The Suns have almost completed their likely roster heading into next season with the 12 players currently under contract:
However, the Suns are still thin at the center position, especially with Frye still rehabbing from a successful surgery he underwent in May to help repair a dislocated shoulder injury he suffered toward the end of last season.
Not only that, but the minimum number of players an NBA team can have on their roster is 13, so it only makes sense that the Suns add another center.
So who are the likely candidates for the Suns to choose from? Continue reading after the jump for a look at who's still out there.
The Suns still have around $7 million in cap space at their disposal, but that doesn't mean they want to spend it. In fact, they are looking to spend as little as possible so they can remain flexible enough to take on a player at the trade deadline this season and/or sign a blue chip free agent next season.
The current list of available centers include: Solomon Alabi, Tony Battie, Eddy Curry, Erick Dampier, DeSagana Diop, Kyrylo Fesenko, Darko Milicic, Jermaine O'Neal, Greg Oden, Mehmet Okur, Daniel Orton, Joel Przybilla, and Hassan Whiteside.
Since the Suns are officially in rebuilding mode, adding an older vet to play minutes behind Gortat doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense. Instead, the Suns would probably be better off looking for a young backup center who could still develop and won't cost much money. For this reason I am going to focus on the three youngest, low risk/high reward players on the list who I believe would make the most sense for the Suns; Kyrylo Fesenko, Greg Oden, and Hassan Whiteside.
- Kyrylo Fesenko, 25, 7-foot-1 280 lbs:
- Big and strong center who provides great post presence and decent rebounding
- Very good defender
- Can contribute and help Suns immediately
- Not athletic, doesn't run the floor well
- Foul prone
- Offensively limited, poor FT shooter
Fesenko's Basic Stats:
Fesenko's Per 36 Stats:
I believe Fesenko is the safest bet for a back-up center among the young players still available. Fesenko would provide the Suns with a big body inside and help solidify the post defense for the second unit. However, he is not a great up-tempo player and is very raw offensively. He is a 41% career free throw shooter and also has trouble finishing even at the rim. Still, I believe Fesenko could still be a legit back-up for the Suns because of his size, defense and rebounding.
- Greg Oden, 24, 7-foot 285 lbs
- Very strong, skilled center
- Great rebounder
- Athletic, mobile
- Extremely injury prone in the knees: Had two micro-fracture surgeries on left knee and one on the right, also had surgery to repair a broken left kneecap (only played a total of 82 games since being drafted with the No. 1 pick in 2008)
- Huge gamble (see above)
Oden's Basic Stats:
Oden's Per 36 Stats:
If you're a believer in the magic of Aaron Nelson and are also a gambler at heart, then Greg Oden is your man. There's no question Oden is the most talented center available, but talent doesn't mean much when you're never healthy enough to play. Still, Greg Oden recently had the same platelet-rich plasma procedure done on his knee that Kobe Bryant had done (with success) last off-season; so if the Suns believe he is now healthy enough to play, and that Nelson and his staff of YUMS (young unorthodox medical staff *credit Shaq*) can keep Oden off the injury report, he could be the steal of free agency.
- Hassan Whiteside, 23, 7-foot 235 lbs
- Tremendously long with a 7-foot-7 wingspan
- Excellent shot blocker
- Nice athleticism, runs the floor well
- Very, very raw offensively
- Terrible free throw shooter
- Not very strong, still needs to add some size
Whiteside's Basic Stats
Whiteside's Per 36 Stats
Other than Greg Oden (and without the injuries), Whiteside has the most potential of any center still on the market. He's the youngest, longest, most athletic of the group ... but at the same time he is also the most raw. Whiteside was waived by the Kings last week after playing only 18 games in his two year career. He has all the physical tools to be a very good back-up center for the Suns, but will he ever develop into anything more than just a player with unrealized potential?
Remember, we're not talking world-beaters, all-stars, or even starters here. The Suns are already set with Gortat firmly established in the starting line-up. These are all candidates to get between 10-15 minutes per night as a back-up, or maybe not play at all if they end up being 3rd on the depth chart behind Frye. The Suns need depth, and not much more.
I believe any of these three players could be a viable option for the Suns' back-up center position for different reasons. It just depends on what the Suns are looking for, and also what kind of deal they can get. The only other option the Suns have is to wait until training camp and see if any other young players stand out on the other teams and pick one up if they happen to become available. That seems like a pretty risky gamble though, so I think the Suns will choose to address the back-up position sooner than later. So who will it be?