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Center of the Sun: Could Phoenix become a ‘Preferred Free Agent Destination’ in 2021?

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It’s a grab bag of past, present and future Suns topics this week.

Milwaukee Bucks v Phoenix Suns Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

As I mentioned last week, no one knows what exactly is going to happen to the salary cap other than it will not reach the previous projected figure of $115 million. It could even be lower than this season’s $109 mil. That means that the projected figures for the cap space for every team will also be down this season.

The biggest impact of that will be in free agency spending. That may or may not turn out to be a big problem this year as it was not expected to be a high quality free agent market this summer.

2021 was going to be the big year for free agency with Giannis, Kawhi, Paul George, Rudy Gobert, Victor Oladipo and Jrue Holiday all potentially hitting the market. And now with the cap likely to fall and big, lenthy contracts likely to not be handed out this summer, players with player options like Gordon Hayward, DeMar DeRozan and Evan Fournier might very well decide to stick with their present teams one more season before testing the free agency waters. Players who will be restricted free agents this summer might also decide to accept their qualifying offers to become unrestricted free agents in 2021 when more cash might be available. A lot of UFAs will likely accept moderately priced one-year contracts too.

Put all of that together and it could add up to one of the best free agent markets in history in 2021.

The Suns were projected as being able to open up as much as $24.6 mil to use in free agency this summer but that will drop depending on the final determination of next season’s salary cap. Whatever the final figures are, if they don’t sign anyone to a long-term contract this year, they could only have Devin Booker and Ricky Rubio on guaranteed deals for 2021-22 totaling $49.5 mil on their payroll. Yes, they are extremely unlikely to not pick up the options of Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges which would bring that total up to $67.6 mil. They are also very likely to pick up Cam Johnson’s option which would bring the total up to $72 mil. I’m not quite as certain about the option on Ty Jerome yet and I’m not at all convinced that Elie Okobo and Jalen Lecque will be around by then.

But lets say they keep everyone except Okobo and Lecque and sign no one this summer to more than a one year deal. By renouncing all of their cap holds they would only be committed to around $75 mil in salary going into a potential free agency gold mine in the Summer of 2021.

The only question would be the salary cap figures. It was projected to be $125 million but will surely fall short of that now. Just how far short of that figure it falls will determine how much the Suns will actually have available to spend in free agency but I’m certain that the Suns could have at least one max salary spot open in a year when a lot of max level players are on the market.

Of course none of this takes into consideration possible trades the Suns might make between now and then while could likely bring back players on multi-year contracts which could eat into the cap space they could have in 2021. Honestly, I think it’s very possible that the Suns could use their cap space this summer to swing a lop-sided salary trade (bringing in more salary than they shed in a trade) to get a player they want from another team that wants to shed salary in anticipation of the 2021 free agency period.

Other teams have already been preparing for 2021 while the Suns were just trying to return to relevancy so there will be quite a few teams with significant cap space at their disposal in 2021. The Suns won’t have a leg up on a lot of teams but they could still be players as the number of quality free agents available then is likely to climb over what was expected.

While it may seem premature to start thinking about 2021 free agency, the best teams make plans well into the future and adjust them accordingly as time passes. The Suns already look as though they just might have a good thing going in the Valley with the young talent already on the team. If they play it smart in 2020’s free agency period, shore up their weaknesses and take a significant step forward on the court next season, they could set themselves up to once again begin to look like an attractive landing spot for top tier free agents in 2021.


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Fantable Questions of the Week

Q1 - Everyone has favorite players and they change over time but who was your first favorite Suns player?

GuarGuar: Steve Nash is why I became a Suns fan. He was my first favorite Suns player and still is all time. I grew up watching him and SSOL.

Sun-Arc: Definitely Kevin Johnson, 1993. That guy played with so much heart and guts. Loved watching him.

SDKyle: I guess I have two answers as to who my first favorite Sun was.

Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway was my first favorite player, period, when he joined the NBA for the 93/94 season which was about when I started watching NBA games on a regular basis instead of just the playoffs.

As I’ve discussed on Brightside before, I never had a favorite team for most of my childhood because I just didn’t connect to my hometown Lakers or Clippers and my dad (from whom I took most of my sports fandom cues) was a rabid UCLA fan but was fairly neutral on his NBA fandom beyond maybe a passing fondness for his hometown Knicks.

So I latched onto Penny as he was the cool new rookie paired with Shaq, and for a few years I was a Penny and Magic fan in that order. So when Penny joined the Suns in 1999, I suppose he became my first favorite Sun.

My first favorite player as a Suns fan was Steve Nash. That may be cliche, but it’s true. I moved to Arizona in 2005, when SSOL was in full swing and my beloved Penny had become a basically irrelevant permanently injured bench fixture in New York. I got swept up in the excitement of what the Suns were all about under Mike D, and Nash was the symbol and the driving force of that magnificent era. Here I still am 15 years later, for better or worse.

