UPDATE 11:38 AM: Although the plan described below is currently in place, LeBron James could make things a bit more interesting if he were to sign with the Knicks. From Paul Coro:
However, if LeBron James picks New York today, the Suns could still have a chance at Lee. The Suns would have to do a sign-and-trade with New York before the Knicks signed James. Even then, they would have to outdo other suitors, who might be offering Lee more money or be offering New York a better package. Golden State was close to an agreement that would send Anthony Randolph, Ronny Turiaf and Kelenna Azubuike to New York but Lee would have to agree to going to the Warriors. Also, Phoenix is debating whether it would give Lee a contract averaging about $13 million annually like he wants. By comparison, Steve Nash will make $10.3 million this season.
11:00 AM: Amar’e Stoudemire has had one foot in the Phoenix Suns’ door, even as he wined and dined in NYC. It didn’t mean much at all, but with free agents unable to officially sign contracts until today, Phoenix was reportedly interested in pursuing a sign-and-trade for the Knicks’ David Lee to hedge their losses. It would have been a fine move for a Suns team locked out of of big-game free agency due to their other salary commitments, but apparently it wasn’t meant to be.
However, the Suns and Knicks will still do a sign-and-trade, according to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic, and the Suns and Bulls will also complete a smaller trade on the side. In exchange for Stoudemire, the Suns will receive a $16.5 million trade exception, which could be awfully valuable as teams look to ditch long-term deals on the eve of a new CBA. The Bulls will sign-and-trade Hakim Warrick (who has already agreed to a deal with Phoenix) to the Suns by way of that trade exception, which should cut it to $13.5 million.
This could be pretty awesome for the Suns, supposing they plan their moves carefully. Once Stoudemire’s is re-signed, his cap hold is removed, which should actually clear some space for the Suns to sign another free agent. Phoenix can then officially acquire Warrick at a later date, preserving their cap space and using the trade exception to instead absorb his new contract.
The Knicks also gain about $800k in cap space. Cue the ticker tape parade.
This is a great setup for Phoenix. Stoudemire may not have landed Lee in return, but the Suns are set to make another off-season acquisition to bolster their roster (supposing they renounce the rights to Louis Amundson and Jarron Collins) while also putting them in position to make another pick-up down the road. The Suns could really get some value here, even if Amar’e wasn’t sent out in a more traditional sign-and-trade.