After a crazy, frantic NBA Trade Deadline yesterday, the Phoenix Suns have completely changed and re-shaped their roster. Now that the smoke has cleared, it appears that the Suns will have either 12 (if Danny Granger is waived) or 13 (if Granger isn't waived) players on the roster.
Initial reports seem to be suggesting that Granger will likely be waived as well, in order to give those minutes to T.J. Warren. This would make sense being that the Suns no longer need to try to force their way into the playoffs this year, as much as develop their team for the future.
If they do that, they will have at least one spot that they must fill to meet the league minimum of 13 players on the roster, and could potentially sign up to three players if they want to carry the maximum of 15 again.
With this in mind, what positions do they most need to address?
Suns Need Another Point Guard
With the moves that were made, the Suns went from having four players (not counting Archie Goodwin) who could primarily play the point guard position. to just two. Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight are now the only two players on the Suns who can run the point, with Archie Goodwin being the emergency third.
For those who may be asking why Archie couldn't just fill in full time as the third point guard off the bench, the problem with that is Goodwin has shown to be much more effective when playing off the ball, and is a much more natural scorer/slasher than a play-maker who looks to set up others.
Wouldn't it be best for the Suns to continue to develop Goodwin in a role in which he can succeed, rather than forcing him to try to become a player he isn't, and risk stunting his growth as a dynamic scoring guard?
Fortunately, there seems to be a solution. Last year, the Suns also had only two primary ball-handlers playing the majority of minutes, with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe splitting minutes at the point, and backing each other up when the other needed a breather. This worked wonderfully most of the time, but when the inevitable injury would happen, Phoenix had Ish Smith to come off the bench and help run the offense.
Smith was perfect in his role as the third point guard. He accepted his role, and by all accounts was a great teammate and locker room presence as well. It just so happens that after all of the activity yesterday at the deadline, Smith was traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the New Orleans Pelicans, and has since been waived.
Ish is now free to sign with any team he chooses. With the Suns in need of that third point guard off the bench, he certainly seems like a good fit to rejoin Phoenix.
Suns Need Another Power Forward
One position that the Suns didn't address yesterday, was their need to acquire another power forward.
As it stands, the Suns only have one true power forward on the roster in Markieff Morris. The Suns can use Marcus Morris to back up Keep at the four, but he has shown to be more effective playing the three where he can better use his ability to shoot from the perimeter, or beat his man off the dribble to score on jump shots.
The other main option in Brandan Wright, but not only is he a much better fit in the low post where he can catch and dunk passes near the rim, he will now be the only other true center on the roster and will need to back up Alex Len at the five (more on that below).
Fortunately, there is another very attractive possibility for the Suns to consider in this respect as well. Thomas Robinson was traded from the Trail Blazers to the Nuggets yesterday as part of a trade package that sent Arron Afflalo to Portland.
With Denver already having a glut of players who can play the four (I counted seven of them), Robinson and the Nuggets have reportedly, verbally agreed to a buyout on his contract.
Robinson was in the final year of his contract and would be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, but now he will be able to sign with any team of his choosing.
And what better fit that the Suns?
If you didn't already know, Robinson is considered the third brother of the Morris' twins. While playing for the Kansas Jayhawks together, Robinson's mother passed away. Markieff and Marcus's mother stepped into that role immediately afterward, and helped provide support to T-Rob, who now considers the Morris family, his family, and the Morris brothers, his brothers. So much so, that the three brothers all share the same "F.O.E." tattoo together as well.
But the Suns also have a need for a player like Robinson. T-Rob is an extremely athletic power forward who excels in transition scoring and rebounding. What he lacks in size (6' 9"), he makes up for in length (7' 1" wingspan) and leaping ability (36" vertical).
This year, he's averaging only 3.6 points and 4.2 rebounds in around 12 minutes per game, but if you stretch that out to his per 36 stats, that translates to 10.6 points and 12.2 rebounds.
In addition, Robinson hasn't yet been utilized in a system like the Suns, in which he can thrive using his athleticism and ability to run the floor. Even as a reserve, the former 5th overall pick in the 2012 draft could make a significant impact.
