Every young team needs some veteran influence to learn the right way to play basketball.
This is especially true of the Phoenix Suns, who now have eight (8) players aged 22 or under, with seven who might be expected to play minutes next season.
- PG — Eric Bledsoe (27), Tyler Ulis (21), Brandon Knight (25)
- SG — Devin Booker (20), Davon Reed (22), Leandro Barbosa (34)
- SF — Josh Jackson (20), T.J. Warren (23), Jared Dudley (32)
- PF — Marquese Chriss (19), Dragan Bender (19)
- C — Tyson Chandler (34), Alex Len (24), Alan Williams (24)
This is quite the mismash rotation. Only Bledsoe and Booker appear guaranteed to get 30+ minutes per game next season. T.J. Warren should get 25+ per game since he’s earned every bit of that. Rookie Jackson and second-year players Chriss, Bender and Ulis should all get 15-20+ minutes based on their play last season.
But six of those seven players, with the exception of Bledsoe, are 23 and under with very little NBA experience, let alone winning experience.
Where will the veteran influence come from?
Can Tyson Chandler deliver another yeoman’s season in the pivot, where despite being mid-30s he was one of the best rebounders in the league last year per minute? Chandler is also the vocal leader of the Suns “defense” and is sorely missed when not on the court.
Can Jared Dudley carve out a predictable role in the small-forward/power-forward rotation, enough to influence the flow and consistency of the game?
Should the Suns add even more veterans to Dudley and Chandler? Or simply replace them with different veterans who might find larger roles.
Positional Need: Backup Shooting Guard
The Suns could likely us a strong veteran shooting guard to backup and sometimes play next to Devin Booker. This shooting guard should be able to make at least wide open jumpers while providing sorely needed defense on the wing.
As a profile, that sure sounds like Davon Reed, the 22-year old the Suns just drafted early in the second round. But Reed might not be ready to play consistently and effectively as a rookie next season, so the Suns should look to someone who can bring those qualities on a short-term deal.
Unfortunately, the free agent cupboard is a little bare on this kind of player (can make shots, defend well and will take a short-term deal).
- J.J. Redick: It seems Redick will want a 4-5 year deal, which should take him right off the Suns table.
- Tim Hardaway Jr.: He put together a great season, but he’s a restricted free agent meaning a team would have to overpay to get him away from Atlanta. And he’s young enough to want too large of a role for the Suns to provide behind Booker, Jackson, Warren on the wing.
- Andre Roberson: Superb defender, but can’t really make an open shot. Suns might be able to get him on a rich, short-term to deal to back up Booker and mentor Jackson by example on how to excel on defense. Just wouldn’t help the Suns shooting issues.
- Most of the other available options won’t be significantly better than Leandro Barbosa, who the Suns could just keep on a one-year $4,000,000 deal and would be great in the locker room.
Positional Need: Backup/Starting Center
The Suns could have an overhaul at center with very little effort.
Alan Williams and Alex Len are both restricted free agents the Suns could decide to simply let go by declining their qualifying offers. Tyson Chandler has two more years under contract, but could be traded to a contender for a second round pick at any point the Suns and Chandler approve it.
Who would be the Suns center instead? The Suns need a mobile big man who can switch on D, call out the plays, and finish at the rim as needed.
- Nerlens Noel: The Suns could make a run at Noel, but Dallas is almost certain to match any offer for the restricted free agent. If the Suns DID get him and he remained healthy, Noel could very well fit into a future core of Booker, Jackson, Chriss and Bender.
- Mason Plumlee: Also restricted, it’s unlikely Denver lets him go. But Plumlee is a good serviceable center who can pass and finish at the rim while also defending it fairly well. He’s not a great defender, but he does rebound well.
- DeWayne Dedmon: Had a breakout year as a serviceable backup for the Spurs, and now is unrestricted. He’s long and mobile, but doesn’t have a very advanced game. Dedmon could be an affordable replacement for Williams/Len in a rotation.
Positional Need: Starting Power Forward?
I know there’s a desire to bring in a veteran free agent who actually plays big minutes and can mentor the young guys along with the retained Eric Bledsoe, Jared Dudley and Tyson Chandler.
However, I disagree with adding a Paul Millsap type. If you do that, then at least one if not 2-3 young guys lose a year of playing.
I do not think the Suns should target any high-profile power forwards.