"Buffet of Goodness".
The Phoenix Suns' Channing Frye really did embody that translation. Frye was a voice of calm and reason in the Suns locker room that is so needed for a young team that doesn't have a fiery leader to carry them to big wins. These Suns needed to share the load, and Frye's sense of self and attitude really helped the Suns not get too high or too low.
His career has had a lot of ups and downs, and his best years have been (and probably will always be) as a Phoenix Sun. He was nothing more than a spot player before coming to the Suns, and in Orlando he will be winding down his rewarding and successful career as a stretch four. But in the middle were some of his best and worst days in the NBA.
Frye's pure stats were nothing to brag about - 11 points, 5 rebounds per game in 30 minutes of play. But he provided a lot more than statistics to the success of the Suns. When he played, the Suns won a lot. When he didn't, the Suns lost a lot. Frye has been the most polarizing player for Suns fans over the past five years. You either love him or you want him gone. There's no in-between. Well, now he's gone.
Now the 31-year old just one year removed from a year-long heart scare moves on to Orlando for the price of $32 million over 4 years. How much will the Suns miss Frye? How much will Orlando get out of him?
Let's get input from some of the Bright Side staff writers who watched Frye play for the past several years.
1. Breaking the Ice: What is your favorite memory of Channing Frye as a Phoenix Sun?
Mike Lisboa: When the Phoenix Suns did their live-access stream leading up to the first day, they rode with Channing Frye as he drove to US Airways Center. He was so grateful and grounded and excited to play in an NBA game after his heart scare. There was something about seeing him as just this dude in a hoodie reflecting on life that was really great and poignant.
Rollin J. Mason: The Spurs series. He was so ridiculously money, and watching him and the entire bench mob leave Pop and the Spurs in utter bewilderment was the single best Suns moment since 1993 for me. I wish it could be more of an individual Channing moment, but most of the best individual Channing moments came during a time that I don't have the greatest sentimentality towards.
Garrett Benson: Probably that game with Boston a few years ago where Channing was going at it with Kevin Garnett. Garnett gave him a cheap shot, and Frye really went at it with him. Not backing down from KG showed a lot of toughness from Frye. I was at that game; I really thought a fight might break out. It didn't amount to much, but I always respected Frye for the way he handled it.
East Bay Ray: When he came back from his heart ailment this past fall, and started out the season looking like his old self. I remember the talk around BSotS was that he was unlikely to come back and, if he did, he wouldn't be the same player because of all the time off. Instead, he made 41% of his 3s in November and 43% in December before hitting a bit of a wall late in the season. What a comeback.
Kellan Olson: On opening night for a couple of years the Suns would have the players walk down the isles during intros. I had just made the drive up from Tucson to make it to the game and as you can see by my avi I've been a fan of Channing for a while. Being on the isle I was hyped, and as it turns out Frye walked down ours. I extended for a high five and said "bear down!" to Channing. He delivered the high five, smiled and gave me an emphatic "yes sir!!!!" while heading down. That was neat. Other than that, it's his general growth as a shooter. The numbers from deep from the last year in Portland (33 attempts at 33%) to his first year in Phoenix (392 attempts at 44%) still blow my mind.
Sreekar: My oversized ego wants me to point to the several times Channing replied to or shared my horrible Suns photoshops on Twitter, but my actual answer to this question is Frye's return to basketball after a year off due to his oversized heart. Much like most Suns fans, I had incredibly modest expectations for Channing this season and he surpassed them all by starting the season off as if he hadn't missed any time at all. What a remarkable comeback for a remarkable player and person.
Sean Sullivan: Like others have said, just watching his triumphant return from a serious health scare, and then seeing him basically pick right back up where he left off, as if he hadn't sat out a full year. There was no guarantee he would ever play again in the first place. But not only did he play, he played at a high level, obviously...enough to warrant a four year, $32 million deal. Would anyone have guessed that before last season?
Austin Elmer: Any time he dunked the ball. Obviously there were a lot of great memories involving Frye, but anytime he dunked the ball, I'd go crazy like it was the end of the world. Watching Channing knock down threes was good and all, but I loved whenever he got aggressive and dunked the ball.
2. Is Channing Frye worth $8 million per year in today's NBA?
RJM: Yeesh. I wasn't a huge fan of having Frye on the books for his $6.8 million player option. It's hard to justify giving him more money into his 30's than he made in his 20's, but on the other hand, can you really put a price on his impact? Apparently the Suns think the answer is yes, you can. Let's hope they're right, or that they have an iron on the fire that will make this discussion moot.
