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Center of the Sun: The Phoenix Suns Fantable is back for round two!

Three questions about Alex Len, Tyler Ulis and who the Suns might take a look at when free agency begins

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NBA: Phoenix Suns at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Last week our Fantable questions dealt a lot with the upcoming draft and its ramifications. This week we look a little farther into the future. Once again I want to thank GuarGuar, Sun-Arc, SDKyle, Justin and Paul for participating in the Bright Side Fantable.

1. Alex Len will be a restricted free agent this summer. His play this season didn't exactly help his case for getting a new - and big - contract this year. What do you think other teams might offer him and how much is too much for the Suns to match?

GuarGuar: Regarding Len I definitely feel some team (a Brooklyn type) will offer him a lot more money than he is worth (14-16 mil per year). I am totally done with the Alex Len train and feel we need to move on completely. He still makes the exact same mistakes that he did on day 1. He still has potential but I'm not willing to invest any more time into him, especially if it is going to cost the team a lot of money. The only scenario I would consider bringing him back is on a short term 2 year 16 million (8 per year) type of deal.

Sun-Arc: I'm going to cite Dave's recent article about this subject and say I don't think the spending will be as crazy this summer as the last one. Though while Len may have been low on the list of available centers (and really low on the list of free agents), I think he may actually attract some interest in rebuilding teams. He's young, very tall, and pretty mobile- which is fairly rare even in today's NBA. I guesstimate he will receive something in the $8-12m/year offer, with $10m most likely. I was a huge fan of Len's for the first three seasons as we felt him out, and had high hopes for him to be a big part of our core going forward. But at this point I hope we let him walk and hold onto Williams as the backup.

SDKyle: It's really hard for me to nail down what the market for bigs is going to look like this offseason. A year ago teams were thrilled to overspend on anyone over 6'10, but the Plumlee and Mozgov contracts look ridiculous in hindsight and I don't think too many teams will be eager to make the next mistake. That said, Len is still young enough that it wouldn't shock me if someone took a gamble and offered him something like $12-14 million a year. If Len could be had for around $10 million annually, I think it potentially makes sense to offer him that. But if it's trending more the mid-teens, I say pass. You never know when that extra space might be needed.

Justin: Even though Alex Len did not finish the year as strong as he started, I still expect him to get an offer of about four years, $48 million. With the huge jump in the salary cap last year, we are dealing with a new reality when it comes to what constitutes a “big” contract in the NBA. As Suns fans, we’ve all laughed at the Timofey Mozgov contract. But Meyers Leonard also got 4/$41 million, Miles Plumlee got 4/$50 million, and Ian Mahinmi got 4/$64 million. Comparing their stats per 36 minutes to those of Len shows that they all provide similar production. Based on numbers alone, it is very easy to see Len getting 4/$48 million.

On top of that, I think there are enough intangibles to convince a team to give Len a deal for $12 million per year despite stats that don’t pop off the page. Some of his inconsistency can certainly be attributed to the lack of opportunities the Suns have given him. He is still young. He did not start playing basketball until he was 13, and thus can still be considered somewhat raw. He also has a combination of size and athleticism that one would want in an NBA center.

For me, the time has come for the Suns to just part ways with Len. Like I said last week, I think the Suns should focus on keeping Alan Williams and worry about finding their long-term starting center in the future.

Paul: It’s funny how fans haven’t adjusted appropriately as to what is a reasonable salary under the new cap. We are looking at ~$102 million cap next year, and an 8th man is worth a salary around 10% of the cap. Assuming Len at worst is an 8th man, he’s going to get minimum $10 million. But factoring in his age, potential growth, and the premium on bigs, he could get significantly more. From the Suns perspective a lot of it depends on what the market is willing to pay for Len. If he goes out and gets himself a Mosgov-type contract ($16M/4 years), I let him walk. But if the best he can do is something in the range of 3-4 years for $10-$12 million, I would take the risk that the Suns can finally get him to unlock that potential.

2. Do you think that Tyler Ulis can become a starting caliber point guard in the NBA? The most frequent arguement against him that I've heard is that he's too small. That was the most frequent arguement against IT at one time too.

