Well, we know who the Suns drafted.
It seems like they are interested in Ray Allen.
So, what does it all mean? What strategy are they likely to employ?
The Suns have a few options on how to proceed this off-season (as they always do).
Option 1: Save for 2013 free agency
Option 2: Spend for a competitive team in 2012-13.
Option 3: Somewhere in between Option 1 and 2. Spend some and save the rest.
It seems like they are open to any of the options, which I believe is the right decision.
This free agent group is not full of superstars, but offers some interesting prospects.
Some things to think about are:
- Bringing back Nash may require signing at least 1-2 other players to bolster the line up.
- These players probably need to be of solid name recognition to convince Nash they are in it to win, and to bring some excitement back to Planet Orange.
- They need 1-2 players that can generate their own offense.
- Ideally they would get younger with the talent.
- One of the biggest advantages the Suns have as a draw for free agents should be their superior medical staff that has rejuvenated many careers, so signing an aging player may be easier.
- Free agents prefer to go to competitive teams, with other top flight talent.
- The Suns are loaded with "bigs". Bringing in more "bigs" may require a trade to keep the roster balanced.
- Grant Hill expressed interest in returning to the Suns, and he was still effective last year before his injury though less effective than 2010-2011.
- Michael Redd and Shannon Brown both seemed to find their groove late in the season and know the system.
- The Suns have 20+ million to spend during free agency.
- They have indicated that they are not necessarily looking to spend it all this year.
- They have tendered offers to both Aaron Brooks and Robin Lopez.
- They have drafted Kendall Marshall at the point guard position.
In thinking through this it might help to consider each position, what they have, and who is available:
- Kendall Marshall - Seems like a solid rookie prospect. Unlikely to be a starter. Probably 2nd or 3rd option at point. Seems like he is strong at passing but weak on defense and shooting.
- Sebastian Telfair - Under contract. Showed some promise last year. Probably a 2nd or 3rd option at point. Seems solid on defense with passing and scoring developing.
- Aaron Brooks ? - Assuming no one else outbids the Suns he'll seemingly be back. More of a scoring point guard. He can generate his own shot. Could be the 1st or 2nd option at point or perhaps used at times as a small shooting guard.
- Steve Nash ? - Top free agent regardless of age. His impact on the game puts him in elite company. 82games.com has him at #8 in the league with respect to their Simple Rating. He has been the face of the franchise and is someone a lot of players want to play with. If the Suns want to draw other free agents this year or next, having him helps. The downside is how much can the Suns afford to lock up with Nash and still improve. On the other hand, with no Nash they have to fill a huge void. Marshall may eventually but will not likely do that in less than 3 years, which is what Nash is looking to play anyway.
- Goran Dragic ? - Free agent. Another player who the Suns are apparently interested in if Nash goes elsewhere. Dragic showed significant steps with Houston since the trade sent him there. He still knows the coaching staff, he has a lot of potential, and the fans will probably always love him for his 23 point 4th quarter explosion against the Spurs in the 2010 playoffs.
- Jared Dudley - Under contract. Good shooter with super basketball IQ. Has improved his game over the years, and is working on generating his own shot. Solid player whether he starts or come off the bench.
- Michael Redd ? - Free agent. His stint with the Suns last year rejuvenated his career undoubtedly with the help of the Suns medical staff. Decent scorer off the bench who knows the system. Might be someone to round out a roster without breaking the bank.
- Shannon Brown ? - Free agent. Showed significant improvements with the Suns late in the year. Incredible athlete who has showed some ability to score on his own and play defense. He seems to be on the upward trajectory.
- Ray Allen ? - Free agent. Aged superstar who is looking for a successful end to his career. Perhaps interested in showing the world he still has some years left in the tank. Awesome shooter with a ton of playoff experience who knows how to win. How much would it take to lure him here? Obviously would be a short term solution with the hope the medical staff could add some mileage to him. Would show the Suns commitment to compete now.
- Jamal Crawford ? - Free agent. Has expressed interest in playing for the Suns and there is some reports of the Suns being interest as well. Crawford is a scorer and would be a player who could get his own shot. Would also qualify as a commitment to win and might help attract Nash or others.
- Josh Childress - Under contract. Always seems to be the odd man out. Good talent but not a scorer. Suns seem stuck with paying a large contract for someone for whom they can not find playing time. They would probably like to trade him and may at some point eat his contract, perhaps using the amnesty clause. He is a solid sub in my opinion, and it would seem foolish to pay his salary and someone else's unless they need the cap space to sign a big name free agent.
- Grant Hill ? - Free agent. He has expressed interest in returning to the Suns. Obviously does not have much mileage left in the tank but is still an effective player and great example. He has a solid Simple Rating, on par with Ray Allen. If it works money wise, it seems crazy not to have Hill back though perhaps not as a starter.
