The Phoenix Suns are at the blackjack table, holding all the right cards as we move into the latter half of the 2021-22 NBA season. With veteran leadership, young talent, a team-first culture, and a head coach who has his players eager to run through a wall for him, the Suns look primed to chase after the Larry O’Brien once again this year.
Across the table sits almost every other NBA team, nervously counting up their cards, likely to fall short of 21 by the season’s end. They want to keep playing, but need some help to do so. Amongst that crowd, we find the Boston Celtics, currently tied for the play-in tournament’s final spot.
But even though the Suns possess a wide array of assets and with the Celtics desperate to add some more firepower, things grow more complicated when looking at Boston’s reported “wish list,” which includes big man Jalen Smith.
Earlier this week, Michael Scotto mentioned on The HoopsHype Podcast that the Celtics called Phoenix recently to chat about Smith’s availability. Having averaged 17.3 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per contest during four games as a starter last week, and with the Suns still possessing more established centers Deandre Ayton and JaVale McGee, other teams inquiring about him only makes sense.
After Scotto mentioned Boston’s interest in him, Yossi Gozlan also tipped his hat to Smith on the podcast, saying how he made some “much needed progress” and “the most of his big minutes in the last few weeks.”
But despite the growing intrigue around Smith, a deal remains unlikely to occur since Phoenix declined his team option earlier this year. If a team were to trade for Smith, his contract which the Suns neglected to extend would transfer over with him, set to expire this summer all the same.
That puts any team looking to add Smith this year at risk of losing him just a few months later, tanking his value despite his improved play. With that understood, the Suns would likely get low-ball offers for him, hence why we argued against trading Smith last week.
On the podcast, Gozlan agreed, saying the following:
“If you’re a team that likes Jalen Smith, why would you trade for him? You’d be putting yourself at risk of losing him next offseason, and if another team offers him more than what he was supposed to make, then you could very easily lose him.”
So put simply, trading Smith anywhere, including Boston, bares only minimal rewards for the Suns. Although young pieces Aaron Nesmith or Payton Pritchard remain valuable players which the Suns might, they still hold more value than Smith with Boston having picked up their team options.
At the end of the day, this trade rumor and its lacking momentum blatantly reflects a rare failure for the Phoenix front office. If they picked up Smith’s option, all these deals become feasible rather than pipe dreams.
Phoenix still remains well positioned at the blackjack table, owning the NBA’s top record and with Stix around as a rental this year. But they still mismanaged his contract, and will not be hitting any jackpot trades as a punishment.