After releasing Chasson Randle on Saturday, the Phoenix Suns are back down to 14 players under full NBA guaranteed contracts, plus one two-way contract with three-year NBA veteran Chandler Hutchison.
Randle was the only player in camp with a non-guaranteed contract, having signed to potentially earn his way into that final available roster spot. But Randle was point guard, and really more of a camp body and insurance policy to save a bit of preseason wear and tear on a roster that had just been in the NBA Finals a couple of months ago.
Now Randle is gone, and the Suns are back down to one available full-time roster spot and one available two-way spot.
Will the Suns fill that final roster spot right away? Probably not. They and other West contenders are leaving their 15th spot open for juicy veteran buyout candidates at some point throughout the season.
The Suns, in fact, can offer more money — $4.5 million leftover from their mid-level cap exception — to a bought-out player than any other contender in the West. Sure, others have trade exceptions but those can only be used in more trades, and anyone with a disabled-player exception can only used that on a one-year deal.
Buyouts generally don’t happen early in the season however, so don’t expect the Suns to act quickly on filling their final roster spot. There is no urgency to add depth in the current player rotation among those players on the market right now.
The Suns have nine primary players in their nightly rotation... (S = Starter)
- Playmakers (4): Chris Paul (S), Devin Booker (S), Cam Payne, Landry Shamet
- Wings/Forwards (3): Mikal Bridges (S), Jae Crowder (S), Cameron Johnson
- Bigs (2): Deandre Ayton (S), JaVale McGee
A basketball team usually only plays nine guys per night, but in case of foul trouble or injury Monty Williams could want to go deeper into the bench. In that case, the Suns already have another handful of players ready and proven to contribute.
- Playmakers (1): Elfrid Payton
- Wings/Forwards (2): Abdel Nader, Chandler Hutchison (two-way contract)
- Bigs (2): Frank Kaminsky, Jalen Smith
All but Chandler Hutchison and Jalen Smith are proven to contribute in a pinch. For the current year rotation, they do not need a 15th man or a second two-way player unless that player can beat out one of the top 9, or at the very least one of the top 12. None of the players currently on the market fit that description.
However, if you’re a believer in player development for 2022-23 and beyond, take note that the Suns are apparently not a believer in same. Sure, they’ve got Jalen Smith (21 years old) on a rookie-level deal for the next three seasons, but that’s really it for long-term development. No first round pick in 2021 (to Nets for Shamet) or 2022 (to OKC in the Chris Paul trade). No G-league team.
The problem with having almost no youth is that you don’t have anyone likely to dramatically outplay their contract a year from now like Ayton, Bridges and Johnson are doing right now. There’s no one outside the top 9 who can some day be a starter on a Finals team if developed properly. And when you’re likely to have four players taking up 90% of the salary cap a year from now, you’re going to need players to fill out the roster who dramatically outplay their pay.
That’s okay for the Suns right now. Is that okay for you?