With the signing of Jae Crowder to join Cameron Johnson and Mikal Bridges in the wing rotation, and especially after adding All-NBA Chris Paul last Monday, the Phoenix Suns look more than poised to break their 10-year playoff drought.
- Point guard: Chris Paul (All-Star), Cameron Payne
- Shooting guard: Devin Booker (All-Star), Abdel Nader
- Small forward: Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson
- Power forward: Jae Crowder, Jalen Smith
- Center: Deandre Ayton
Well known are the Suns desires to bring back Dario Saric to bolster the front court and Jevon Carter for defense and spot up shooting in the back court.
This team right now should be a quality playoff team — with Las Vegas already giving the Suns the 5th best odds of winning the West (since the Crowder signing) and some national basketball twitter folks considering home court advantage possibilities.
The Suns still have a good-sized hole in the back court even if they stay healthy, but they are mostly out of money to spend on the free agent market. After using the mid-level exception money on Crowder, all the “over the salary cap” Suns have left are:
- Bi-annual exception ($3.6 mil/yr, up to 2 years)
- Veteran minimums ($1-3 million depending on experience)
- Trade player(s) salary-for-salary with another team
The drop off from Paul and Booker to Payne/Carter/Nader is steep. We have to assume Payne will settle in somewhere between on-the-street-in-July and difference-maker-in-August levels and neither Carter nor Nader profile as consistent scoring backups.
Short of that, the Suns still need a competent, veteran guard who can be a secondary scorer and/or playmaker behind Booker and Paul, and just ahead of (or alongside) Carter and Payne.
Who is still on the market after all this frenzy that could fit the third-guard role?
- Jeff Teague - age 31, 10 points, 5 assists, 36% 3P, downside of career
- Langston Galloway - age 28, 10 points, 40% 3P, mostly just a shooter
- Kent Bazemore - age 30, 9 points, 33% 3P, long-armed defender, streaky shooter
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope - age 27, 9 points, 38% 3P, true 3 and D and not much else
- Bryn Forbes - age 26, 11 points, 39% 3P, undersized shooter at 6’2”
- Shabazz Napier - age 28, 10 points, 4.7 assists, 36% 3P, quite small, but more effective with experience
- E’twaun Moore - age 30, 8 points, 40% 3P
The only real playmakers on the free agent market right now are Teague and Napier, but neither is a great fit for their own reasons. Teague looked washed last season. If you’re worried about Payne’s bubble performance not being repeatable, the same worries should apply to Napier who was out of the league before this past season just like Payne.
To me, I’d be happy with Galloway or Moore on the bi-annual exception or veteran’s minimum (range: $2-3.5 million) and that’s all the Suns have so that’s okay.
Or make a trade.
What I would do is try to use Aron Baynes or Dario Saric in a sign-and-trade to a team loaded at guard. Other than possibly George Hill, who is currently on the Pelicans after having a great year in Milwaukee, I’m not sure which teams want to trade their quality guard to the Suns on a reasonable contract (i.e. $5-8 million per year, or whatever they want to pay Saric/Baynes), but I’m sure there are a few.
Failing a nifty and highly unlikely sign-and-trade, go get Galloway or Moore for shooting off the bench.
That’s my suggestion.