Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Justin Becker of FantasyBasketballMoneyLeagues.com. You can follow him on twitter at @NBAFantasyInfo, and you can follow the Fantasy Basketball Money Leagues Google+ Page. For more NBA basketball news visit Fantasy Basketball Money Leagues, a fantasy basketball blog.
Whether the Phoenix Suns made it to the playoffs this year or not, they still have a lot to proud of. Just the fact that they were in the hunt for the playoffs is something that wasn’t expected. Two words that describe their season this year are unexpected and surprising. They were talked about before the season started as a lottery pick team.
The Phoenix Suns ended up coming 2 games short of the playoffs. They have 47 wins on the season and 34 losses. They will end the season in the ninth spot in the Western Conference, just one spot too short. Having a comeback season like the Suns had this year is enough to celebrate and be proud of. That brings up the question, is it better for the Phoenix Suns to miss the postseason? Obviously, they would want to play in the playoffs, what team wouldn’t. The Suns would’ve been a joy to watch in the playoffs. So, whether they made it or not they have a lot to be proud of and should start immediately preparing for next season. Expectations will be higher and competition will be tougher.
Since they missed the playoffs, they can now start thinking about all the offseason has to offer. The Phoenix Suns have a lot of work to do this offseason, so let’s take a closer look at those.
Securing a Cornerstone
I would say the most important business that needs to be taken care of right away is locking up guard Eric Bledsoe. Since the Suns couldn’t agree on an extension deal last October, Bledsoe will enter restricted free agency this summer. It will be tough to put a price on a player after two meniscus surgeries, the most recent of which cost him nearly half of a season. The good news is, the Suns have complete control over the situation and have a good chance of bringing him back next year.
Bledsoe’s restricted status means the Suns can match whatever offer he receives on the open market. It’s tough to pin point what kind of cash other teams are willing to toss at the 24-year-old, but his terrific two-way play in the season’s final month (following surgery) should net a max offer from some team. There’s certainly some risk in the Suns matching an offer like that, but Phoenix general manager Ryan McDonough is more than willing to take it. "Obviously we don’t have a whole lot of money committed for the future, we don’t have a lot of long-term contracts on our books. So we’ll have no problem stepping up and paying Eric whatever it takes to keep him," McDonough said. The reporter then asked him "Whatever it takes?" as McDonough responded with "Correct. Any reasonable offer."
Other Moves to Take
Normally, lottery teams have obvious needs for improvement. Surprisingly, the Suns are the exact opposite. It’s difficult to pinpoint any glaring needs on Phoenix’s roster. Since they missed the playoffs, there should be a few week points, though. However, if Phoenix got another 30 healthy games from Bledsoe, it probably would have been sitting in the fifth or sixth spot out West. The Suns aren’t a team in need of major improvements, so first they need to retain their current rotation players.
P.J. Tucker is due a qualifying offer of just over $1 million and Channing Frye has a player option he might decline to exercise. Other than those two players, the Suns aren’t at risk of losing any core players. If we assume Tucker and Frye both return and that the team maxes out Bledsoe, they’ll still have only about $44 million in salary commitments for 2014-2015. That means they’ll have cash to chase a couple of rotation or another star-level talent. Gordon Hayward of the Utah Jazz and Greg Monroe of the Detroit Pistons are both entering restricted free agency this summer alongside Bledsoe. There are two options.
Basically, the Suns have a lot of power to do anything this offseason. And we haven’t even talked about their draft picks. They will have three first round draft picks in June—their own selection, one from the Washington Wizards and another from the Indiana Pacers. Their own pick will be the highest of the three at No. 14, but they could easily package their selections to move up or acquire a proven asset via trade. Or they can choose to take three home-run swings in the first round and hope they connect on one of them. Either way, Phoenix has the flexibility to attack the draft from a bunch of different angles.
Coming into this season, the Suns were in a bit of a rebuilding project before they started to surprise. It’s always dangerous to project continued growth for an upstart team. Winning is easier when it’s not expected and the Suns won’t have the luxury of surprising anyone next year. Good news is this organization has a plethora of assets to play with. They have two star-quality talents in Bledsoe and fringe MVP candidate Goran Dragic, a dirt-cheap gem with upside in Miles Plumlee, big men who can shoot the ball from long range in the Morris twins and Frye, and a young head coach that everyone sees as one of the league’s best in Jeff Hornacek. Not to mention, no one knows what last year’s lottery pick, Alex Len, might provide next season.
Those are a lot of assets that are dangerous in anyone’s hands, but in McDonough’s hands they are lethal. Phoenix has been a party of two significant trades since the 34-year old executive joined the team. Those two trades have been very crucial. They ended up sending away Marcin Gortat for Emeka Okafor’s expiring deal and Washington’s first-round draft pick. That allowed them to play faster, get Plumlee key minutes and established a new identity. Before that trade, though, McDonough poached Gerald Green and Plumlee from the Pacers.
Basically, the lesson here is that McDonough knows what he’s doing and no team is positioned better to improve than the Suns are right now. Phoenix has its pair of combo guards, loads of big men who can shoot and nothing but flexibility for the foreseeable future.