A Little Love?
The Suns have a multitude of options this offseason. They have three first round picks, a second round pick, a lot of cap space to sign a free agent or two, and young moveable assets. Before we get into the bulk of this article let's address what is on everybody's mind these days, Kevin Love. Kevin Love is a great fit on paper for PHX, he is a star power forward who can stretch the floor and rebound in bunches, two things the Suns need. Watching his outlet passes to Dragic, Green and Bledsoe would be a dream come true. The best case scenario for the Suns this offseason would to trade a couple draft picks and a player or two for Kevin Love without having to trade the Slash Brothers. The biggest problem is getting Kevin Love to sign a max extension. So for the sake of this article we are going to assume Kevin Love is unwilling to sign an extension with the Suns, forcing the Suns to look in another direction.
Curent Roster and Salaries
Before looking elsewhere the Suns need to evaluate what they have. Take a look at who is on contract and who has team/player options.
Goran Dragic $7.50m
Alex Len $3.65m
Gerald Green $3.50m
Markieff Morris $2.99m
Marcus Morris $2.94m
Miles Plumlee $1.17m
Archie Goodwin $1.11m
Michael Beasley $0.78m (Not on Active Roster)
Channing Frye $6.80m (Player Option)
Shavlik Randolph $1.23m (Non Guaranteed)
Ish Smith $0.99m (Non Guaranteed)
Dionte Christmas $0.81m (Non Guaranteed)
Eric Bledsoe (Restricted Free Agent)
P.J. Tucker (Restricted Free Agent)
Now let's assume the Suns don't pick the contracts of Randolph, Smith, and Christmas to make room for other players.
Eric Bledsoe $6.57m
Draft Picks $3.70m
P.J. Tucker $1.15m
The projected Salary Cap for the 2014-2015 season is $63.2m.
If Frye accepts his player option the Suns cap space is: $21.44m.
If Frye declines his player option, which he would do if he wants a longer guaranteed contract, the Suns cap space is: $28.24m.
Now that is a lot of money the Suns can spend. Obviously a good chunk of it will go to Bledsoe. But if the Suns can sign a free agent before they have to match an offer for Bledsoe then they can still re-sign Bledsoe even if it goes over the salary cap.
A max contract for Bledsoe would be app. $14.2m a year.
A reasonable salary for PJ Tucker would be app. $4.15m a year, any more and I think we should let him walk and try to sign a different free agent.
If Frye declines and wants a long term contract with the Suns, he should be willing to take a pay cut, if the Suns want to retain Frye they should look at a deal close to 3yrs $9m. If someone else offers him something higher I don't believe we should follow suit. His play has been too inconsistent.
Now let us move on to one of the most exciting times of the year for a lottery team, the draft.
Draft Prospects for the Suns:
via threepointlayup.files.wordpress.com Nik Stauskas
The Suns have a total of four draft picks in the upcoming 2014 NBA Draft. They have the 14th, 17th, 27th, and 50th pick. For the purpose of this analysis, we are going to assume the Suns do not trade any of their picks. Although that is a very viable option for the Suns. The Suns could upgrade at almost any position besides PG. Even with PG being their strongest position they will need a good backup for when Dragic and Bledsoe rest. Archie Goodwin is more of a shooting guard, than a point guard.
Prospects for 14th and 18th Pick:
Zach LaVine 6'5 UCLA
If I could use one word to describe LaVine it would be "Athlete." LaVine's max vertical of 41.5" isn't the only thing to get hyped about though. LaVine is a very young player who has plenty of room to grow, he is only 19 yrs old and boiling with potential. I have been high on this guy ever since the end of the season for the Suns. LaVine has all the makings of becoming a star in the league. He stood out at the NBA Combine, even though the top prospects did not go or compete in the drills. He only averaged 9.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg, and 1.8 apg last season for UCLA, but he played limited minutes as a third string guard. He would thrive in the Suns uptempo game and could be a very good player in the future. If he is still on the board at 14 the Suns should choose him. If they pass on him at 14 and he slides to 18 the Suns would be out of their mind at the point not to take someone with his kind of potential. He may be raw and a bit of a project, but it will be hard for the suns to pass up on his potential.
Nik Stauskas 6'6 Michigan
There's going to be a lot of fans putting their hands up in the shape of a three if Stauskas comes to Phoenix. This man can shoot the ball. He is most likely the best shooter in the draft. He has also improved his overall game showing he can get to the free-throw line and finish at the rim. He is also an undervalued athlete with a 35.5" max vertical. He averaged 17.5 ppg while shooting 50% from two point range and an incredible 44% from three. The Suns could always use the extra shooting. Stauskas could put up 15 ppg his rookie year, just on threes alone from kick outs from Bledsoe and Dragic. His weakness however is defense. If the Suns staff can instill a team defensive mentality in him, he should be fine. But don't expect him to be a great one on one defender. If both LaVine and Stauskas are on the board at 14 I'd go with Stauskas and hope LaVine dropped to 18.