ML: It's so hard to place a value on players these days in a vacuum. But when you look at the other deals being thrown around (Marcin Gortat, Jodie Meeks, etc.), it's hard to say "Nope." And Orlando's situation is unique in that they could afford to "overpay" him with so many young cheap players on the roster. They weren't just paying for his skills on the court, but also his skills in the locker room. Is he worth $8 million to the Suns? Only after they had locked up another star to go along with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe. Then, yes, go all in with your known quantity! But I understand why they chose to let him go (if in fact it was a choice).
GB: In today's NBA, I would say yes. I understand why the Suns had to let him go, but if we've learned anything so far from free agency, it's that stretch bigs are a hot commodity right now. He'll be huge in Orlando. However, in 2016, 2017's NBA, I'm not sure how good that contract looks. It'll take up a smaller portion of the cap then, but paying a 35 year-old Frye might not be the most productive way to spend $8 million.
EBR: I'd say he's worth it for the coming season, and maybe the season after that, but those last two years of the contract might be tough for a team to swallow. I chatted with Amin Elhassan on Twitter on the day Patrick Patterson signed for $6M/year, and Amin was unequivocal that Frye was worth a lot more, even with his age and health history. For me, it will depend upon what else the Suns do with that $8M/year.
KO: Looking at it from contract length... In year one, yes. In year two, possibly. In years three and four, no. The Suns current position with the roster and assets they have suggests that if they do everything right they could contend pretty soon, and a 33-34 year old Channing Frye making $8 mil for two more years as soon as this hypothetical team hits its contending stride would drag them down in my opinion. Going anti Channing is dangerous right now, but his post All-Star break splits from last year are scary. Seeing that from someone who is 31 was not endearing.
Sreekar: In a vacuum, I do think Channing Frye is worth $8 million a year. However, he's entering the age where most players begin their decline and my biggest issue with the deal he received is its length--while I believe the price tag is fair for the value Frye provides to a team, 4 guaranteed years at that yearly rate is too high for my taste and I don't think I would have liked that kind of a contract from the Suns.
SS: Is he worth it? Depends on the team. I think he's worth it to a team like Orlando who isn't chasing the big names. Frye can help provide enough of a difference to possibly make the Magic a playoff team. They have Oladipo, Payton, and Gordon as their young core, and Frye can play the role of the veteran presence as well as the floor spacer to help the Magic return to relevancy. Is he worth that to the Suns? Tough to say. I don't fault Phoenix for not matching...that's a steep pay check for a team looking to sign max players around their young core. I guess it just depends on whether the Suns believe they can replace Frye with someone cheaper, or someone else who may already be on the roster.
AE: Yes, but only for certain teams. If your team desperately needs a stretch big who plays his role perfectly and is a good locker room guy, then yes. For the Suns, I think it would have been too much to spend on Frye because we are chasing bigger name guys. I would have been very grumpy the next four years if the Suns had to pay Frye $8 mil a year. A lot of players have been getting pay checks this offseason so if we are comparing his contract to others, then it seems fair.
3. What will Frye bring to the young Orlando Magic, who boast seven players age 23 or younger?
Sreekar: The obvious answer here is that he brings someone over the age of 23, and by proxy, veteran leadership and experience. On the court, he'll be an immense help to a young squad that really lacks shooting. Elfrid Payton should be ecstatic because he especially will be a beneficiary of the attention Channing will receive when he's on the floor and the spacing he'll provide to Orlando's offense.
RJM: A better chance at making the playoffs in the next three years as the young guns mature, and a much smoother adjustment period for Elfrid Payton. And probably a contract that they'll be desperate to be rid of when 2018 rolls around. But seriously, Payton should make Rob Hennigan breakfast every morning during his rookie season.
ML: Frye will bring a sense of what's real in life to those guys. Here's a guy who nearly lost his life, let alone his career, to an enlarged heart. In addition to whatever veteran savvy he contributes to that locker room, he will be a walking talking reminder of what's important in life.
GB: Frye's veteran presence in the locker room can't be understated. He'll be great for the young blood. How many times did you see Frye taking Markieff Morris away from a huddle to give him advice last year? Frye looks out for this teammates. He'll be a great chemistry guy there. On the court, he'll do wonders for their spacing, and be a dangerous pick and roll weapon.
