Building the bench via free agency; Dunking ninja & poll included

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

Which low-priced&good role players might be available as free agents this offseason?

Boston's James Posey, Lakers' Trevor Ariza, Dallas' DeShawn Stevenson, Spurs' Patty Mills and many others. All NBA teams that have wanted to be successful have inevitably needed a deep bench with plenty of reasonably low-priced, yet good role players.

The Phoenix Suns play a fast-paced, energy-consuming style, and as such need a deep bench even more than the majority of the teams. This offseason, the Suns should strive to have at least 12 players, and preferably all 15, on its roster capable of playing quality minutes. Given the ever more limited cap space the Suns will have in the near future, talks of potential trades including our bench players and changing multiple draft picks into one, the Suns should be looking at the free agents ( ) to find some good cost/benefit deals to complete their roster.

Following down below is the list of some of the players that I would like the Suns to consider: Zoran Dragić, Jan Vesely, Josh McRoberts, Jordan Hill, DeJuan Blair, Ramon Sessions, Nate Robinson, Kenyon Martin, Nando de Colo and Greg Stiemsma. I omitted some that will most likely stay with their teams and with whom the Suns probably don't have a lot of chance of getting, especially the players on the Spurs, Nets, Heat etc.

This post started out as a detailed (10-pages) analysis of Jan Vesely, but somewhere along the way changed to a much shorter analysis (only 5 pages!) of the available lower-paid tier of free agents (all UFA unless otherwise noted). As always, thanks for stopping by and for your time. If there are any factual errors or argumentative errors, I apologise and thank you for your corrections. I hope you'll enjoy reading the post.

Zoran Dragić (Lil' Dragon)

I've already written a lot about him, and it's available at the end of this post - , so if you've already read that, feel free to skip this.

If we're looking for another backup SG/SF, I wouldn't be the first one to strongly suggest giving a thought to making moves to get Zoran Dragic, the 6' 5", 24y/o who's currently playing in Spain/Euroleague for Malaga. In Euroleague, Lil' Dragon (not Lil' D, 'cause there'll be a lot of defense from him) has averaged 22.9 minutes, 10.9 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists and .7 steals in 22 games ( ). In the Spanish championship, he's averaging 19 minutes, 10 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.1. assists in 24 games. ( ). It's rumoured he has a 500k$ buyout clause, which wouldn't count against the cap.

The younger of the two brother has shown he shares the Dragon genes. I've watched him play a lot at the European championship and this year's Euroleague, and I think he'd be a great part on this Suns team. I might be heavily biased, but I believe him to be an excellent rebounder, great and tenacious defender, hustle player, good at penetrating and slashing, with decent-to-good outside shooting and willingness to improve, and a crunch-time player. Not the best ball-handling ability, but again, hardworking attitude and willingness to improve.

Here's a couple of links and videos:
- Euroleague MVP of the week, begining of March 2014, for his performance against Anadolu Efes with 24pts, 4-6 3pt, 4 steals, 3 assists and 3 rebounds ( ).
- Official Euroleague video about the Dragic brothers ( )
- Dragic brothers vs. Italy, group stage at the 2013 Euro c'ships in Slovenia ( , Zoran #12)

Jan Vesely

Nicknamed the Dunking ninja for his dunking prowess - and drafted 6th in the 2011 draft, currently a Denver Nugget, he will be an unrestricted FA this summer.

In my opinion, he would bring great defense, rebounding, dunking, basketball IQ, size (7' 0") and energy off the bench, at a low salary. Potentially given his age (24y/o), with some time, proper coaching&sports psychologist and patience, he could become much more. His main weaknesses come on the offensive end, and his main strengths on the defensive end.

His shooting ( ) and bad free throw issues ( ) seem to be more psychological than mechanical/technique, as he was reported to be good at FT practice in his time in Washington ( ). Also, he was a good long/midrange shooter and decent free-throw shooter when he played in Europe. In his three Euroleague seasons, he averaged 53.8%, 62.5% and 44.4% FT%.

As for his outside shooting, in two of his last Euroleague years ( ), he shot 40% (30 attempts) and 35.7% (28 attempts) from beyond the 3-point line, showing that he has the necessary skills to be an effective long- or at least mid-range shooter in the NBA.