Adreian Payne 6'10 Michigan State
Payne is one of the most NBA ready players in the draft, however it seems he is already close to his ceiling, with him being 23 yrs old. Payne is a fantastic athlete who can electrify the rim and stretch the floor with his shooting ability. He averaged 16.4 ppg on 53.5% shooting from two and 42.3% from three. He also has good size for an NBA PF, 6'10 with a 7'4 wingspan and a 9'1 standing reach. Expect to see him block a fair amount of shots with that type of length. He would fit well in Hornacek's system. Payne can run the floor for transition buckets and be a stretch four while running the pick and pop with Dragic. He could possibly replace Frye and should be an upgrade from Frye with better rebounding, defense, and athleticism. It does however, take Payne a little longer to get his shot off, which could pose as an issue. Another weakness which, he cannot help is his learning disorder. It takes him longer to learn things than most people but he is a hard worker and will hopefully be able to pick up NBA offensive and defensive schemes. The Suns can hope to draft Payne with the 18th pick. But no one would blame the Suns for drafting him with the 14th.
via www.court-side.com Dario Saric
Dario Saric 6'10 Croatia
Saric is a risk, as are all international players. Without being able to see him play against top competition in the States brings some questions but his upside and what we've seen from him so far are enough to draft him in the lottery. Chances are Dario will not drop to 14 but if he does the Suns should draft him. He is a 6'10 point forward who can score, pass, and shoot. Although, his shooting isn't always consistent it could improve in the NBA. The Suns could draft Saric and keep him overseas a year as a draft and stash type pick, so that they don't have too many young players on the roster to develop. Saric works hard on defense and has good instincts which, should cover up his wingspan of only 6'10 and limited athletic ability. He will need to bulk up if he is expected to guard fours in the league. He would fit well in the Suns system and would add some needed assists for the 29th worst rated assists per game Suns.
Gary Harris 6'3 Michigan State - Great defender, good shooter. Limited size as a two guard and will probably be taken before 14.
Rodney Hood 6'8 Duke - Great shooter, NBA ready body, average athlete, weak defender. Draft range 12-20.
James Young 6'6 Kentucky - Good shooter, large wingspan of 7'0, decent jumping ability, lacks quickness, weak off the dribble, young. Draft range 12-24.
Doug McDermott aka McBuckets 6'8 Creighton - Great shooter, underrated leaper, limited athletic ability, tweener, weak defender, oh and he gets buckets. Will probably be drafted before 14.
Tyler Ennis 6'2 Syracuse - Pure point guard, great passer, killer instinct, decent shooter, below average athlete, weak finisher. Draft projection 12-20. Suns could draft him at 18 if available to be a backup point guard.
via atbnews.com Clint Capela
Prospects for 27th Pick
Kyle Anderson 6'9 UCLA
Anderson is a point forward who would help the Suns with their assist problem they had last year. Anderson has good size at 6'9 and crazy length 7'3 wingspan, a good feel for the game, is a good rebounder, and has improved his shooting. He averaged 14.6 ppg while shooting 48% from both two and three point range. He also averaged 8.8 rpg and 6.5 apg, showing he is a constant triple double threat every night. He however lacks athleticism and came into the combine with 13.4% body fat. He tends to be turnover prone and is a weak defender. The main question for any NBA team is what role he would play. If he drops all the way to 27 because of these questions, the Suns would be happy to pick him up as the best player available. A good coach such as Hornacek would be able to fit him into his system. Even if it's in the D-league for a year.
Shabazz Napier 6'1 UCONN
The Suns would be looking for Napier to run the backup PG position and be a spark plug off the bench. Napier is a great scorer and leader. He led his Huskies to the National championship his senior year. He is a very good jump shooter, 40.5% last season from deep. He will need to become a better passer if he wants to thrive in the league. His biggest weakness is his size with a lack of explosiveness. I'd be surprised if the Heat don't take him at 26 right before the Suns at 27.
Clint Capela 6'11 Switzerland
Draft and Stash.... Draft and Stash is the answer here if the Suns pick Capela with their 27th pick. He has a great size and athleticism. He is a good rebounder and his length, 7'4 wingspan helps with that. He has huge potential defensively and offensively as a finisher around the rim. He has a weak jump shot however and takes way to many of them. He also tends to have a bad attitude and body language. Leave him overseas for a year to clear up a roster space and let him mature physically and mentally. Suns could use the size on the inside and defensive presence that Capela would bring.
T.J. Warren 6'8 NC State - Gets buckets from anywhere on the floor, needs to improve jumper, decent defender, bad passer. Draft Projection 15-30.
