The Phoenix Suns have flown completely under the radar when it comes to free agency news. Outside of some rumblings here and there on D’Angelo Russell and Cory Joseph, not much has leaked out with regard to how the Suns’ new regime will attack this important period of time.
Nobody expected Phoenix to pull off their moves on draft night, which included selecting Cameron Johnson and Ty Jerome while also trading for Dario Saric and Aron Baynes in both moves. So, expect the unexpected when it comes to the Suns not only on the first day of free agency, but throughout the offseason.
Before free agency officially begins at 3:00 p.m. MST, what should we expect to occur? Honestly, it’s anyone’s guess with how silent the news front has been, but, we do know Kelly Oubre Jr. remains Phoenix’s top priority as he enters restricted free agency. Following career-highs across the board donning purple and orange, Oubre will be cashing in.
Outside of Oubre’s market, which holds it’s own questions of whether the Suns would be willing to pay upwards of $16-18 million per year, one hole on the roster finally needs a resolution. Will Phoenix roll the dice with an aggressive pursuit of D’Angelo Russell or Malcolm Brogdon, or instead go the cheaper, short-term route with someone like Cory Joseph?
At this point, the Suns haven’t been able to successfully offload Josh Jackson’s contract to clear more room. Also, it sounds like stretching Tyler Johnson is not something the organization is in favor of doing, per Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro. If neither ends up happening, you can scratch off both Russell and Brogdon as realistic options. And there’s also a chance Phoenix is left in the cold in the point guard carousel, except for the Josephs of the world.
However, I’m going to sell you on the polar opposite. Roll the dice. Go all-in for Russell or Brogdon, easily the two best fits for the Suns available on the open market. Settling on a cheap stopgap option was a realistic choice before the draft if they selected Darius Garland or Coby White, but that obviously didn’t happen. The marbles are balancing heavily towards free agency to find the answer alongside Devin Booker.
And it’s time to find the long-term partner right now. No more waiting. Do you know how many point guards Booker has played with during his four seasons in Phoenix? Thirteen!
Even if it takes stretching Johnson or attaching a future second-round pick to get off a former No. 4 pick in Jackson, the Suns need to begin this new era with a splash. Monty Williams and James Jones is a solid foundation for hopeful long-term stability off the court, but the pieces playing matter most. Acquiring Dario Saric on draft night took some pressure off obtaining an answer at power forward right now, so all the focus should be on who fits best next to their star combo guard.
Going in the Russell or Brogdon direction would show the Suns feel on the cusp of competing for the playoffs with one more big move, including $15-25 million in wiggle room next summer to fill out remaining roster concerns. Also, there’s no reason to not believe adding a point guard of this caliber wouldn’t put Phoenix in prime position to make a similar jump as Sacramento last season.
Sure, the Suns can continue to play the waiting game and preserve cap space for 2020 or 2021, but the clock is already ticking. Booker wants to win. He’s not going to continue to settle for never sniffing the playoffs year after year. It’s not an issue now, but, if no large improvements are made within the next two or three years, Phoenix could be the new Indiana (Paul George), Cleveland (Kyrie Irving), San Antonio (Kawhi Leonard) or Chicago (Jimmy Butler) with stars asking out.
Aggressiveness can be rewarded when the opportunity strikes. Obtaining Russell or Brogdon would provide Phoenix their strongest rotation ever around Booker, and it sure would help optimize Ayton as well.
Starters: Russell / Brogdon, Booker, Oubre, Saric, Ayton
Second Unit: Jerome, Johnson, Bridges, Baynes
Instead of finishing with 23-25 wins, or even fewer, this 9-man rotation would be an appetizing one that provides a significant boost in the standings. Along with natural development from the rest of their young core, pushing for at least 30-35 wins shouldn’t be a tough to ask.
“Can a Russell/Booker/Ayton trio succeed defensively?”
“Will Brogdon ever be able to stay healthy?”
“Will Russell do okay in a secondary role?”
“Is Brogdon worth $20-plus million annually?”
Don’t worry about asking all of these questions. The Suns should be viewing this offseason as go-time to finally ascend from bottom of the barrel to respectable. With the right moves, who knows, maybe even eclipsing 35 wins is a possibility, with talents like Booker and Ayton are already on the roster.
If dramatic improvement finally arrives in 2020 by way of a potent backcourt and Ayton feasting with better spacing, sustainability as a playoff contender is on the horizon for the Suns. Pushing the chips into the middle of the table for Russell or Brogdon would go a long way toward accomplishing it.