over the last six seasons.
However, there’s no denying Green’s prowess as a 3-point shooter, or his experience as a three-time NBA champion on two separate teams. He’s a career 39.9 percent sniper from deep, and even this season, where he’s only shooting 27.3 percent overall in his three appearances, he’s still canned 37.5 percent of his 3s.
Green is probably past the stage of his career where he’s capable of logging starter’s minutes, so he wouldn’t solve the Suns’ question about who the fifth starter should be. But for a team that badly needs wing depth, Green’s 3-and-D skill-set and veteran experience would certainly address a position of need.
Green was involved in a three-team deal with the Clippers and will now join a tanking Houston Rockets team that has no use for him or his $10 million expiring contract. Keep an eye on this one.
Green is on an expiring $10M contract.
Good buyout name https://t.co/oCJqifn4vq
— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) February 9, 2023
Playing for the Washington Wizards on a $14.4 million expiring contract, it won’t be long before Will Barton hits the market as another top buyout candidate.
ESPN Sources: The Wizards are working on a contract buyout for veteran G/F Will Barton, allowing him to become a free agent. Barton, 32, has had a limited role with Washington this season, but started 71 games and averaged 14.7 points for the Nuggets a season ago.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 9, 2023
As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski notes, Barton’s opportunities have been limited with the Wizards this season, averaging 7.7 points in 19.9 minutes per game off the bench. Even so, he’s still knocked down 37 percent of his 3s, and he just put up 14.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game last season for the Denver Nuggets.
At 32 years old, Barton has plenty of playoff experience under his belt and can still serve as an energy guy on the wing. He ranks in the 72nd percentile in on-ball perimeter defense, per The BBall Index, and ranks in the 83rd percentile in terms of time spend guarding shot creators. He’s no Mikal Bridges by any means, but he could help address a position of need in Phoenix, as well as their need for defenders capable of handling the point of attack.
This one’s a bit dicier because of Wall’s injury history, but reuniting him with the Houston Rockets — where he and his team were miserable together — has to lead to buyout, right?
That certainly appears to be the case for Wall and his $6.5 million salary, which has a $6.8 million team option for next season:
Rockets plan to waive John Wall, per Yahoo. So Wall, Westbrook, perhaps Danny Green, among those who would be buyout options.
— Barry Jackson (@flasportsbuzz) February 9, 2023
Wall’s efficiency this season with the Clippers admittedly hasn’t been great, as he’s shooting just 40.7 percent overall and 30.3 percent from 3. However, he’s averaging 11.4 points and 5.2 assists in 22.2 minutes per game off the bench, so he’s capable of running an offense and racking up some points and assists.
He doesn’t really solve the Suns’ need for a point-of-attack defender, but if Phoenix is unsure about Payne’s ability to come back from the foot sprain and hold down that spot, Wall isn’t a terrible option.
More than likely, the bad blood between Pat Bev and Chris Paul (as well as Deandre Ayton) should rule this one out. But the Suns do need a point-of-attack defender, as well as defensive grit. There’s no question Beverley brings that in spades as the NBA’s quintessential “hate him if he’s on the other team, love him if he’s on your team” guy.
Beverley was traded from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Orlando Magic on Thursday, and according to Minnesota Timberwolves podcaster Dane Moore, he could be a prime buyout candidate for the Wolves:
Sources: A Patrick Beverley reunion in Minnesota is in the works, via the buyout market. Multiple teams are interested in Beverley for a playoff push.
— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) February 9, 2023
However, The New York Times’ Marc Stein shot down that idea, so he may be available after all. Either way, he’ll be hitting the market soon:
The Orlando Magic and guard Patrick Beverley are working through a contract buyout that clears the way for Beverley to choose among interested suitors, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) February 10, 2023
Suns fans have long hated Beverley after shoving both Paul and Ayton in the back, but he’s the type of pesky defender that can get under an opponent’s skin.
Unfortunately, Beverley’s 3-point shooting has fallen off in recent seasons, dropping to 34.8 percent this season. This comes after only making 34.4 percent of his triples the season prior. Consider him a near-last resort to upgrade the backup point guard spot.