P.J. Hairston 6'4 Texas Legends (D-League) - Excellent scorer, good shooter, NBA ready, defensive potential, work ethic in question. Will probably be drafted before 27th.
via www.thesundevils.com Jahii Carson
Prospects for 50th Pick
Jahii Carson 5'11 Arizona State
Would have been a first round pick in 2013, but the draft is a lot deeper in 2014 and he will probably drop to the second round for his lack of size. He is the shortest player in the 2014 draft. He also has one of the highest verticals, 43.5", to try to make up for his size. He improved his shooting last year bringing it up to 39.1% from three. He will be one of the fastest guards in the league and will be tough to guard because of his quickness. He will be at a disadvantage defensively because of his height. He also needs to work on his passing skills. If the Suns get a chance to insert Jahii as their backup point guard with the 50th pick, it would be a dream come true for Jahii who grew up in Phoenix. The Suns also stated Jahii had a good workout with them and they were impressed with his shooting. Fast is his game, and so is the Suns.
Isaiah Austin 7'1 Baylor
I may be bias because I saw him play in the same tournament I was in, in Utah while he was still in high school, but I think Austin is one of the best players to draft in the second round. He is a stretch big who can knock down the three and defend the rim, averaging 3.2 blocks per game last season. Austin needs to bulk up to compete with the bangers down low in the NBA and needs to become more active on the boards, averaging only 5.6 rpg for a seven footer isn't good. He does have good handles and touch for a big man. Austin is blind in one eye, but it hasn't seen to effect him so far. He is a bit of project as are most big men going into the NBA but if he can bulk up he should be a solid center for years to come.
Thanasis Antetokounmpo 6'6 Delware (D-League)
His brother is the Greek Freak Giannis Antetokounmpo. Although he doesn't have the same height as Giannis he shares the same length, Thanasis has a 7'0 wingspan. He also is good leaper with a 39.5" max vertical. Thanasis is good defender with a lot of potential, although he loses focus at times. He is the hardest working man on the court at all times and that was evident at the combine, where he also showed some shooting potential. He is raw offensively but should improve in time. Thanasis would thrive in transition with the Suns. He could also be the steal of the second round for whoever drafts him.
I would be happy with any of the three I mentioned at the 50th pick as they all could be valuable assets to the Suns Organization.
Now it's about time we get to free agency.
Free Agents the Suns Should Go After
Gordon Hayward 6'8 SF RA
He is the offensive SF the Suns could really use. He can create his own shot and attack the basket while shooting a high percentage from the line and three. Although his percentage took a dip last year they should go back up when he doesn't have to be primary option offensively. Hayward averaged 16.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg, and 5.2 apg, very solid numbers for a small forward. He should fit into the Suns uptempo offense nicely. The only problem is that he is a restricted free agent. The Suns would have to offer him a big enough contract that the Utah Jazz would not match, without overpaying for him. Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek used to coach Hayward in Utah as well, and seems to love his game. Seeing Hayward in purple and orange next year isn't very far fetched. I think $12m to $14m a year would be fair deal for Hayward.
Lance Stephenson 6'5 SG UR
Yes, Lance's antics can get on people's nerves and there is a possibility of him being a locker room problem, but his play on the court is too good to overlook. He had the most triple doubles in the league this year and improved in practically every asset of his game. Lance is a great defender, and very pesky, just ask Lebron James. I know I wouldn't want someone blowing in my ear while playing basketball. If Lance matures over the offseason a bit the Suns should take a good hard look at his 13.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg, and 4.6 apg. Projected $8m to $10m a year.
Trevor Ariza 6'8 SF UR
Three and D is Ariza's game. He would be a step up from P.J. Tucker. If we can get Ariza I say we let Tucker go. Ariza can do everything Tucker can but is taller, more athletic, a better shooter, and better overall offensively. We will have to pry him away from the Wizards who have openly talked about re-signing Ariza. Ariza would fit perfectly in the Suns uptempo system while locking down on defense. Projected $10m a year.
Carmelo Anthony 6'8 SF UR (Early Termination) - If the Suns want a superstar who can fill up the stat sheet with points and rebounds, this is their guy. The only question is if he can gel with the Suns system of two ball dominate guards. If he can the suns are an instant title contender upon signing him. Expect a max deal.
Greg Monroe 6'11 C RA - Great rebounder and low post presence. However, he is not much of a defensive asset. Monroe is a great player, the only reason he is not on the top of the list is the question of if he fits with the system. The Suns would also have to pay a lot to get him away from the Pistons.
Luol Deng 6'8 SF UR - Deng is a great defender, shooter, and teammate. He is an all-star type player, but he is getting older. The Suns should absolutely sign him if they cannot get Hayward, Ariza, or Lance. The biggest issue with Deng I have is that he will demand too much money. If the Suns can somehow sign him for $10m a year, do it. They need a defensive SF who can score as well.
Jordan Hill 6'10 PF/C UR - If you can ignore the off court issues, Hill could be a valuable backup big who can rebound in bunches.
Anthony Morrow 6'5 SG UR/Player Option - He shoots lights out. Cheap contract.
The Suns have so many options this offseason and with General manager Ryan McDonough at the helm of the decision making the Suns are sure to find a diamond either in free agency, the draft, or a trade....Kevin Love? No matter what the choice the Phoenix Suns future is looking bright.