Does John Salmons want to make more money and enjoy a guarantee of more playing time in an unsettled situation in Toronto?
Or does he fancy being one of the final puzzle pieces to a strong championship contender in Phoenix — as a jack-of-all-trades who would fit the team like a glove?
The Suns want to know, and their patience is wearing thin. League sources say the Suns have given Philadelphia’s 6-foot-7 guard/forward until this morning to decide. A sign-and-trade deal with the 76ers would send a second-round pick and Phoenix’s $3.6 million trade exception to Philadelphia, while the Suns would assume a five-year, $22 million deal they can now afford thanks to an unexpected bump in the league tax threshold to $65.4 million this season. He would make $3.7 million this season.
Toronto is believed to be offering Salmons five years at about $1 million more a season, and a chance to replace the departed Mike James — who bolted to Minnesota Tuesday as a free agent — as the Raptors’ starting two-guard.
The Suns see the hard-working Salmons as a player who can fill in at three positions — shooting guard, small forward and point guard — and give them another defender in the backcourt. He’s not a great shooter but handles the ball well and averaged 7.5 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 25 minutes a game as a Sixer, making 24 starts.
If Salmons comes to Arizona, the Suns would still have money left to pursue depth up front — 6-9 free agent Aaron Williams, formerly with New Orleans, is among the possibilities — add a few other minimum salaries, and still avoid the dollar-for-dollar tax.
The chase for Salmons isn’t the first time the Suns and Raptors — with general manager Bryan Colangelo now looking to reshape the Toronto organization in Phoenix’s image — have run into each other this offseason. The Suns had at least a passing interest in Spanish forward Jorge Garbajosa, who signed with the Raptors. Both teams are among those kicking tires on ex-Sun Tony Delk and another ex-Sun, Eddie House, who could well wind up with Toronto if he doesn’t decided to return to Phoenix.
The teams appeared to be working off similar draft lists last month, with Suns/Raptors trade talks going all the way up to and including Toronto’s No. 1 overall draft pick, which Colangelo used on his personal favorite, Italian seven-footer Andrea Bargnani.
The Suns did not make the two-year, $2.4 million deal with veteran shooter Eric Piatkowski official on Wednesday, the first day deals could be completed, likely because the management team was still in Las Vegas, where Phoenix completes summer league play on Friday.