One of the Phoenix Suns' biggest problems last year was scoring to close out a game. Sure, the Suns wanted more size and defense too. But winning teams have guys who can hit clutch shots in the closing minutes, be it a contested layup, a stagger-screened 15-footer or a spot-up 3-ball after PG penetration draws the defense into the paint.
The Suns' clear path for now is that they need to add a go-to scorer, more size and (to) improve defensively, in attention and scheme as well as personnel.
"We've got to be little better from the standpoint of being able to have a go-to guy where we don't count on Steve (Nash) to create every play at the end of the game and to make every shot in situations like that," coach Alvin Gentry said. "That's something that we have to look at."
The Suns appear to have checked off many other offseason goals:
- keep Steve Nash and Grant Hill, preferably without committment past this season
- add a new defensive scheme (Elston Turner)
- add guys who give better effort and can play better defense than their incumbents (Sebastian Telfair > Aaron Brooks, Shannon Brown > Vince Carter, on defense at least)
- get rid of Mikael Pietrus and Vince Carter's contracts (Carter is done, and Pietrus was ALMOST done but not yet)
- add size and defense on the front line (Markieff Morris, plus maybe a resurgent Robin Lopez?)
- preserve 2012 cap space
The Suns have already checked off those tasks (nominally, anyway) without sacrificing a dime of 2012 cap space.
But go-to scorer for the 2011-2012 season? So far, no good.
To be fair, finding a go-to scorer is not easy when you only have only $5 million to spend on pure free agents and want to limit any commitment to 1 year unless the player has huge long-term upside. A round-up of this offseason's best-scoring guards available in free agency:
- Jamal Crawford - being offered more than $8-9 million x multiple years by non-playoff teams
- Marcus Thornton - got $8+ mil/yr from Sacramento x 4 years
- Jason Richardson - got $6+ mil/yr from Orlando x 4 years at 31 years old
- Wilson Chandler - playing in China until March
- J.R. Smith - playing in China until March
- Arron Afflalo - RFA, but Denver HAS to match whatever might be offered given all of their other losses
- Nick Young - RFA, no mention in any rumors yet, which likely means Washington will match any offer
The Phoenix Suns DO still have Amare's remaining trade exception, which I believe is about $5.7 million. But the only way they'd use this money in the next week is to (a) add a one-year rental or (b) add a young, long-term guy comparable to Steph Curry, James Harden and Eric Gordon, who are all RFAs either next summer or the summer after that.
As it stands, next summer will offer some really good, young go-to scorers in Wilson Chandler, JR Smith, Russell Westbrook (RFA) and Eric Gordon (RFA).
The summer after that makes go-to scorers James Harden and Steph Curry, among others, available as RFAs.
As of next summer, the Suns will have at least $30 million in cap space to spend on any free agents - RFAs (restricted) or UFAs (unrestricted). The acquisition of a long-term go-to scorer may be better served to wait until then.
For now, don't expect miracles. Those of you begging for Michael Redd? While I hope you're wrong, I do see him fitting the Suns' 2011-2012 free agent profile - a one-year veteran-minimum contract.