It's pretty much a consensus that if you are going to win in the NBA through the method of having multiple all-stars, that you are going to have to pay a pretty penny for it. The Phoenix Suns are learning this quickly in that next season they are going to have to pay the piper for the personnel decisions they've made in previous seasons.
This season the NBA's luxury tax threshold is set at $65.4 million. Teams are required to pay a dollar for dollar tax for the amount that that their payroll is over the threshold. Next season the Suns are scheduled to have a payroll of $77 million, meaning that they are going to be about $10 million over the Luxury tax threshold, thus making their actual payroll expenditure around $87 million (and that's with only eleven players signed). Compare this to their after tax payroll this year of about $68 million and you realize that someone's going to have to go. Suns owner Robert Sarver has vowed not to pay the luxury tax, so the only way out of their current predicament is to trade one of their star players.
Prior to the start of the season the Suns made one great move and two terrible moves (at least economically). First they extended the contract of Leandro Barbosa. At a mere $5.5 Million per season, the extension of Barbosa could definitely be deemed a steal. If Barbosa were to enter the free market this summer he would definitely command more money than that from another team, so to sign him for that much is a great deal. Despite their homerun on the Barbosa signing, they made two terrible economic decisions in their extension of Boris Diaw and in their signing of Marcus Banks. Banks was not a great fit for the Suns because of his lack of a jumpshot, especially not at the near $4 million per season rate they are paying him. As well, Diaw is a good player and a good fit in the Suns system, but to extend him at $9 million per season was a mistake. Now with Diaw and Banks extended it's almost inevitable that Shawn Marion will be traded in the off-season.
Well, there is one way that the Suns can keep Marion and have a manageable payroll. You see, Kurt Thomas has a player option that would allow him to become a free agent this off-season. Given that Thomas has been riddled with injuries and is scheduled to make $8 million next season, I highly doubt that he will exercise such an option.
The silver lining for the Suns: They own Atlanta's pick in this year's draft (as long as it's not in the top three) meaning that they are likely to get a top ten pick that might eventually be as good as Marion. So maybe things aren't as bad as I'm making them out to be.