Alex Brown, the 7' 1" power forward from Wisconsin-Green Bay, may just be the Suns' best option to replace the loss of the former Phoenix stretch-four sharp-shooter, Channing Frye.
While that may seem like a huge gamble, and it is, the reality of the situation is that there just aren't very many attractive options in free-agency that the Suns could turn to. Even more so if the Suns aim to retain their salary cap flexibility in which they can take yet another swing at a max-caliber player in free agency next year, or possibly acquire a big name player before the trade deadline.
Why it makes sense
One thing Brown has going for him is that he already possesses the most important skill needed to replace Channing Frye--the ability to knock down threes and spread the floor on offense. As a senior, Brown shot 42% from beyond the arc. In addition, he tied for first place among all players at the NBA Draft Combine by hitting 18 of 25 from deep. There's no question he can shoot the ball.
However, Brown is a work in progress, no doubt about it. He lacks strength and needs to improve his defense and rebounding, especially when transitioning to the NBA where he will need to guard much stronger, faster, and more skilled opponents. Although Frye was never regarded as great defender or rebounder, he could at least hold his own. With Brown, that's a huge question mark right now.
With Summer League starting this weekend, Alec Brown could answer a lot of these questions about his ability and readiness to step in and contribute. With an immediate opening for the position, could Alec Brown forego an assignment overseas and/or the D-League altogether, and actually play his way onto the roster with an impressive Summer League performance?
In an exclusive interview with our own Dave King, Brown elaborated on his chances of making the roster. "From what I've heard from (the Suns), they want to see how I can play in Summer League. They want to see how well I'll do, how well I'll fit on the team, and see how their roster pans out and go from there." He continued, "If I need to go overseas for a year or two, I'll be willing to do that. If I have a good Summer League and can possibly stay here, I'd be fine with that too (laughs)."
This seems to indicate a possible change from GM Ryan McDonough's earlier statements that he planned to send Brown overseas for a year or two. While that certainly remains an option, the Suns at least seem to be more willing to let Brown earn a spot this year, depending on his performance in Summer League and training camp.
Naturally, Brown seems excited with the prospect of making the Phoenix Suns' roster. What seemed like a long shot just a few weeks ago, now seems like a real possibility.
When asked what sets him apart from other players trying to make the roster, Brown answered, "I think being a seven-footer, and having the ability to shoot is probably my biggest asset. Being able to spread the floor, coming off of pick-and-pops, shooting the three, and still being able to get some rebounds and blocks."
Again, that is exactly what the doctor ordered for Phoenix. But can he deliver?
What does he need to prove?
Alec also showed that he understands where he stands as a young, developmental prospect, and the importance of improving certain aspects of his game. He explained, "Right now I'm just trying to transition to their defensive style, and the calls...getting stronger obviously, moving laterally, and making sure I'm staying low."
Adding strength will take time..at least a full season or two. But Alec can certainly make the most of his opportunity by studying the schemes, focusing on defense, and demonstrating a coachable attitude and a willingness to get better.
It's still unknown what the Suns' plans are to replace Frye. They may already be working on a trade for all we know. However, if Brown's competition is the less-than-appealing free agent market for affordable stretch-bigs--with the likes of Ryan Kelly and Byron Mullens--then Alec Brown may just be able to prove that he is the best choice for the Suns...for now.