He has recently shown he can still be very good at the offensive end. While he has played mostly small forward/power forward in the NBA, he played the center position for his national side in the 2013 European Championship in Slovenia, where he averaged 17.0 points, 11.2 rebounds and 1.8 steals ( ) playing in group stages against Marc Gasol's eventual bronze medalists Spain (Gasol had 2 points, 10 rebounds in 31 minutes in that game, while Vesely had 7 points and 14 rebounds), Marcin Gortat's Poland (in the win against Poland, Gortat had 5 points and 9 rebounds in 28 minutes, Vesely had 23 points, 14 rebounds and 4 steals), eventual 4th placed Croatia, 5th placed hosts Slovenia and Georgia.

Vesely's defense has been the stronger side during his NBA career thus far. According to Basketball Reference ( ), he is among the very best or near the best in the NBA in steals percentage, blocks percentage and defensive rebounding percentage. I also strongly recommend reading the post on his defense over at the Denverstiffs - , including the videos and comments.

He is a good P'n'R defender. According to , in the 2012/13 season with the Wizards, he allowed only 0.77 ppp (points per possession) and a 33.3% FG% when defending the roll man in the P'n'R, ranking him the 34th such defender.

He is a good defender in spot-up situations. In the 2012/13 season, he allowed 0.87 ppp and 34.1% on 55 such possessions, ranking him the 68th defender. He made a significant improvement compared to his 11/12 season, where he was ranked the 312th such defender.

He is a good perimeter&help defender, due to his mobility, basketball IQ and his days in Europe, where teams often vary the defenses, including the zone defense, and where he often played against other small and power forwards, and often at the top of the zone. Many of his steals come on the perimeter.

On the other hand, his post-up defense could be better, though it is improving. The same goes for his defense in his defense in isolation situations.

Another example of his great P'n'R defense and stealing skills can be seen at the begining of this video of his first game against his old team - , and one of his steals as a Washington player made it to the NBA steal of the night - .

He's making 3.5m$ on the last year of his rookie contract. Due to the logjam in Denver at the forward/center positions, he will probably not be re-signed. I find it unlikely that he'll demand more than in his last rookie year, and will probably settle for less.

Hopefully he will be enticed into signing a good deal for the Suns by the prospect of being on a great team with playoff/title ambitions and which is well suited to his playstyle (tenacious defense, fast transition play, great P'n'R guards, in need of rebounding), having sufficient minutes and good shooting coaches. All this would offer the best chance of restoring and improving not only his game, but his reputation. He also doesn't have leverage in his options going back to Europe. Czech Republic doesn't have big clubs, his old club Partizan is in financial troubles and will probably not be competing in the Euroleague next year and he wasn't a huge European star before he left Europe (unlike Rudy Fernandez etc.).

Josh McRoberts

PF, 27y/o, currently at Charlotte. This season has the following stats: 8.5ppg, 4.9rpg, FT% of 72.9 and 4.3apg. He is a great passer, and his assist percentage (AST%) of 21.9% is in the region of Oladipo and D.Collison, per (, ). His shot chart - .

Per, he's been the 11th best offscreen defender, 85th defender on the roll-man in P'n'R situations, 131th in post-up situations, 160th in iso situations and 164th in spot-up situations. On the offensive end, he has been the 47th most efficient roll-man in P'n'R situations, 40th in cuts and 63th in offensive rebounds situations.

He's been making almost 2.6m$ this season and has a player option for 2.7m$ for the 14/15 season. A video of his 24pts, 6ast game against Orlando - . A great article on him has been written in the Charlotte Observer ( Charlotte will probably try to keep him, but he might be looking to find a team with a better chance of eventually contending, and teams could looking to use a large part of the mid-level exception on him (MLE is around 5m$/year).

DeJuan Blair

PF, 25 y/o, currently at Dallas, long-time Spurs player. Per ( has a great total rebounding percentage (TRB%) of 17.5, in the region of Anthony Davis and Joakim Noah. Has a great steals percentage (STL%) of 2.5, close to Shumpert and Sefolosha. Has a great blocks percentage (BLK%) of 1.4, close to C.Hayes and Marion. His stats this season are 6.4ppg and 4.7rpg in 15.6mpg.

On the offensive end, per he has been 91th best in offensive rebounds situations, 95th as the roll-man in P'n'R situations and 98th in post-up plays. Shot chart - .

He's been making 941k$ this year. He has had to overcome the lack of any anterior cruciate ligaments (ACLs) in his knees. Two videos of Blair - , . A very good segment on Blair can be found in this article . If Dallas will want to keep him, he will probably stay, but perhaps the Mavs will be looking to clear up as much cap space as possible to get some of the bigger names.