EBR: On the court, he'll help open up the lane for guard Victor Oladipo, a dynamic young player who appears to have a bright future. Frye will help their guards look better by giving them room to operate just as he did for Dragic and Bledsoe. I expect he can be a little more consistent with his shot due to better conditioning. Remember, he had missed all that time before coming back last season. Off the court, Frye will be a great locker room and team chemistry guy, which is what the young Magic can use as they try to build a winner.
KO: Experience and leadership. That team is done establishing their young core now with Vucevic, Harris, Nicholson, Fournier, O' Quinn, Marble, Gordon, Payton, Oladipo, and Harkless. They are done stocking up on talent and now they need to start winning. A veteran like Frye will help lead all those youngsters the right way and also gives them a perfect compliment to Aaron Gordon. I don't buy the sleeper for a playoff spot hype, but I like the fit in a basketball sense. That group could be very dangerous in a few years under the right guidance and Frye is the right sort of veteran to help with that.
SS: A veteran presence and floor spacing. Frye will be a great teammate on and off the court, and a terrific ambassador for the Magic. Frye may not be the type of player to be a vocal leader, but I think he will help bring stability to a young team like Orlando. Not only that, he will bring them a ton of threes.
AE: A veteran presence who can help the younger guys grow on and off the court. Basketball wise he adds an extra shooter and the stretch big that Orlando hasn't had since Ryan Anderson. Frye is also a leader who won't let any of the younger guys slack off.
4. Is an adequate replacement for Channing on this Suns roster?
SS: I'd have to see it to believe it. The last thing I want to see is Markieff reverting back to his early trials as a stretch four. He is much, much more effective as a traditional power forward who can, occasionally, hit the three of the catch and shoot if left open. It's possible we may try Marcus in that role, but I think the most likely course of action will be to sign or trade for another player who can at least stretch the floor. Even stop gap players like Ryan Kelly or Byron Mullens may be considered as cheap options until Phoenix can find something better. I expect to see the Suns make a trade or a signing to address Frye's loss before long.
Sreekar: I don't think so. I do believe Markieff could be an adequate starter but if no other major changes are made to the team's personnel this summer, they'll really need a big man who can stretch the floor for Dragic and Bledsoe and defend at a decent level. Markieff proved last season that he operates best from the midrange area and closer to the hoop, and it would be regressive to try and get him to be that stretch four.
AE: No, at least not in the terms of what Frye brought to the table. There is not a current player on the Suns roster who can run the pick and pop like Frye did. Kieff should be able to fill in the starting four position but he will not stretch the floor like Frye. Alec Brown could fill the role in a few years but he probably isn't ready to do so yet.
RJM: No. Kieff is not a stretch big, and should not try to be. He can hit a few when left open, but let's leave it at that. I'm not even thinking about Alec Brown at this point. Without Channing, and with the roster as it is, I would prefer that they try something different altogether than try to pigeonhole a Mo Bro or anyone else into Frye's role.
ML: No. Not right now at least. There's a lot of off-season between now and tip-off. I don't think Marcus Morris is the answer at back-up power forward unless the Suns are playing a lot of small teams next season. I'm sure they'll acquire someone via trade or free agency, but the number of players with Channing Frye's skillset (shoots the 3 and can play the 4 and 5) are few and far between.
GB: I think Markieff Morris is a capable starter at this point, although I am not sure he has the shooting to be a true stretch four. He favored the paint way more least season anyways. I'm hoping he's going to prove us all wrong and put in the work in the summer to perfect his three. Otherwise, get Alec Brown in uniform!
EBR: I don't think so. It would be a misuse of Markieff Morris to use him in the Frye role, as he excelled player inside the arc last season. Marcus Morris doesn't have the size to hold up in the post the way Frye did, and Alec Brown is a developmental project until proven otherwise. That doesn't mean the Suns necessarily need to exactly replicate Frye's contribution, but if they want to, it will have to come from a future acquisition.
KO: No. In terms of being a starting power forward, Kieff still has a long way to go in his game despite the way he played off the bench last year. We need to see him consistently in those starter minutes before we go all aboard. Another concerning thing is how shallow the depth is behind Kieff. In terms of replacing Frye, that gap is much larger.
5. Will Goran Dragic and/or the Phoenix Suns suffer next year without Frye in the lineup?
EBR: Can't really say until the roster is complete, but my initial thought would be yes. It was questionable whether Dragic could have another season as efficient and successful as last anyway, even with Frye, but I have a feeling he'll now take a step back. Here's hoping it won't be too severe because Dragic himself expressed how much Frye's presence helped him last season.