- Gerald Wallace ? - Free agent. I can find nothing indicating the Suns are looking his way, but he is one of the top small forwards available. He is a good defender who is able to score. Would seemingly be an upgrade at the small forward position and would qualify as a commitment to win.
- Channing Frye - Under contract. Frye struggled last year trying to regain the form he showed toward the end of the 2010-11 season before his first shoulder injury. Assuming his shoulder heals, he has the potential to be a star for the Suns if he regains his flow. Good outside shooter with great size who can spread the floor.
- Hakim Warrick - Under contract. Excellent pick and roll player for the Suns who rolls hard to the hoop, frequently drawing a foul ... when he plays with Steve Nash. Another player who continues to have a hard time fitting in with a salary that is bigger than his role on the team. Suns would probably trade if they could find a willing team. There is a chance they would eat his salary but only if there was a big free agent they were trying to lure which is not likely for 2012. He will probably remain a spot player off the bench.
- Markieff Morris - Under contract. Excellent prospect who had a very good rookie season. Good size and great shooting touch. Will probably continue to get lots of playing time off the bench, at the expense of Warrick.
- Kevin Garnett ? - Free agent. The big name free agent who showed some gas left in the tank during the playoffs. Have not heard that the Suns are actively seeking anything but if you were going to make a splash in free agency and go for broke, this would be one of those guys.
- Tim Duncan ? - Free agent. Never happen, but I had to mention it.
- Michael Beasley ? - Restricted free agent. No indications they are interested in Beasley but he seems to be a talent that has never been fully realized. Might be worth exploring if there are doubts about Frye recovering from his injury.
- Boris Diaw ? - Free agent. Steve Nash wants him though the front office apparently does not. Boris still showed some value with the Spurs at the end of last season. He remains a tremendous talent looking for the right opportunity to shine. Still has an ability to generate some offense for himself and others. Some Suns fans (myself included) would love to see him back the purple and orange.
- Marcin Gortat - Under contract. Gortat continues to be a star for the team and a pillar for the future. It is unlikely the Suns will end up with anyone who will take his playing time unless Dwight Howard can be kidnapped and convinced to play for Phoenix.
- Robin Lopez ? - Restricted free agent with whom the Suns have made a qualifying offer. Robin showed flashes of the promise of years past last season. He is a solid, if frustrating, back up center who continues to show the potential to have a big impact on a game. The Suns have expressed a willingness to match offers on Robin, but I'm not sure if that is only talk to keep other bidders away or not.
- Chris Kaman ? - Free agent. There has been at least some speculation of interest. Would be an interesting pick up if Lopez ends up going elsewhere or if Frye is not recovering from his injury.
- Marcus Camby ? - Free agent. No indications of the Suns interest but is another big name free agent towards the end of his career. The guy is still a rebounding and shot blocking stud. If the Suns are looking to improve their defense and make a run in the short term there are a lot worse players they could go after.
So what does it all mean? Can they find a winning strategy given the present reality?
I have no idea.
My suggestion for a path forward would be:
- Try to resign Nash. Hopefully he will agree to a reasonable contract and will either take less to attract another solid free agent or two or perhaps the Suns can front load the contract to pay him more this year and less next (and possibly the year after) when they pursue the 2013 free agents. Why? With Nash, the Suns will again compete for the playoffs, will sell more tickets, and perhaps attract at least one more solid free agent. He is also the one you would like to be mentoring your next point guard. He is the face of the Suns and should retire with us. People have been forecasting his decline since before he left Dallas. He continues to amaze. I don't doubt that he can compete at a high level for another 2-3 years. Besides if you are not going to spend the money on Nash, who are you going to spend it on?
- Go for Goran if Nash leaves. Obviously we never should have traded Dragic. Brooks has yet to show that he is an upgrade AND we gave up a first round draft pick. Arggh! Anyway, he is a talented PG who has the potential to be something special. He is a known quantity who knows the coach and the system.
- Bring back Hill. Hill is another solid veteran who is a great example and representative for the organization. He still can contribute and will probably be reasonable with the salary. It would be great if he retires with the Suns and stays with the organization.
- Crawford or Allen at the 2. Crawford or Allen would be great additions. Crawford probably has longer term potential but Allen is still a star whom Suns medicine might be able to work their magic on.
- Else Shannon Brown. The Suns could do worse than sign Shannon Brown again. With more playing time, he could continue to develop into a dynamic shooting guard.
- Pursue Gerald Wallace. He would be a nice upgrade at a weak position for the Suns.
- Look for short term deals thereafter. After pursuing the names above, I think they should just look to round out their roster with as solid a group of players as possible with 1 year deals like they did last season. I would consider bringing back Michael Redd again and even consider some of the big guys mentioned (and others like Lou Amundson).
What do you think?