GuarGuar: I am a huge Tyler Ulis supporter and feel he can be a solid player in this league. I don't believe he can be a consistent starter though. I feel he can be a tremendous backup point guard/6th man. Could Ulis develop enough to be a starter...sure but I just don't see it happening. Ulis can become a great offensive player in this league my concern with him is defense. In a league where point guards are getting bigger and more athletic how would we use Ulis defensively when we vs. teams with guys like Russ, Wall, etc?

Sun-Arc: I do not think anyone has seen enough yet of Tyler to know whether he will be a starter. Is it possible? Yes. Is it probable? Most say no. But doubting didn't stop Thomas, and he recently scored 53 points in game 2 (and threw it in Markieff's face the entire time). And when I think of what Nash showed his rookie season after four years in college compared to what we saw this season from Ulis, it definitely gets me excited for his future. I already feel he's the best floor general we've seen since Nash left. He has a knack for scoring from everywhere on the court and puts in a ton of effort on D. The one element he has as a player that makes me feel he can potentially become a starter is the heart he shows on the court- the same type of heart Thomas has showed the world since the playoffs started.

SDKyle: Not to sound heartless, but no, I think his ceiling is as a backup. I don't love the comparisons between Ulis and IT. I understand why the comparison is made given their similar heights, but I don't think Ulis has IT's physical gifts or natural scoring ability. IT weighs around 185, Ulis around 155 by all accounts. Can Ulis gain 30 lbs of muscle? And if he does, will he still be able to move? I'm rooting for him as long as he's a Sun, but I just don't think being merely a good passer is enough to warrant Ulis being a's hard to believe a non-tanking team wouldn't be able to find a player with more of a cumulative benefit to put on the floor.

Justin: I wish I could answer yes, but I do not think Ulis can become a regular starter in the NBA. My answer, however, has nothing to do with his skillset or his height, but instead my concern is his size/build. Ulis is listed at 150 pounds, making him the lightest player in the NBA last season (and one of the lightest NBA players in the last 30 years). For sake of comparison, Isaiah Thomas is listed at 185 pounds. Subtle bumps, screens, post-ups, etc. will have more of an effect on Ulis than on a bigger Thomas. And while Ulis played great on both sides of the ball this season, much of what he did was unexpected to us as fans and, most likely, to the teams he played against as well. Moving forward, I think NBA teams will be more prepared for Ulis’ game and to attack his lack of size.

There is also the physicality of the NBA game. Ulis started during his final year at Kentucky, but that was over 35 games (and remember, there were rumors swirling about Ulis’ hip before the draft). He made it through his rookie year relatively healthy, but he only played 30+ minutes on 16 occasions. Being a starter in the NBA over 82 games is a lot different than those situations. “Typical sized” NBA starters experience significant wear and tear and injury risk, and Ulis’ slight build will only magnify the wear and tear and increase the risk of injury.

Paul: I honestly wouldn’t put anything past Tyler Ulis. The kid is a competitor and has continued to overcome extremely long odds to make the NBA, and then once given consistent play, prove that he deserved it. Everyone is comparing him to Isaiah Thomas because of the height, but from an actual style of play standpoint, Chris Paul is a better comp. Ulis is a distributor first, but can score if, and when, he wants to, and he is a decent defender. If Ulis puts on a bit of muscle I think he has a shot as a starter. However, I don’t see it happening with Booker as his backcourt mate. Ulis is a good defender, but he shouldn’t be the best defender in a back court.

3. I expect the Suns to be very low-key in the free agent market this summer as they were last year and not make any plays for the bigger names. Are there any "under the radar" type players that you think that they should go after? Or should the Suns go after any of the bigger names that will be on the FA market?

GuarGuar: The Suns should not go out and sign any big name free agents this summer. I do believe a great fit for this team would be Andre Iguodala (assuming we don't draft a SF). The Warriors can't afford him so he will be leaving them after this playoff run. Iguodala could definitely help our team defense and be a great mentor. A bonus with him is he already has a good relationship with Booker so I'm sure the team would be happy to have him. He is a proven winner and his leadership would be greatly valued in Phoenix. We have to spend the money somewhere to get above the salary floor (especially if Knight is gone) and I believe signing Iguodala to a 2 year 28 mil type of deal would be great.