RJM: If they simply move everyone in the frontline a notch up in the rotation, yes. Absolutely. Frye has been the Dragon Whisperer. Aside from Gogi's stint in Houston after the trade when he totally killed it, he has historically played the best ball of his career with Frye in the lineup. Best case scenario: someone else on the frontline has a breakout year. Worst case scenario: Dragic struggles before being traded with a first for Aaron Brooks.
ML: I think Goran's going to have some growing pains. They were money in the pick and roll. None of the Suns' current forwards (or centers) have the kind of range or consistency over several seasons that Frye did. He may find that lane a little more crowded than last season. It's totally possible that P.J. Tucker or one of the Morris twins adds another offensive dimension to their game, but I'll need to see it to believe it.
Sreekar: Too early to tell. The answer to this will obviously depend on what other changes the Suns make to the roster this summer. If they don't bring in anyone that can help stretch the floor and defend in the paint, then yes, the offense will definitely suffer.
GB: I don't think so. Dragic took a huge step last season, and, while Frye certainly helped spread the floor, I think he'll manage just fine. I'm convinced there will be a floor-spreading big on the floor next season anyways. If there isn't, and Markieff is inserted into the starting lineup, I'd be a little worried about our backup four status (Marcus?).
KO: Yes. I see regression for both Goran and the team if this roster holds. Goran is one hell of a player, but Frye was his running mate in those ball screen situations and he loses some spacing as well.
SS: If they don't find anyone else to fill that role, then yes. I seriously doubt that's the plan though. I'm sure Hornacek and McDonough are more than aware of Frye's importance to this team, and I doubt they would jeopardize the Suns' offense by letting Frye walk without a plan b or c in mind.
AE: I'm unsure on this topic. The Suns could sign someone to help stretch the floor at the four position and that might help fill the void of Frye. The Suns could easily improve internally this season with all the youth they have. If another shooter is added on the outside, I don't think Dragic's game will suffer.
BONUS: Do you think the Suns have a plan up their sleeve to replace Frye, or did they just let him go due to money?
SS: That's the question, isn't it? I want to say yes, but beyond Chris Bosh or Pau Gasol, there aren't many quality free agent power forwards out there, and neither of those two have been linked to the Suns. It's possible the Suns are also pursuing a trade for a player like Ryan Anderson or some other stretch four who's already under contract...we just don't know right now.
ML: I think they let him strike while the iron is hot. My guess is that they wanted to re-sign him but only if they could use his bird rights to go over the cap after a big-name acquisition. He had an opportunity to get paid and play with family. The front office could only be bad guys in that scenario. I'm sure they had, and maybe even have, a back-up in place, but the prime suspects to replace Frye via free agency -- Spencer Hawes and Patrick Patterson -- are no longer available. But I'm not about to sell Ryan McDonough short just yet.
GB: I 100% believe the Suns have something up their sleeve. I feel like something big is coming, and probably more likely through a trade than a free agency pick up. I think the Suns would have matched if they thought their system was contingent upon Frye being there next season. In McDonough, I trust.
RJM: It's very difficult to stick to a plan when a team rolls up and drops a boatload of money at your free agent player's feet. We know there were negotiations, but it's pretty safe to assume that $32 million was too rich for the Suns' blood. One could also glean that it was too rich for any other competitive team's blood, or else why would Channing bolt to Orlando? I think the Magic simply blew all offers out of the water, and I can only hope that this wasn't a complete shock to the front office and they've had a plan B in place.
EBR: I have to think they have a plan B because it doesn't look to me like they made a serious attempt to keep Frye. If they strike out on LeBron, Bosh and Love, I'd assume there is a plan to bring in a Thad Young or Ryan Anderson. That stretch four role is important to what the Suns do on offense, and I can't believe that a strategist like McDonough would let Frye go without having other options. The question to me is whether the options will be upgrades.
KO: In this scenario I do not think so. The extra money and years that Orlando provided was obviously too much for the Suns to take on. However, I think McDonough has a plan if LeBron doesn't come. The question with that is if it's going to be a suitable enough replacement for Frye. I don't know.
Sreekar: I believe the Suns hope to be able to replace him and I believe they feel strongly enough about various options to be comfortable with letting Frye leave. What remains to be seen is who they target to fill Channing's role.
AE: I always believe the Suns have a plan up their sleeve. I don't see the Suns letting Frye leave only because of the money. Money does play a factor but the Suns have probably looking at replacements for a while in case Frye left.