clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Phoenix Suns Free Agency Needs: Leonard, Butler, Green, Matthews among wings to consider

What shooting guards and small forwards are available for the Suns to target?

Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Going into the offseason, you might think that the Phoenix Suns' greatest immediate need is a big man. Why add another player on the wings?

After all, assuming the team re-signs Brandon Knight there will be seven players at either SG or SF fighting for minutes. Knight, Goodwin and Bullock will hold down shooting guard, while P.J. Tucker, Marcus Morris, T.J. Warren and Danny Granger will all vie for minutes at small forward.

With that being said, perhaps throwing another role player into the mix won't do too much for the team.

However, the Suns still need greater talent at every position. Knight is an above-average starter, but Tucker, Morris and Granger are all role players at best. Warren is promising, but at this point he doesn't appear ready for a starting spot.

According to Dave King's most recent cap breakdown, the Suns have the cap flexibility to chase after a player costing up to about $15 million per season. And there is plenty of young, blossoming talent on the wings to go after.

The Big Name Restricted Free Agents

All of the following players are restricted free agents, meaning that their original teams have the power to match any offer sheet. The chances of signing one of these players is slim, but I'm sure that the team will at least try.

Let's start off with Jimmy Butler. The Suns traded the 2014 Most Improved Player to the Miami Heat in February, but perhaps they could fill that void with the 2015 Most Improved Player. Butler, who led the league in minutes per game under coach Tom Thibodeau, averaged 20 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game for the Chicago Bulls in his first All-Star season.

The 25-year-old has a reputation as a great defensive player, but he is also capable of contributing on the offensive end. His shot has been inconsistent throughout his career, but his three-point percentage rose to 37.8% in 2014-15.

He will almost certainly receive a max contract offer. And realistically, that offer will come from Chicago.

Kawhi Leonard, the 2014 Finals MVP, will also be on the market. Leonard averaged 16.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game with the Spurs this past season, and he has retained his reputation as one of the best defenders in the league.

I still think that comparing him to Scottie Pippen, as some Spurs fans have done, is going overboard. But he's a unique talent and that organization won't let him slip away.

Draymond Green just had a breakout season with the Warriors that led to an All-Defensive first team selection. The 6'7" forward was consistently able to stop bigger opposing power forwards, and he was also capable of defending shooting guards and even point guards.

But Green, despite benefiting from the Warriors' tremendous spacing, shot just 34 percent from deep. To call him a "3-and-D" player would be disingenuous, and any team that intends to start him at SF might find another Josh Smith on their hands.

Additionally, Green is one of the cockiest players in the league. He's not shy about trash talking opponents, and that has made him quite hated by a lot of fans. Sure, it works when you're playing with the MVP on a championship caliber team. But on a .500 Suns team? Perhaps that's not the type of leadership the Suns are looking for.

How would you make the buzzer beater nightmares go away? Perhaps by adding one of the culprits to the roster, such as the Bucks' Khris Middleton.

Middleton, a former second round pick who is just 23 years old, started 58 of 79 total games for the Bucks this season. And once he solidified a role in the starting rotation, he quickly gained national attention.

In 29 starts following the All-Star break, Middleton averaged 16.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game on 46 percent shooting from the field and 39 percent shooting from deep. And like the others discussed already, he has a reputation as a defensive stalwart. According to, players guarded by Middleton in 2014-15 shot 4.3% worse than they collectively shot on average. Compare that figure to P.J. Tucker, who held opponents to a percentage just 0.6% worse than average.

Milwaukee has a talented trio on the wings in Giannis, Middleton and Jabari Parker. Perhaps that makes Middleton more attainable than the other RFAs on the list.

Also, it might be important to note that Brandon Knight played with Middleton in Detroit and Milwaukee.

Finally, we have Tobias Harris. Harris is the only player on that list without a reputation for playing defense. But he can undoubtedly score, averaging 17.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game for the Magic.

Because Harris isn't a defender and needs the ball in his hands quite a bit to succeed, he probably isn't the perfect fit for Phoenix. But any potential 20 PPG scorer will find plenty of suitors regardless.

Above-Average Unrestricted Players

The following guys might not be stars, but with the increasing cap they could all be looking at eight figure salaries per season in the future.

Danny Green is the perfect example of a '3-and-D' role player. Whereas Butler, Leonard, Green and Middleton all have skills that make them unique, Green is truly limited to defending and shooting.

That isn't a knock on the 27-year-old sharpshooter. He does what he does very effectively, and could seamlessly fit into the Suns offense as either the starting SF or even as a sixth man. But do realize that he is limited. Green is undeniably a better player than current starter P.J. Tucker, but is he so much of an upgrade that it's worth paying twice the price? That is a question McDonough must ask himself.

DeMarre Carroll is in the same boat. It took Carroll a long time to find a home in the NBA, playing for four teams in his first four seasons. And now, after two successful years with the Hawks, there's the possibility that he moves again.

Carroll averaged 11.8 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game with Atlanta these past two seasons. He also shot 38 percent from the field.

Wesley Matthews has been a consistent scoring option for the Blazers for five seasons. In that half a decade he averaged 15.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game on 39 percent shooting from three-point range. But after missing the final quarter of the 2014-15 season due to a torn Achilles tendon, his stock may be dropping.

Lesser-Known RFAs

K.J. McDaniels got off to a great start with Philadelphia and then barely played with Houston. Now the 22-year-old is a restricted free agent, with just one year of experience to his name. But he averaged 13 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.9 blocks per 36 minutes. He has a lot of promise, and could be an intriguing gamble for one team to take.

Iman Shumpert hasn't lived up to the hype he generated during his rookie season with the Knicks. He has shown virtually no progress over his first four seasons, and after recovering from a torn ACL didn't appear to be the same defender. But he's still useful on that end, and overall he averaged 8 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 25 minutes per game this season.

Jae Crowder is a young player who has a lot of fans in both Dallas and Boston due to his competitiveness and strong work ethic. He's quite strong (240 pounds), and he's a good rebounder for his size. The caveat is that he can't shoot. The Suns might have enough of those types.

Player Options

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, JR Smith, Luol Deng, Monta Ellis, Paul Pierce, Arron Afflalo, Corey Brewer

LeBron isn't happening. Sorry.

Luol Deng or Paul Pierce could be interesting veterans to add, but the Suns did just get Danny Granger to commit to the team for a cheap price. Monta Ellis would clash with Knight, and Brewer is just another role player. Afflalo could potentially be added to the bench were he to opt out.

Other Role Players

Mike Dunleavy, Manu Ginobili, Marco Belinelli, Rodney Stuckey, Jason Terry, Gary Neal, Leandro Barbosa, Tayshaun Prince, Al-Farouq Aminu, Richard Jefferson, Kyle Singler, Derrick Williams, Gigi Datome, Omri Casspi, Jared Dudley

Is there anyone here that piques your interest? You can't get a star, but perhaps more shooting would be helpful.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Bright Side of the Sun Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Phoenix Suns news from Bright Side of the Sun