Jordan Hill

PF, 26y/o, currently at Lakers. This season he has 9.7ppg and 7.3rpg in 20.8mpg. Has a great 19.0 TRB%, close to Garnett and Noah (

Hill has been the 54th best defender per on the roll man in P'n'R situations and 98th in spot-up situations. On the other end, he has been the 38th best/most efficient overall player, 57th in offensive rebounds situations, 59th in cuts, 65th as the roll-man in P'n'R and 70th in post-ups. His shot chart - .

In a LA Times article titled "Without changes, Jordan Hill unlikely to return to Lakers" (,0,84027.story#axzz30BgGpFEL), he seemed frustrated by D'Antoni. Given that D'Antoni has been rumoured to be returning next season, odds look good that Hill will be looking to other teams. He's been making 3.5m$ this year. A video of his 28pts career-high game against Orlando - .

Ramon Sessions

PG, 28y/o, currently in Milwaukee, played a part of his season in Charlotte. In 26.7mpg this season, he has averaged 12.3ppg, 4.1apg and 2.4rpg. Per, he has an AST% of 25.7%, close to Bledsoe and Ellis.

Per, in his time with Milwaukee he has been the 16th best as the ball-handler in P'n'R situations, 24th in cuts, 44th in transition offense and 44th in handoffs. His shot chart - .

He has been making 5m$ this season, though I think he'll be making considerably less on his next contract if he wants to go to a non-tanking team. This article ( discusses his future with the Bucks. An interesting 2012 Ramon Sessions mix is available here - .

Nate Robinson

29 y/o, PG, currently a member of the Nuggets. He is probably one of the most known players on this list, so I'll focus on his stats. Having said that, it's important to point out that it's unknown how he'll play after he returns from a season-ending injury and ACL surgery. This year in 44 games and 19.7mpg he has averaged 10.4 ppg, 2.5 apg and 1.8rpg ( ). According to, he ranks 33rd in transition offense and 25th in spot-up situations. His shot chart from the 12/13 season - . This year, he's been making 2m$ and he has a 2.1m$ player option for the 13/14 season. NBA's video of his top 10 plays - .

Kenyon Martin

At the age of 36, well-known Kenyon Martin is still playing plenty of quality minutes at the PF/C positions. In 19.8mpg this season, he has averaged 4.3ppg, 4.2rpg, 1.6apg and 0.8bpg ( ). His shot chart - . He's been making 1.4m$ this season.

With the future of the Knicks as a team and his NY future uncertain, he might want to come to the Suns for their medical magic to help extend his career. Also, he won't have to play as many minutes as with the Knicks, with could further lessen the strain on his body and extend his career. He would provide good veteran presence on and off the court, while being a mentor to our young bigs.

Nando de Colo

The 26 y/o French PG will become a restricted free agent this summer for Toronto, where he is currently behind Lowry and Vasquez in the pecking order. If the Raptors decide to bring them both back, they might deem de Colo surplus to requirements. In limited minutes (12.8mpg), he played well for SAS in the 12/13 season, averaging – 3.8ppg, 1.9apg and 1.8rpg ( ). His shot chart from the 12/13 season - . He's been making 1.4m$ this year.

At the 2013 European championship in Slovenia ( ), where France took the gold, he averaged 7.4 ppg, 2.1rpg and 1.1apg behind Tony Parker in 19.8mpg. Spending a season and a half with the Spurs and playing and being the 2nd playmaker for the European champions, I wonder what he could do given a change of scenery and a bit more minutes&control of the team coming off the bench. A video of France vs. Slovenia quarterfinals can be found at .

Greg Stiemsma

The 28 y/o center who played for the Pelicans this season, before being waived in April 2014, caught my eye in 11/12, when he was a great hustle defender/rebounder/blocker in Boston, while being a rookie at the age of 26. This year, he has averaged 2.9ppg, 4.1rpg, 1.0bpg in 18.3mpg ( ). His shot chart - . He is making 2.6m$, but will probably be making considerably less in his next contract if he wants to stay in the NBA.

According to, he was the 77th ranked defender of roll-men in P'n'R situation and 105th in isolation situations. Per, he has a defensive rebound percentage (DRB%) of 18%, close to Nene and Josh Smith. He also has a block percentage (BLK%) of 4.7%, better than Drummond. Two of my favourite Stiemsma videos, – his 6 blocks debut in the NBA, and – his first NBA start, logging 13 pts, 7 rbs, 2 blks, 2 asts.


Which are some of the less paid role players you would want the Suns to try to sign, either from the free agency or via a trade? And for how much?

Thanks for your time, comments and votes, I hope you enjoyed reading it.

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