As Free Agency talks continue to focus on the major "A" level talents of the market like Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Bosh, many teams plans are on hold due to the waiting game they must play. The major players in the free agent market have invested so much into their plan "A" that if it fails, the market could be dried up before they know what hits them.
Take for example Phoenix. They spent a few weeks playing the field for Lebron James, looking to become married to the best player in the NBA today. What they are left was watching other teams sign key role players and second unit players, while the Suns waiting at the alter.
Flash forward to the Suns current situation and it seems they are finally out of the race for Lebron James. And although Phoenix has made key moves into resigning, or letting go their own guys, they still are left with some glaring holes in the rotation that need to be answered. And, going along with history, its looking like the Suns are going to have a difficult time obtaining career highs from nearly every player in the rotation like they did last season. The Suns need to focus on winning more games in order to make the current situation on this team look more appealing to potential 2015 Free Agent Stars such as Kevin Love.
This brings us to the first hole in the teams rotation, a stretch power forward. Phoenix was willing to watch Channing Frye walk away to a contract with the Magic this week, leaving more questions as to whom they can bring in to fit in the extremely valuable role of the stretch 4 in their offense. As has been mentioned in previous articles, Goran Dragic and Channing Frye boasted one of the leagues best pick and roll combinations in scoring, and efficiency. With a big like Frye having the ability to pick and pop, Dragic, as well as Bledsoe, were able to make quick decisions as to either pass out to an open Channing Frye, or attack the open space underneath the rim. This was absolutely essential to an offense so predicated around offensive aggression in the paint.
So this brings the fans to ask, "Who will ever fill this position." With fans so demanding on "A" level talent, it can be very easy to overlook some other more realistic options in the Suns current situation. I'm talking about the "B" level talent. Fans of the Suns need to look at the roster and realize that it is not currently a championship level team. There needs to be more top end talent to go along with their current depth as a team. With a high level power forward like Kevin Love potentially only 1 season away from a Suns uniform, it is important for the Suns to focus on cap savings and stop gaps for this season. A certain free agent that comes to mind is Matt Bonner.
You may be saying to yourself, "Matt Bonner, isn't that guy like 50 and about as athletic as a sack of potatoes." While you may be right in you assertation that he is getting up there in age, and he is the most athletic guy this side of Brian Scalabrine, there is some strong value in what Matt Bonner could offer this roster. Being one of the best shooting big men in the league, Bonner can give Phoenix that stretch 4 option again and replace Channing Frye's role in the pick and pop with Dragic or Bledsoe.
As we can see, Matt Bonner boasts an incredible shooting percentage from three point land, and a very respectable free throw percentage as well. He can easily come right in to the Phoenix offense and offer long range value, at a price that will not cripple the team when Kevin Love becomes a free agent in 2015. With a career average contract of around $3 million, he is more than affordable.
Of course, there always is the other option of unveiling Alex Len at the power forward position this season, and allow him to pick and pop from the high post shooting that deadly 18ft shot he has. He could perform much in same role as Lamarcus Aldridge did, only in a poor mans fashion.
The other hole on this roster I wanted to address was the scoring Small Forward position in the rotation. Although the Suns just drafted Warren with the expectation of him being a scorer at the 3 position, the Suns seem to employ a somewhat backwards system. Normally teams deploy their "hustle" players in the second unit, whereas the Suns start more of a defensive based hustle player in PJ Tucker. Now the Suns may have found their future at the Small Forward position with Warren, but he is a year or two out from making any sort of meaningful impact on this team.
I believe the answers to putting a few more W's in the right column is going to come with a smart free agent signing. They do not "need" to get some big time player like Lebron or Carmelo, they can simply decide to gravitate towards a stop gap sort of player like they would with Matt Bonner in order to produce more wins and create a better appearance for free agents next summer.
Which brings me to a free agent that could potential be one of the better signing Phoenix could make over the next decade; Luol Deng. Deng is a racehorse of a player. He is long, a plus athlete, and he has an incredible motor. He is willing to play a lot of minutes and is a defensive ace. In reality, he would fit as a starting Small Forward perfect in Phoenix's system because he is able to shut down players in a position that tend to yield great scorers, and he himself can score at a moderately efficient rate. He thrives in situation where he can get down and dirty on the defensive side, and get out and run on the offensive side. Could the Suns ask for a better fit on this team? There is really only one true downside to Deng and that could potentially be his contract. With the potentially large contracts that will arise in the immediate future(Dragic and Bledsoe) as well as the contracts that could be shelled out(Kevin Love) can the Suns realistically expect to take on $10-$12 million a year in salary to add Deng?
The answer is yes! With roughly $29 million available to spend this very moment, the Suns can take on Bledsoe's extension, a conservative estimate placed around $14 million, and still have around $15 million available to add another player this season. Combine this with the trade/release of a few current expendable Suns, with an expected increase in the salary cap coming in 2016 with the new TV deal; and the Suns should have room to make a big, back-loaded contract run at Kevin Love in 2015.
Signing Deng could be realistic for a team that nearly offered Gordon Hayward a deal that potentially would have exceeding Deng's expected $12-$14 million salary. The Suns could potentially boast a playoff team this season, and a legitimate contender in the 2015-2016 season.
Projected 2014-2015 Roster:
5 - Plumlee/Len
Projected 2015-2016 Roster:
Would you guys like to see some moves like this? I believe the strategic release/trade of Marcus Morris in 2014, and the release/trade of Markieff and Tucker in 2015 would provide ample room to create such a roster, and truly have contender.
Lay it on me!