Roster news: Suns to carry 15, Morris' option picked up

Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE

With the regular season less than a week away, the Suns have begun making roster decisions. Some have been more difficult than others.

15-Man Roster?

On Wednesday, the Suns cut loose big men Ike Diogu and Solomon Jones, trimming the roster down to the maximum allowed of 15. The word out of Suns HQ today is that there won't be any more cuts, at least not before the season starts.

The means point guard Diante Garrett and forward Luke Zeller have both made the team, at least for the moment. This is the first time the Suns have kept a max roster since 2005.

The Suns have had their eye on Garrett for a while. They worked him out before the 2011 NBA Draft where he went undrafted, then brought him back to play for the Summer Suns in Las Vegas this year. Garrett played well enough to earn an invite to training camp, and it appears as if he has turned that invitation into a roster spot.

Garrett is the fourth point guard on the Suns' roster, but general manager Lance Blanks doesn't think that is overkill.

"I see it just based on what the needs of the the team are at any given moment of the season," Blanks said. "We need guys to practice, certainly, that would be here or we might not have everyone healthy so you might need some of them to play."

Blanks also mentioned the versatility that the two bigger guards -- Goran Dragic and Garrett -- provide.

"You could play Kendall at the one and Goran off the ball. You could play Bassy at the one and Diante off the ball," Blanks said. "There are a number of scenarios, things you could use with those guys. I don't see them as pure, traditional point guards."

Zeller, on the other hand, has arrived in Phoenix via the NBA D-League. He is a sharp-shooting big man who can replicate some of what they lost with Channing Frye.

It sounds like Garrett and Zeller were the two players who made best use of the player development staff the Suns offered to them, and that likely was a huge factor in them making the team. They showed they wanted to be there and were willing to do whatever they had to to stick around. Finances also likely played into the decision, as the two that made it are NBA rookies an can be paid as such, while the other two big men were considered veterans and would have made more.

What's Next?

It appears as if the Suns are set to begin the season with all 15 players, but that doesn't mean Garrett and Zeller are guaranteed to keep their jobs. Once upon a time Matt Janning made the team after training camp and the preseason, but when the Suns needed to make a move they had to cut him to make room.

Garrett and Zeller are going to have to earn their contract every day in practice and prove to the Suns they are worth keeping around.

Blanks talked about the versatility Garrett provides, but even so he is unlikely to play very much this year. He was signed as a developmental prospect more than for what he can provide the team on the court now. The versatile 6-foot-5 point guard can do a little of everything on the court, but he still has a lot of work to do.

Zeller, on the other hand, appears to be more of an emergency reserve than a player to stash and develop. He has the size to fill in at either frontcourt spot and has at least one NBA skill: shooting the basketball.

Blanks did not rule out the possibility of sending either player to the D-League for some, well, development. In fact, Blanks said he does see value in doing just that, and doesn't believe the players working with another coaching staff would be a problem.

"I'm not overly concerned because we're not telling them what plays to run or the assistant coach to hire, that we won't reap the benefits of them being in the D-League," Blanks said. "Minutes, and being able to play in a system and a situation during the regular season are a lot more significant than us designing the plays that they run."

Options

Per a press release from the Suns, the team has picked up the option on second year power forward Markieff Morris. Morris went through an up-and-down rookie season, but the talent he showed is undeniable and he was the most productive rookie the Suns have had since Amar'e Stoudemire.

The option is for $2.09 million according to Paul Coro, and will keep Morris under contract through the 2013-14 season.

The Suns also will have to make a decision soon on whether or not to pick up the option on Wesley Johnson's contract. The Suns will have to pay him $5.4 if they want to keep him beyond this year, a steep number for what Johnson has done so far in the NBA. Although, the fact that they didn't pick up his option when they did Morris' could mean they have already made their decision.

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