As we all know, this summer is a big one for the Suns' front office. We have not seen a major, roster-changing transaction since the Gortat/Turkoglu trade in December of 2010 - a full 18 months ago.
We fans have been patient all this time (some more patient than others), waiting for something, anything to happen that would show us the Suns' clear vision for the future. All this hogwash about "competing while transitioning" and "preserving cap space to have flexibility" tastes like dirt in our mouths.
And now, 18 months later, it's all coming to a head. Just 6 players are under fully guaranteed contracts for the 2012-13 season. Only one of those would be a starter on a majority of NBA teams. Aging luminaries are free agents. Not one player on the team is untouchable.
The time has come! We are thirsty! We want action!
Beginning July 1, 2012, the Suns have that flexibility they've been promising us. More than $25 million is available to spend. At least 4 of the 6 contracts are eminently tradeable: reasonable prices for reasonable rotation players with great attitudes and at least one strong NBA skill. The amnesty clause is still available to add another $4-7 million to the coffers, if needed.
But the Suns have almost too much flexibility. Where will they go first?
It's not like they just need to plug one or two holes. They need an upgrade at EVERY position on the court.
Their draft pick will remain a mystery until the final days, the tipping point simply being who the front office falls in love with. And judging by last year's draft, this front office doesn't like to be a jilted lover. They will likely hone in on a player under the radar, one not coveted by teams above them, unlikely to be snatched up right before their pick.
Remember that Morris was not a sexy pick, despite being slotted right around where the Suns were drafting and earning the Suns a solid grade by the pundits. He was under the radar, for sure.
And then there was Iman Shumpert, who may have been a better rookie and long-term player, as a second player the Suns fell in love with. They reportedly had plans to buy a pick in the 20s to draft him, even as late as mid-draft. I remember Blanks gushing over Morris right after the pick and hinting "we're not done yet". But Shumpert's blip started to shine on other radars in the final week before the draft, and he was snatched up by the Knicks at #17. Once that happened, the Suns lost interest in adding another rookie even though several good ones were still available.
This Suns front office falls in love, all right. They love C Marcin Gortat, PG Steve Nash and SF Grant Hill. They love PG Sebastian Telfair, and I'm pretty sure they like SG/SF Jared Dudley a whole lot. And they continue to love PF Markieff Morris. No wonder early draft mocks have the Suns picking a shooting guard. That's the only position where the FO doesn't have someone they love.
They didn't love Goran Dragic (or his replacement, Aaron Brooks) and likely still don't love Robin Lopez. I've never heard much gushing over Channing Frye, and surprisingly not a lot on Dudley.
So where will the Suns at least try to invest some of their cap space this summer?
On day one of free agency, the Suns front office will stay committed to re-signing Steve Nash and Grant Hill. And they won't make a knee-jerk trade of any loved, or even well-liked, rotation players unless something magical falls into their laps.
Although they love Grant Hill and want him back, they know he's not a bigtime player any more who can go more than 20 minutes in a game for more than 3/4 of a season.
Assuming they don't want to bring huge competition to their favorites Morris and Gortat on the front line starting roles, you'd have to scratch 3 starting positions off the free agent/draft list on day one: C, PF and PG.
That leaves shooting guard (SG) and small forward (SF). Neither Hill nor Dudley are sure-fire starters, so both starting positions are up for grabs.
Bank on the Suns adding two wing players by July 3, 2012. One will be added via the 13th pick in the draft, with the other being a day-one free agent signing or another bought draft pick. Both will be more talented than Shannon Brown and Michael Redd. After that, the shopping list is based completely on trade opportunities and defections.
That's my analysis anyway. Trades are completely unpredictable, as are defections.
The Suns COULD make a blockbuster trade or two with everyone on the roster. But will they? Probably not. At least not during the draft or the initial days of free agency.
Steve Nash COULD say next week that he's done with the Suns, which would shift the Suns draft and free agency focus to PG. But will he? Probably not.
The Suns COULD decide to make Deron Williams a max offer on July 1 to make him the PG of the future. But will they? Probably not. Why burn bridges with Nash by clearly making him their #2 target?
A lot of things could happen.
But the likeliest moves are the acquisition of two wing scorer/defenders through the draft and initial free agency. After the initial days of free agency, then the whole team is up for grabs. But the Suns have to shore up the wing first.