SouthernSun: Steve Nash. It’s not a zany, fun, or original answer, but it’s the truth. MVSteve. Two Time. His lack of basketball twitter content and current Suns affiliation makes him take a little hit, but I still love him above all. If Book leads this team to a ‘ship though...

Alex S: My first favorite?

Amar’e Stoudemire. Not sure if this is a dead giveaway of my age range but he was the original guy I latched onto as a youngster. His athleticism was something I had never seen before and the types of plays he made was a reason I started to love basketball growing up.

Rod Argent: As the resident old guy here, I’ve got to throw in my 2 cents on this one. As a non-Phoenix resident, I never really watched the Suns until the 1976 playoffs. I always had a thing for underdogs though and the Suns were just that during their Sunderella Suns season so I started pulling for them. The further they went, the more I got hooked. I didn’t have a favorite Suns player until Game-5 of the Finals against Boston and Gar Heard put up that last second shot to force a 3rd OT. It didn’t matter that the Suns ultimately lost the game or the series. Gar Heard became my first favorite Suns player as soon as that last second shot went in.

Q2 - Should the Suns re-sign (or at least attempt to re-sign) Aron Baynes?

GuarGuar: I think we should attempt to re-sign Baynes. Strangely our best stretches as a team were when he was starting and playing big minutes. His floor spacing opens up a lot for Rubio and Booker. His injury definitely screwed him up and it took a while to get back to his beginning of the season level. He hasn’t played well coming off the bench though. That is a concern because he would only be getting 15-20 minutes a night. Would have to be a short and relatively cheap deal, but I think it’s possible we bring him back.

Sun-Arc: I think the Suns should try to sign Baynes. He’s an excellent back up and capable starter. Plus he inspires the team with his smart defensive plays, bone-shaking screens, and perfect acting on flops. With Ayton’s occasional ankle injuries, Baynes is good insurance. The question is for how much. I wouldn’t match a $20m over two years at his age, but depending on how other pieces work out, something not too far away from that would work.

SDKyle: I’m in favor of offering Baynes a cheap one-year deal... but if he wants more than $5 million I say the Suns just look elsewhere. Baynes had a ridiculous hot start, but he basically sucked from Thanksgiving onward. He’s going to turn 34 this season... he’s much more likely to decline and suffer more injury issues than he is to have a career year and stay healthy. There are other backup bigs out there... the thing going for Baynes is he provides continuity and hopefully some chemistry. But no salary increases or multi-year deals.

SouthernSun: No, I really don’t think so. They should focus on attempting to sign someone who will be able to stick around as the backup 5 for longer than a year, and hopefully be more durable (though it’s possible Baynes injury proneness came from being forced into big minutes by the Ayton suspension). Baynes is going to title chase next season anyway, I’m sure.

Alex S: Yes, the Suns should try to attempt to re-sign Aron Baynes.

However, it needs to be on a year-by-year basis so anything longer than a two year deal is a no go. Another factor too is if the Suns are going to aggressively pursue an expensive PF or not. If they go after a guy on a cheaper rookie deal, then sure Aron should be good to go for a re-sign. If they go a more expensive, veteran route you will probably need all the money you can get to afford that player. I would not be upset with either result to be honest.

Q3 - What do you expect the Suns to do to address the backup point guard problem and what do you think is the best solution?

GuarGuar: Monty Williams indicated we will be going more “Point Book” when Rubio is subbed out, which is a decision I’ve been hammering for all year. So ideally we would be looking for a guy who can handle the ball, but has primary value as a spot up shooter and defender. Jevon Carter has been solid at times, and so if he became consistent that would be very nice. There aren’t a ton of free agent point guards who fit this description though. We’d be looking in the Kris Dunn, Frank Jackson, Yogi Ferrell type range. None of those guys are ideal fits but there aren’t a ton of options. If we want a true backup PG then D.J Augustin would be a solid option. I’m also always open for a Goran reunion!

Sun-Arc: I’m not sure what the team WILL do to address this issue. Doing nothing is a possibility- not that I would agree with that strategy. Point Book is only good in small stretches. In my opinion, the best realistic solution is to make a big offer to Fred VanVleet in the $18-20m/year range and tell him he’ll play starter minutes. Then have two of Book, Rubio, and Fred on the court at all times, ultimately replacing Ricky with Fred when Rubio’s contract is up.

The best overall solution would be to somehow trade Okobo for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, but that ain’t happening. So go get Fred.

SDKyle: I expect the Suns to make some kind of a trade for a backup PG, but I couldn’t venture to say who. I think that’s probably the best solution, if the alternatives are do nothing or just hope we can draft one. I’d be okay with parting with future draft picks and one of Ty Jerome or Jalen Lecque if it could secure a known quantity with a little bit of career left.

