When the clock strikes midnight on the East coast tonight, which is 9:00pm Arizona time, you should probably be sitting comfortably in a chair with a safe place for your jaw to drop as contract terms start rolling down your social media timeline.
First off the board, the unrestricted free agents.
Teams cannot make plays for the restricted free agent class until the "July moratorium" is over on July 7, once the league officially opens for business for the 2016-17 season after auditing the 2015-16 books. Until then, it's just the unrestricted guys whose contracts expired on June 30, and trades of players under contract for 2016-17 already.
Of the primo unrestricted free agents, don't expect to hear anything on Kevin Durant or Mike Conley tonight. Unless of course Conley just decides to skip the free meals because he's convinced the Grizzlies are the right team for him and he hates free food and private plane rides.
It's the lower-level unrestricteds that will have some quick agreements in hand before heading to bed.
Someone like Marvin Williams, who recently found his NBA niche as a stretch-four who can put up Channing Frye numbers, might have a $15 million per year contract offer in hand at 12:01 EST. Kent Bazemore, a great 3-and-D guy who is finally making shots, could be choosing between multiple $15 million per year offers. Same with Jeremy Lin, a career backup point guard who happens to be the second-best unrestricted free agent PG out there this summer.
Joakim Noah, who the past two years has played like he's secretly 42 years old, is reportedly already close to an $18 million per year contract with the New York Knicks. Nicolas Batum might agree to keep his 14/6/6 stat line in Charlotte for the mere cost of $20 million per season.
In prior years, these guys would have been lucky to receive contract offers half that size, given their recent history and likelihood to sustain performance throughout the contract.
But a $94 million salary cap - which is $24 million higher than last year - makes spenders as giddy as your significant other when an endowment from granny shows up in the checking account one day.
Will the Phoenix Suns join the fray on opening night?
Maybe, maybe not. Seems to me the Suns will be more active in the restricted free agent and trade markets than they will be in the unrestricted pool. The trade market won't heat up for a couple days, and as I mentioned above the restricted free agent offer sheets can't be made until July 7 at least.
So the Suns might be very quiet tonight.
Generally, unrestricted free agents are older because they've already been through their rookie contracts as well as outlived their restricted years. These players are generally older than 25, which in my opinion puts all but the deep bench candidates out of the picture for this young Suns team. There's no need to sign 30 year Al Horford to a long-term contract when he's going to be surrounded by 23-and-unders who don't know how to win.
But there are a few unrestricteds who might interest the Suns, as long as the price is right.
The Suns may already plan to talk to some second-tier or third-tier free agents, including Cole Aldrich or Derrick Williams, but I'm pretty certain the Suns don't need to be breaking the bank on these guys until their retail price has been set on the open market.
Could Cole Aldrich join the Suns? https://t.co/VcYWnSR63I pic.twitter.com/Wk769qzWQe— BrightSideoftheSun (@BrightSideSun) June 29, 2016
Jeff to Phil: 'Get us some good players'; Gordon has DRose ties, DWill gets interest from Suns, #Lakers https://t.co/yYqY2LONqG— Marc Berman (@NYPost_Berman) June 30, 2016
Doesn't mean an overpay won't happen. Just means I hope the Suns aren't the ones doing it.
The Suns do have needs though. Especially if they already have trades lined up.
Yes actually... Suns sound like they are trading one or two of their point guards. Have reached to some free agents https://t.co/ey4MAfPWLx— Steve Kyler (@stevekylerNBA) June 29, 2016
I was not told - they have reached out to a couple of the free agent point guards and expressed a desire to trade https://t.co/4gIkERL57N— Steve Kyler (@stevekylerNBA) June 30, 2016
FWIW: Kyler has been reporting the Suns imminent trade of a point guard for the past three straight years. His rumor to transaction ratio is about 100:1. But even a blind squirrel finds an occasional nut.
Wings over point guards
Ok so the Suns could be looking at free agent point guards? I'd rather they focus on a backup to Booker than a backup to whoever stays of Knight and Bledsoe. I really do think Tyler Ulis and Ronnie Price are fine, as long as they don't have to play big minutes.