With Marcus and Markieff already on the Suns together, and Phoenix in need of another power forward, it isn't difficult to connect the dots. I would be surprised if the Suns didn't seriously consider signing Robinson, and if he doesn't choose Phoenix over other potential suitors as well.
Suns Need Another Center
Going back to Brandan Wright now being the only back-up center on the roster behind Alex Len, the Suns not only didn't add size at the trade deadline yesterday, they actually lost it.
Miles Plumlee had been the first, second, and third center on the roster at different times this season. Miles began the season in the starting line-up in front of Alex. However, with Len's development and emergence as the best big man on the roster, Miles was soon demoted to the second unit as Alex took the starting job from him.
Shortly after, the Suns made another move by acquiring Brandan Wright from the Boston Celtics in exchange for a protected first round pick from Minnesota Timberwolves, that will likely convert to two second round picks in 2016 and 2017.
Brandan Wright then took over as the second-string center shortly after, moving Plumlee to third on the depth chart behind him, which prompted Miles and his agent to request a trade.
Although Miles played much better recently, even starting for the Suns ahead of Wright when Len went down with an ankle sprain the week before the All-Star break, the Suns granted Plumlee's request and traded him to the Milwaukee Bucks yesterday as a part of the package that sent Brandon Knight to Phoenix.
However, that leaves the Suns a little short handed at the center position now. Since Shavlik Randolph was traded to the Celtics as a part of the deal that sent Reggie Bullock to the Suns, and Austin Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers earlier this season, the Suns only have two centers on the roster.
Of course, Markieff Morris has proven to be fairly effective playing some minutes at the five, in certain match-ups. But with the Suns also in need of another power forward, they would be stretched fairly thin at both positions if they didn't address it.\
Once again, the Suns have a pretty good option to help remedy this situation. Earl Barron (7' 0", 250 lbs) was a training camp try-out who played very well in the preseason, and was the final cut on the roster that was necessary for the Suns to get down to the 15 player maximum.
Barron signed with the Bakersfield Jam, the Suns D-League affiliate, where he has been very impressive this season. Earl is averaging 20.3 points, and 10.7 rebounds per game for the Jam. And while the D-League stats are always much more impressive than actual NBA stats, especially for big-men, 33 year-old Barron has shown that he can still play at a high level, and could be a very cheap, and attractive option for the Suns as a third center.
The Bottom Line
The Suns will likely need to sign at least one player to the roster in order to meet league requirements, and balance out their team, and I would be surprised if one of the names on this list aren't included.
I think it is also very likely that the Suns will sign two players, a guard and a big man, to help fortify both positions of need. And again, I think the players on this list would make the most sense.
You could also consider last year's second round pick, Alec Brown, to be a dark horse in this race as well. It's also possible that the Suns could elect to bring in the young, 7' 1" sharp-shooting big man to help develop in Phoenix, rather than in Bakersfield where he is currently playing.
However, I think this is less likely right now, as he is still very new and raw, and is just now beginning to find his place on the Jam after playing his first two games there. But he's been fairly impressive overall in his short stint, registering 5 blocks in his first game, and shooting 4/5 from beyond the arc in both games combined, so it's at least a possibility that the Suns could bring him over early.
Either way, If the Suns sign a center like Barron or Brown, or a power forward like Thomas, that may give them enough flexibility to where they won't need to address their other front court deficiency.
For instance, the Suns didn't have another power forward on the roster before the trade deadline, but having Plumlee on the roster as a center gave Phoenix the flexibility to rotate between Brandan Wright and Marcus Morris at the four. They could simply choose to do this again, especially if they decide this season is likely to end in another lottery pick instead of a playoff berth.
But, it is still very possible that the Suns could address all three positions, and bring in all three of the players mentioned above. While I see this as being the least likely scenario, all three players have ties to Phoenix, once way or another, and could all help fill a role, so I wouldn't be surprised if they went this route either.
Regardless, I think it's a safe bet that you can expect at least something else to happen here shortly.
Suns sign center Earl Barron to a 10-day contract, agent Andre Buck says.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) February 20, 2015