NBA

Suns’ sale to Mat Ishbia to be finalized before trade deadline; new owner involved in strategy, per report

The sale of the Phoenix Suns to Mat Ishbia is expected to be ratified by the NBA board of governors in early February, and, since he’ll officially take control of the team before the Feb. 9 trade deadline, he will be involved in team-building strategy as the deadline approaches, according to ESPN’s Baxter Holmes and Adrian Wojnarowski

Robert Sarver, the suspended, soon-to-be former owner of the Suns, technically had to approve any acquisition of a player making more than the league’s average salary, which is $10.8 million, as outlined in a letter sent from the NBA to the franchise, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported in early January

From Holmes and Wojnarowski:

Ishbia becoming the team’s official owner by the Feb. 9 trade deadline will clear the way for Ishbia to oversee the team’s deals with the front office. Ishbia is eager to start his involvement with basketball operations, and expected to be a hands-on owner in matters of team building, sources said.

Phoenix won a league-best 64 games in the 2021-22 regular season before being eliminated by the Dallas Mavericks in a seven-game series in the second round. This season, the Suns are 25-24 and seventh in the West, largely because they’ve been severely shorthanded for most of it. Franchise player Devin Booker remains out with a groin injury, and forward Jae Crowder has been away from the team all season while the front office has tried to find a suitable trade. 

During an episode of his podcast, “The Lowe Post,” ESPN’s Zach Lowe said Tuesday that he has heard Ishbia wants to win now rather than pivoting to a more future-focused strategy, and that, according to a rival executive, the Suns want to get back two of the following three things in a potential Crowder deal: “a good young player, a first-round pick and a rotation-, almost a starter-, Crowder-level player.” 

Last week, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that Phoenix was interested in Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet. On Tuesday, Marc Stein reported the same thing, adding that the Suns are “assessing their post-Chris Paul future” and the New York KnicksImmanuel Quickley and the Charlotte HornetsTerry Rozier are potential targets, too.  

Ishbia, who sat courtside when Phoenix beat the Brooklyn Nets last week, is entering the picture right as the front office is about to make significant decisions. This is much better for the Suns than the prospect of having to get Sarver’s approval for a trade, but it could be challenging. One important question: How does Ishbia feel about paying the luxury tax? Phoenix is about $17 million over the threshold now, which means it is projected to get a luxury-tax bill for more than $35 million. If the Suns add salary in between now and the deadline, that bill will get even more expensive. 



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