SouthernSun: I expect the Suns to do two things whenever the draft/free agency come around: Trade for a good scoring guard off the bench and sign a starting caliber PF, or trade for a starting caliber PF and sign a scoring guard off the bench. They have other holes to fill as well, but those are the two most glaring, and the ones I fully expect the Suns to address this summer.

I actually feel they are more likely to find the backup scoring guard via trade. However, possible free agent targets for that role are:

  • Goran Dragic
  • Fred VanVleet
  • Reggie Jackson
  • Jeff Teague

Not a lot of UFA point guard options.

It’s more likely they sign a PF (Wood, Gallinari, Ibaka, etc.), and trade for a scoring guard, in my opinion.

Alex S: I expect the Suns to look internally to address the backup PG position or they will go aggressively after a 6th man level PG. It depends on what the market is for PFs and PGs. I am under the impression they will go expensive on one position and cheap on the other. My guess would be they go expensive on PF and cheap on backup PG. Ty Jerome might need to step it up, and fast.

I would agree with Phoenix if they go that route as the best move. We aren’t sure what Oubre’s long-term future is considering his contract and you won’t have any true PF’s on the roster past 2021.

As always, many thanks to our Fantable - GuarGuar, Sun-Arc, SDKyle, SouthernSun and Alex S. - for all their extra effort every week!


2019-20 Season Highlights

Suns Highlights 2019-20: Aron Baynes

Suns Highlights 2019-20: Cam Johnson

Rookie Cam Johnson POSTERIZES JaVale McGee - Suns vs Lakers | February 10, 2020

Kelly Oubre Is Dunking On The Whole League | Poster Compilation From Tsunami Papi

Deandre Ayton Best blocks of the 2019/20 Season

Suns Highlights 2019-20: Jevon Carter


Quote of the Week

“We are missing out on basketball, but we have each other. We can text and call and pray and be there for one another and that is so important right now. We have not been defeated. Some of us have lost people, but we are not defeated. We are not out. We will get through this.” - Monty Williams


News & Notes

NBA teams with longest active playoff droughts, and ranking their chances of returning to postseason first. CBS Sports

How the Suns Landed R.O.Y. Amar’e Stoudemire in the 2002 NBA Draft. Suns.com

Best Phoenix Suns coaches of all-time, ranked. Clutch Points

Monty Williams Preaches Togetherness During Challenging Times. Suns.com

Phoenix Suns: Top free agent targets when free agency period begins. Hoops Habit

Phoenix Suns Charities’ donation leads to antibody testing for first responders. KTAR News

Ricky Rubio: “Before I said no to things that are more important than basketball”. ASAP Land

Should Every Lottery Team Buy or Sell Heading into 2020 Draft? Bleacher Report


This Week in Suns History

On April 27, 1976 the Suns got their first ever playoff series win (4-2) when they defeated the Seattle SuperSonics 123-112 in game 6 of their 1st round playoff series. Keith Erickson came off the bench to lead the Suns in scoring with 20 pts. Paul Westphal, Gar Heard and Ricky Sobers added 18 pts each and Alvan Adams finished one rebound short of a triple-double with 10 pts, 10 assists and 9 rebounds while also getting 3 steals and 2 blocks.


Classic Suns Highlights

Kevin Johnson: 43 Point Game Vs Houston (1995 Playoffs)

Kevin Johnson (38pts) vs. Warriors (1994 Playoffs)

The Great Kevin Johnson-Doc Rivers Brawl of ‘93 (Sports Center Highlights)


Suns Trivia

In the historic 3-overtime Game-5 of the 1976 NBA Finals, the Suns were down by 1 point with one second remaining after a made shot by the Celtics’ John Havlicek. Knowing that having to inbound the ball and score from the full-court was a long-shot, Paul Westphal called a timeout although he knew that the Suns had no timeouts left which resulted in a technical foul. While this gave the Celtics a free throw which they made to go up by 2, it also allowed the Suns to inbound the ball at mid-court following the technical free throw.

It was Westphal’s quick thinking that allowed the Suns to then inbound the ball to Gar Heard in a position to make “The Shot Heard Round the World” that tied the game and sent it to a 3rd OT.


Previewing the Weeks Ahead


Last Week’s Poll Results

Last week’s poll was “Which is your favorite Suns uniform design?”

05% - Original

13% - Western Font

63% - Sunburst

10% - SSOL Era

03% - Sunray/Pseudo-Sunburst

06% - Present Era

There were 112 votes cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

James Jones has stated that playmaking, defense and shooting were what they would be looking for in this year’s draft. Which one do you consider most important for the Suns to add?

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    Playmaking.
    (35 votes)
  • 34%
    Defense.
    (42 votes)
  • 36%
    Shooting.
    (45 votes)
122 votes total Vote Now