With all due respect to my buddy Seth Pollack, the Suns' free agency plans for 2012 are alive and well. Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Deron Williams might be off the market by then due to sign-and-trade and extend-and-trade restrictions, cleanly outlined by Seth in yesterday's SBNationAZ article.
But here's the reason 2012 and 2013 will be very good to teams with a lot of cap room and a good, functional nucleus of role players that needs a star or two (ie. the Phoenix Suns):
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS from the loaded 2008 and 2009 drafts!
How do you like the names Kevin Love, Danilo Gallinari or Serge Ibaka in the purple and orange front court alongside Marcin Gortat next summer?
Or how about Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon, James Harden, Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday and/or Ty Lawson in the backcourt?
Think about at least 2 of those stars playing alongside Duds, Frye and the Polish Hammer for years to come.
Those guys (not including the #1 pick in each of those drafts) are your top restricted free agents in the next 2 summers. Teams with real cap space can sign these young stars to front-loaded contracts and force their original team to give them away, just like the Suns had to do with Joe Johnson a few years ago. He's been to multiple all-star games since then.
This summer's big prizes are Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan and Aaron Afflalo. Weak by comparison, but each is available for teams with money.
Next summer, the Suns have enough money under the cap to steal TWO of that first group away. They can front-load a massive offer or two to restricted free agents. Young stars around which to build a new contender.
Yes, some of those guys will sign extensions by next summer and be off the market. But the Thunder, for example, cannot keep Ibaka, Harden AND Westbrook after already re-signing Durant to a max contract. The new CBA only allows one max-contract extension per team, on rookie or veteran extensions.
Let's pick on the Thunder even more. Next summer, let's say on July 1 the Suns make big restricted FA offers to both Ibaka AND Westbrook at the same time. The Thunder couldn't possibly match both. BOOM, there's a star. If the Thunder match on Ibaka, then only 3 days into free agency BOOM the Suns drop a max offer to Kevin Love, who might no longer be in love with Minnesota. Or, if the Thunder match on Westbrook, BOOM the Suns drop a max offer on Eric Gordon whose Clipper team is saving their max extension for Blake Griffin. Or the Suns grab one Thunder star next summer, and wait a year for James Harden or Jrue Holiday.
Imagine a mix of those young stars with steady players in Marcin Gortat, Jared Dudley, Markieff Morris and Channing Frye.
There's your future contender, regardless of whether the Suns limp through the seasons at 20 wins or 30 wins, as long as they don't tie up any cap space this summer on more middling players.
Restricted free-agent offers are the future and the Suns will have the most room of anybody.