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Free Agent Primer: Starting-Caliber Forwards for the Phoenix Suns

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The Suns could create the cap flexibility to add another starter this offseason. Is that the right approach?

NBA: Utah Jazz at Detroit Pistons Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re the type to believe that “the Suns should run it back next year with the same guys,” this is not the column for you.

It’s still possible for James Jones to retain players like Dario Saric and Aron Baynes, and then add cheaper role players for depth. Some of those options will be covered in a future piece.

But today, we’re focusing on what happens if the front office goes “all in” on adding an additional high-level talent. “High-level” is relative in this case, because the 2020 free agent class isn’t particularly strong. But there are still plenty of potential starters, and here’s one thing that works in Phoenix’s favor:

How many teams on that list are a more attractive free agent destination than Phoenix? Miami is for sure, but if they decide to re-sign critical role players in Goran Dragic and Jae Crowder, they won’t have $22 million to spare after all.

After them, I suppose you could make a case for New York. I wouldn’t want to play there, but it is New York. They’ll always be competitive.

Beyond those two markets, a rising Phoenix team with an established star in Devin Booker and an established coach in Monty Williams has to look pretty good to a lot of free agents. And with only six teams projected to have major cap space, if the Suns do want a starting-caliber player, they should be able to land him. Maybe not their first option, but their 2nd, 3rd, or 4th.

I’ve been working on a series of free agent breakdowns on my podcast’s YouTube channel, and with Dave’s blessing, I’m going to share a few of them below for those who are more visually oriented. Within the videos you’ll find deep dives on each player’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as how they would fit on the Suns specifically.

Now, onto a few of my favorite options:

Christian Wood

Age: 24 (turning 25 tomorrow!)

2019-20 Stats: 13.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.9 BPG. 66% TS, 1.7 VORP.

Pros:

  • Late season breakout with Detroit; flashes high potential through combination of versatile scoring, rebounding, and some defense
  • Elite Pick-and-Roll finisher
  • Above average spot up 3-point shooter
  • Features some off-the-dribble scoring potential
  • Can play the 4 or the 5. Exceptional athleticism and 7’4” wingspan make him a plus rim protector.

Cons:

  • Inconsistent defense, mainly due to awareness issues.
  • Small sample size of success to this point. Can he sustain positive momentum over a 4-year contract?

Jerami Grant

Age: 26

2019-20 Stats: 12.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.8 BPG. 59.1% TS, 0.7 VORP.

Pros:

  • Multi-positional defender. Often tasked with being the primary defender on elite forwards (Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, etc)
  • Above average spot up 3-point shooter
  • Very good in the open floor as transition threat, very good off-ball cutter
  • Currently demonstrating his value in a playoff setting, as his 3-and-D mold has been one of the keys to Denver’s deep playoff run.

Cons:

  • Terrible rebounder for his size
  • Not a self-creator whatsoever on offense; relies on others to set him up with good looks.

Davis Bertans

Age: 27

2019-20 Stats: 15.4 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.7 APG, 0.6 BPG. 63% TS, 1.1 VORP.

Pros:

  • Otherworldly shooting threat. Terrifies opposing defenses with his ability to spot up, pull up, or run off screens at any time. Arguably more gravity on the perimeter than any other big in the league. Far scarier in this realm than any Suns stretch big, past or present.
  • Underrated passer who makes intelligent reads despite low assist totals. Can occasionally run pick-and-rolls, and loves to find cutters from top of the key.

Cons:

  • Defense is, while not hopeless, pretty bad. Strong enough not to concede points in the post, but guards relish the opportunity to draw a switch on the perimeter and attack him.
  • Offense is one-dimensional. On nights where shot doesn’t fall, he has nothing else to fall back on.
  • Two ACL tears in the distant past. While these have not affected his durability through 4 years in the NBA, it does explain agility issues and presents an ongoing risk.

As our very own Khaleel Abdullah covered earlier this week, there are far more options to target if you’re looking specifically for veteran playoff experience. Players like Danilo Gallinari, Serge Ibaka, Paul Millsap, and Jae Crowder are all available and would check that box.

Ultimately, we’ve got plenty more time to debate this. Free agency doesn’t even have a set start date yet, nor is there a set salary cap. So by all means, debate away!

Poll

Of the 3 options covered here, who would you most prefer the Suns to target?

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    Christian Wood
    (403 votes)
  • 35%
    Jerami Grant
    (504 votes)
  • 8%
    Davis Bertans
    (121 votes)
  • 27%
    They All Suck
    (388 votes)
1416 votes total Vote Now