I really don't think the Suns are trading Bledsoe, unless it's a godfather offer and who the heck is going to make a godfather offer for a guy with bad knees? The Suns seem invested in Bledsoe, and Bledsoe seems invested with the Suns.
#Suns guard Eric Bledsoe (@EBled2) has had enough. He's reinventing himself as the team leader, writes @PaolaBoivin https://t.co/avK4b7Iqfj— azcentral sports (@azcsports) June 30, 2016
If you have a taker for Brandon Knight, and you think Tyler Ulis and Ronnie Price can provide any necessary point guarding skills behind Eric Bledsoe next season, then finding a 3-and-D shooting guard who can guard small forwards would be a good way to go.
One guy the Suns should be interested in - as long as they've got a taker for Knight lined up - is Kent Bazermore, late of Atlanta. The 6'5" Bazemore has fashioned himself into quite a 3-and-D guy who could back up Booker as well as play alongside him in certain lineups. Bazemore is 26 years old though, and might cost $15 million per year, which could put him outside the Suns scope of targets.
E'Twaun Moore could be another guy to target. He's a 6'4" shooting guard who can take on point guards and shooting guards defensively, and hit the open three. But he's not that big, can't play SF in a pinch, and can't really pass that well either. He'd really be an Archie Goodwin replacement. A little better than Archie, but not good enough to dump Knight for him.
At small forward, if you have a taker for P.J. Tucker and don't want to spend the big money that Harrison Barnes would require, our own Owen Sanborn already pointed out that Solomon Hill, a U of A grad and late of the Pacers, would be a nice target as an unrestricted free agent.
Hill can play small ball four in a pinch, and has gotten a bit better at stretching the floor, but isn't really a shooter. He's an active defender and good guy to have on your team. And frankly, would produce similar numbers to Harrison Barnes at about 1/3 the price.
Come on home, Duds!
If the Suns really want a power forward who can start for a year or so and nicely fade into a bench role over time, and they don't want to pay Mirza Teletovic's price, I would seriously consider someone like former Suns player Jared Dudley. Like P.J. Tucker, Dudley is thick enough to defend fours and threes, and can make the long range shot often enough to keep the opponent in small ball lineups.
Plus, who wouldn't want Dudley back in Suns colors? Even Dudley himself said last summer he would have targeted the Suns if his back had been healthy enough to test the free agent market rather than opt in to his final year of his contract. For one thing, I'd love to be interviewing Duds in the locker room after games again.
Those are the guys I'd think about targeting for reasonable contract offers in the next day or so, depending on what the Suns' plans are for Brandon Knight and P.J. Tucker and Mirza Teletovic. If you keep all three of those guys, you don't dip into the unrestricted pool at all, in my opinion.
I'd rather, though, the Suns just wait out the gold rush over the next week.
A week from now, Tyson Chandler's $13 million per year as a backup, veteran, playoff-tested center will look attractive to teams who want to be competitive and can't or won't swallow the $18-plus million Joakim Noah and Dwight Howard are going to command.
A week from now, Brandon Knight's $13 million per year as a starting PG or firey Sixth Man will look like a bargain to teams who lost the Jeremy Lin sweepstakes.
A week from now, P.J. Tucker could be a hot, hot commodity as an eminently cheap small forward/stretch four for a playoff team that doesn't want to regurgitate their lunch on contracts for similar players on the open market.
The Suns should wait out the trade market, and then maybe dip their feet in the Restricted Free Agent pool on July 7 to a add a building-block piece on the rise.
Guys like Moe Harkless (23, 3-and-D), Allen Crabbe (24, SG), Evan Never-Google Fournier (23, SG) or even Donatas Motiejunas (25, as a Center) could be good targets if the Suns have already moved on from Chandler, Tucker and/or Knight.
Be patient, Suns fans.
Hope your favorite team does NOT make huge headlines tonight with an unrestricted free agent signing.