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Gambo: Suns still looking for third-string power forward

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Phoenix isn’t done just yet.

Dallas Mavericks v Phoenix Suns Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

The Phoenix Suns are pretty much — but not entirely — done roster-building for the summer. Barring an opportunistic trade that falls in their laps that could improve the Suns present and future, we’re likely talking about the deepest parts of the bench here.

At this point, the Suns have too many underdeveloped, backup point guards on the depth chart with guaranteed contracts for the 2019-20 season. Rookies Ty Jerome and Jalen Lecque and second year players Elie Okobo and Jevon Carter (from Memphis) all have guaranteed contracts and are vying for less than 20 minutes a night behind new starter Ricky Rubio.

And that’s even considering the minutes that Devin Booker or Tyler Johnson play the point guard spot in a big lineup that includes Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson and Kelly Oubre Jr.!

What does that leave? Something like 5-10 minutes a night for those four point guards? At best? Even if you discount Lecque as a G-League regular, that’s still a waste of roster space on all of Okobo, Carter and Jerome.

On the other hand, there’s one too few big men on the roster. The Suns currently have only Deandre Ayton and Dario Saric as starters, with Frank Kaminsky and Aron Baynes behind them.

Here’s the depth chart. I put Tyler Johnson over behind Booker for balance, but also because Johnson is really a combo guard and not a point guard:

  • PG: Ricky Rubio, Ty Jerome, Elie Okobo, Jevon Carter, Jalen Lecque
  • SG: Devin Booker, Tyler Johnson
  • SF: Kelly Oubre Jr., Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson
  • PF: Dario Saric, Frank Kaminsky
  • C: Deandre Ayton, Aron Baynes

Per John Gambadoro of ArizonaSports.com and 98.7 FM, the Suns are still looking for a third-string power forward.

Personally, I would recommend a young, athletic player with high upside as a defender and rim protector. But those aren’t just sitting around on the street right now, ready to take a minimum salary contract for a chance to stun the world.

Maybe the Suns could swap one or two of their young backup point guards for another team’s young backup power forward in a need-for-need deal? Sure, I’d like that. But if you’re looking at a trade, you have to consider all the rules about recently acquired players — which is everyone on the roster except Booker, Ayton, Bridges, Okobo and Tyler Johnson. Recent draft picks can’t be traded for 30 days after they signed a contract. Recent free agent signings can’t be traded until December 15. And recent trade acquisitions cannot be aggregated with other players for ... crap, I don’t remember. 30 days on that too, I think. And for capped-out teams, trades must be within 50 percent of each other on salaries.

This article is focused on what’s left on the free agent market in terms of big men.

The Suns are now capped out, and they’ve already used the Room Exception on Frank Kaminsky, so all the Suns — and most other teams in the league — can offer to those guys are minimum salary slots.

First, there’s recent Suns players available, including Ray Spalding, Dragan Bender and... hey why not at least mention him ... Marquese Chriss who are all 21 years old and out of a job at the moment. I also throw in a recent dump by the New Orleans Pelicans, Cheick Diallo.

I included their career-long numbers, which shows artificial inflation for Chriss and Bender because Suns rebuild:

Let’s compare them on a per-36 basis:

Here’s where you see someone like Diallo begin to stand out, if you’re a believer in stretching short minutes into long minutes on equal production. He’s long and active, though inconsistent.

You might think that Ray Spalding has the inside track because he’s the one who has been most recently signed by the current regime in this same kind of situation (last spring) and was still on the Suns Summer League squad this week despite being released from his non-guaranteed contract for next season to make room for the Rubio and Oubre signings.

Some might want to bring Bender back, but really don’t you think the Suns have already replaced those Bender skills with Saric and Kaminsky? I really believe Bender’s time is over in Phoenix.

On the other hand, the Suns could go with a veteran who is willing to take the minimum for a chance to beat out Kaminsky for primary backup minutes, and heck maybe even Saric.

Here’s what’s left among veterans who might want a chance to compete for big playing time. They’re all between 29-31 years old — on the high side for Jones’ normal targets this summer.

Kenneth Faried finished last year with the Rockets, having an up and down playoff experience. Jerebko rode the Warriors bench all year for a chance at a ring. Amir Johnson faded out of the Sixers rotation. Luc Mbah a Moute was injured most all last season but was a great swing forward the year before on a Rockets team that almost beat the Warriors if they hadn’t lost Chris Paul to injury and/or missed 27 straight threes in the deciding game.


What say you, Sans fan?

Who should the Suns add to their deep bench to challenge Frank the Tank for backup minutes?