The Suns traded Kurt Thomas AND 2008 and 2010 first-round picks to the Sonics for a conditional second-round pick. The Sonics used the trade exception they got from the Magic, who gave it to them for the right to pay Rashard Lewis even more money, to make the deal work. In the press release, Suns GM Steve Kerr said it was a tough decision that had to be made to keep the current core together. No kidding.
There have been rumors going around the league over the last few weeks that the Suns had to cut $7 million in payroll and this deal does it. They get an $8 million trade exception, but unless there is a major philosophy shift, they probably won't use much of it. They already had trade exceptions in the bank.
Over the last two years the Suns have sold three first-round picks and now have lost two more. James Jones, dumped for free to Portland, was a rotation player handed away. Now they have also given away a versatile veteran big man, who they use on guys like Dirk Nowitzki. EDIT: oops, Tim Duncan. This, of course, is just bad business in the long term. Even in the short term, first round picks don't make that much money and are actually good to have on the payroll, too. Three of the Suns' best players -- Shawn Marion, Amare Stoudemire and Leandro Barbosa -- came in the draft. But with the huge deals owed to Steve Nash, Marion and Stoudemire and the new extensions for Boris Diaw and Barbosa kicking in, it is easy to see the financial pressure. Suns owner Robert Sarver is just doing what he is supposed to do, avoiding the luxury tax.
Perhaps even the Suns are ahead of the game, they got Grant Hill to come cheap, paying him in sunshine and a chance at a title. Recently, the Suns announced they'd totally sold out their season tickets for next year. So players are excited and fans are excited. But if this group doesn't win an NBA title, can ownership say it gave it the best chance? Right now, the answer is no. That's a bill that doesn't come due for years down the line.