Sun-Arc: Obviously, a lot of this depends on the draft. And I think McD will either go really big and try to pick up a star level player in a trade or stay very quiet and let the youth develop for another season. I do not think the team will attempt to get a star FA like Griffin (bad fit and he seems like a jerk), or Hayward (Jazz won't let him go, IMO). I also think it would take gutting our core to trade for George or Butler, which may not be palatable. On the more quiet side, I feel the team may try to get a rim protecting young big man like Dedmon, particularly if Alex and Alan both end up leaving. The one bigger name FA player we could go after might be Otto Porter (if we don't draft a SF), but I don't think he and WAS will want to part company. In the end I expect them to inquire about some big trades but strike out, possibly make an offer to a young upswing guy like Porter but likely strike out, and possibly pick up a filler piece like Dedmon to round out the roster. Let the Youth Brigade continue to roll.

SDKyle: At the risk of sounding boring, no, not really. It makes sense to explore options like Otto Porter Jr or Kelly Olynyk depending on how the draft and any associated trades shake out, but I agree that the Suns will be low-key in the FA market. It's hard for me to get too excited about fishing around for REALLY under the radar options, just because I don't think there are any that will meaningfully improve the Suns. As for the bigger names, the pool is pretty limited and none seem a fit for the Suns right now.

Justin: The Suns have to at least kick the tires on the bigger names in free agency, but unless you tell me that Kevin Durant opts out and is incredibly interested in signing with the Suns, then I’m fine with the Suns just laying low this offseason. Like I said last week, the Suns just need to trust the process that they have in place. Assuming they bring back either Len or Williams and add two draft picks, they’ll have 14 players under contract for next season, and a lot of those guys deserve minutes. There is no need to add a piece for the sake of adding a piece in free agency.

Paul: I think the draft will tell us a lot. If the Suns go for a PG, they could look to shed guys like Bledsoe, Knight and Chandler and just go super young, with a couple of strong character vet signings like Dudley and Barbosa to keep the kids in line. However, with it being McDonough’s last year, I could see a Hail Mary play for a Blake Griffin level free agent, or possibly trying to put together a trade for Jimmy Butler or Paul George. Also, depending on the Len situation, I could see the Suns in the market for a center as well.

2016-17 Season Highlights

Suns vs Dallas (April 11) Full Highlights.

Alan Williams - 14 pts & 4 blocks vs Chicago (Feb. 10)

Quote of the Week

“It’s all about putting pieces together that make sense.” - Earl Watson (Arizona Sports)

News & Notes

Suns fans should cheer, not fear, NBA draft lottery. Dan Bickley/AZCentral

The Father Is Why Lonzo Ball Shouldn’t Be A Sun. Greg Esposito/Sports 360 AZ

Bickley: Devin Booker's reach extends far beyond Phoenix. Dan Bickley/AZCentral

Empire of the Suns NBA Draft positional preview: Center. Kellan Olson/Arizona Sports

Phoenix Suns are following Golden State, Oklahoma City models. Arizona Sports

NBA draft: Can Phoenix Suns find point guard of future? Doug Haller/AZCentral

Suns Trivia

Among qualified players, T.J. Warren ranks 4th in the 2014 NBA Draft class with 14.4 points per game this season (behind Wiggins, Jokic & Clarkson), Devin Booker ranks 2nd in the 2015 NBA Draft class with 22.1 per game (behind Towns) and Marquese Chriss ranks 5th in the 2016 NBA Draft class with 9.2 per game (behind Hield, Brogdon, Murray & Ingram).

This Week in Suns History

Previewing the Weeks/Months Ahead

NBA Draft Combine, May 9th - 14th. (this week!)

Lottery date, May 16th.

Draft date, June 22nd.

Summer League play, July 1st - 17th.

Free Agency begins July 1st.

Last Week's Poll Results

The question was, "When do you think the Suns will get back into the playoffs?" The results were:

22% - They will make it next year!

57% - They could possibly make it back in 2018-19.

21% - They won't make it back until 2019-20 or later.

There were a total of 212 votes cast.

This week's poll...


If the Suns can only afford to keep one of Alex Len and Alan Williams (both RFAs) next season, which one should they hang on to?

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    Alex Len
    (34 votes)
  • 82%
    Alan Williams
    (162 votes)
196 votes total Vote Now

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