The Phoenix Suns are right in the thick of the NBA’s Western Conference playoff race and reports are that they want to make a deal in advance of the league’s trade deadline on February 19th.
ESPN reports that the Suns are looking to move young center Miles Plumlee. While Phoenix is currently eighth in the West and only a few games ahead of ninth-place Oklahoma City, though, the Suns might not even be interested in taking on any more players for this season.
Phoenix may settle on a package involving a current player, of course, but per the ESPN piece, if it’s a draft pick coming back to them, the Suns are holding out for a first-round selection.
That price seems, in a few words, a bit steep.
Plumlee, to be fair, still has a good amount of potential. Standing 6-foot-11, he has legit height for an NBA center. Plus, at 26, there’s still a good chance that his game isn’t yet done progressing. Unfortunately, though, potential trade partners may not feel that he’s worthy of a high pick.
To date, Plumlee has been nothing more than pedestrian. After being selected as a first-round pick back in 2012 by the Indiana Pacers, he was dealt to the Suns after appearing in only 14 games. His stock went up the following season as he started for Phoenix the entire season, posting respectable averages of 8.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, while playing only a modest 24.6 minutes each contest. This year, though, he’s slid down the rotation and his numbers have taken a hit.
Plumlee has started 25 games for Phoenix this season but is averaging only around five points and five rebounds per game, in part because he has also seen his time drastically cut. The big man has gone from playing nearly 24 minutes a game in November, to 19.8 in December, to only 12.8 so far this month. In the team’s past three games, Plumlee has failed to record even ten minutes each time out and is clearly not factoring into the Suns’ plans.
A big reason for his significant drop in minutes is the play of second-year center Alex Len. Len’s minutes have spiked over the past few months and in January, he is playing nearly 25 per game. In addition, with big men Marcus and Markieff Morris, and the recent acquisition of Brandan Wright, Phoenix has some frontcourt depth. Plumlee is just going to find it difficult to get minutes in that group if Len continues to play at the same rate.
One problem the Suns face is that with the investment in Len, prospective trade partners can’t even get a good feel for what Plumlee has to offer right now. He’s played sparingly this month and it would be ideal if they could get him a few more minutes to showcase him a little.
Plumlee could indeed be worth the price of a first-round pick and a team in need of a center that is expected to have a low pick may be willing to roll the dice. As he showed last year, if he gets the minutes, he is capable of posting double doubles (11 in 2013-14). However, without seeing him out on the court, teams may balk at that asking price if Phoenix is unwilling to budge.