Love has lasted in Cleveland far longer than anyone expected. That doesn’t automatically make the aging stretch-4 a buyout target, but given his inconsistent minutes over the last few weeks, as well as his $28.9 million expiring contract, is now finally the time for the Cleveland Cavaliers to cut bait?
That doesn’t appear to be the case for now:
#Cavs Koby Altman says he does not anticipate having any buyout discussions with Kevin Love.
— Chris Fedor (@ChrisFedor) February 9, 2023
At age 34, Love is clearly not what he once was, but he’d help supply some size and rebounding to the 4-spot. Unfortunately, he doesn’t appear to be available, and his production has slipped to 8.5 points and 6.8 rebounds in 20 minutes per game on 38.9 percent shooting overall and 35.4 percent shooting from 3.
Heading to the Utah Jazz as part of a perplexing three-team deal, Russell Westbrook is a no-brainer buyout candidate. He’s in the final year of a contract that pays him $47.1 million and should garner interest from several teams.
The Chicago Bulls are interested in signing Russell Westbrook should he secure a buyout from the Utah Jazz, league sources tell @NBAonTNT, @BleacherReport.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) February 9, 2023
With that being said, this is a suboptimal target. Westbrook is turnover-prone, plays horrendous defense, and while his abilities have waned, his aggressive mindset has not. That’s a troublesome combo when it comes to a guy who doesn’t appear ready to accept he’s not the same MVP player he once was.
In his defense, he’s embraced a sixth man role, averaging 15.9 points, 7.5 assists and 6.2 rebounds in his 28.7 minutes per game this season. But as is always the case, the raw production looks better than it really is when one considers his 41.7 percent shooting, his 3.5 turnovers per game and his 29.6 percent efficiency from deep.
Westbrook and KD obviously have their history, and while it feels like an unfair exaggeration to describe him as a “vampire” leaving the Lakers locker room, Russ comes with too many on-court issues. As much as the Suns need someone with a downhill mentality off the bench, this isn’t it.
After being dumped on the Indiana Pacers as part of the Milwaukee Bucks’ three-team deal for Jae Crowder, Serge Ibaka will be hitting the open market.
The Pacers will waive center Serge Ibaka, allowing the veteran big man to hit the open market, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) February 9, 2023
To be honest, what exactly Ibaka can give an NBA team at this point is a major question mark. He’s played in only 16 games this season, averaging a career-low 4.1 points and 2.8 rebounds in his 11.6 minutes per game. The days of the “Serge I-blocka” or even “Ibaka, floor-spacing stretch-4,” are long gone.
This is technically an option given the Suns’ need for some size and defensive instincts at the 4-spot, but it’d be a pretty underwhelming gamble on a player who’s looking fairly washed these days.
Once listed as a Suns trade target, Justin Holiday is now an intriguing buyout candidate to help out on the wing. The Atlanta Hawks dumped him and Frank Kaminsky on the Rockets before the deadline, and it’s hard to picture Holiday and his $6.3 million expiring contract languishing away on a tanking team.
Holiday had a limited role in Atlanta this season, averaging 4.5 points in 14.7 minutes per game for the Hawks. But the season prior in Sacramento, he put up 8.3 points in 25.6 minutes per game, and in his three prior seasons in Indiana, he shot 37.8, 38.2 and 40.5 percent from 3-point range.
Gotta imagine Justin Holiday hits the buyout market. He could help some teams.
— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) February 9, 2023
Holiday will turn 34 in April, but he’s historically been a reliable defender, and at the very least, could address Phoenix’s need for wing help.
Finally, we have Terrence Ross, who once again had to watch a trade deadline come and go without being moved from the Orlando Magic. He’s in the final year of a contract that will pay him $11.5 million this season, and there are already reports he’ll be available on the buyout market soon:
The Orlando Magic and guard Terrence Ross are finalizing a contract buyout, allowing him to become a free agent, sources tell ESPN. Ross has played seven seasons with the Magic and will now get an opportunity to join a contender.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 11, 2023
Ross is not the Sixth Man of the Year candidate he once was, but he’s still putting up a respectable 8.0 points in his 22.5 minutes per game this season, all while shooting 38.1 percent from 3-point range.
He just turned 32, but Ross can still provide some shooting and slashing for a team in need of wing depth. He’s no point-of-attack defender, but at the very least, he can add some scoring and 3-point pop off the bench.