Phoenix is off to a scorching hot start this season after a slow first few games, rolling off 18 straight wins before the streak came to an end on the road against Golden State. Despite sitting at 20-4 at the top of the West, this article is necessary.
All of this early season success does not mean their roster is perfect or a complete product just yet. James Jones won’t be content until he puts together the most complete roster possible, which is part of why I believe he left a roster spot open for Phoenix.
The injuries to Frank Kaminsky and Abdel Nader seem to be very much up in the air as far as any potential timetable goes. Plus you factor in that Devin Booker is missing time (though it’s more on the minor side) and things suddenly get fairly shallow on the depth chart should someone else go down. Especially when you consider that Saric is taking up an active roster spot.
The good news is, they not only have an open roster spot available, but they also have financial flexibility (partial MLE and BAE available to use) which separates them from the competition in the buyout market. On the trade front, they really don’t have a ton of ammo, but they can offer contracts to match and future draft capital.
Being able to adapt to different types of matchups and lineups with ease is vital towards success in both the regular season and playoffs. One disclaimer I’d like to make is that this is not a knock on JaVale McGee by any stretch, he’s been awesome. The playoffs are a different animal though, and with teams that go small like the Clippers and Warriors, for example, and you’ll need lineup versatility to match whatever they throw at you for 48 minutes.
Small Ball Five?
Last postseason, Phoenix could’ve really used a JaVale McGee type. This season, they could really use someone in the mold of Torrey Craig... or even Dario Saric.
JaVale McGee simply put does not guard well in space or when facing a stretch big. He’s more well suited to serve as a rim protector that can counter larger, more traditional lineups by offering rim resistance and shot-blocking.
This is no slight on either JaVale McGee or Frank Kaminsky who have done nothing but exceed expectations in Phoenix. These guys are different players entirely, but similar in the fact that they are more of the traditional five that can’t really hang with those small-ball lineups or even play alongside Ayton for stretches.
Flexibility is the name of the game in the playoffs. Adding useful depth to prepare for anything that comes your way is vital towards overcoming adversity or any hurdles that are thrown at you in the playoffs. Phoenix is already just about as versatile as you can get, but why not add to it? Being prepared for injuries before they happen is necessary for the playoffs because you never know what’s going to happen.
These players can come in the form of a buyout or a trade, it’s impossible to predict how each of these guys will be acquired, but it’s probable they are in play. I’m not going to focus on salaries, hypothetical trade packages, or anything like that since this is just an early preview. These are just names to keep tabs on.
Thaddeus Young- Forward, San Antonio Spurs
This is the obvious one that Suns fans have been talking about for some time now. Thad is unhappy in San Antonio and a buyout or trade seems imminent for the veteran swiss army knife. He is an excellent defender, has some playmaking chops, and is a solid finisher around the rim.
No, he can’t stretch the floor like a Dario or Frank, but he can defend 3-5 and survive on switches against guards on an island. So he covers the ground that none of the current Phoenix reserve bigs can check off.
Larry Nance Jr.- F/C, Portland Trail Blazers
Portland looks like a team that could implode at any moment, and if they do be sure to keep an eye on the trade market for Nance Jr. He’s been another name loosely linked to the Suns over the years. His defense would be an awesome upgrade to their bench unit, adding a big forward that can guard multiple positions and plays disruptive team defense. He’d fit right in their scheme on that end quite seamlessly.
Torrey Craig- Forward, Indiana Pacers
A Craig reunion would be music to many Suns’ fans ears after playing a key role in their NBA Finals run last season. The Pacers look to be mediocre and underachieving and could have a potential wing log jam when (if) TJ Warren returns. Plus, Shams broke this news today, making it likely Indiana will listen to offers on both Craig and Holiday (who we will talk about below).
Sources: The Indiana Pacers are moving toward rebuild, receptive to trade talks centered on Caris LeVert and either Domantas Sabonis or Myles Turner.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) December 7, 2021
Story with @bkravitz at @TheAthletic: https://t.co/2bGjubFtWe
Justin Holiday- Wing, Indiana Pacers
Holiday would give the bench a needed boost and take those minutes that have been given to Wainright or Nader. Along with that, he could help spell Bridges from time to time so he doesn’t have to consistently play 36-40+ minutes. Holiday can shoot the rock, defend multiple positions and he plays hard. That fits the James Jones mold to a tee.
He’s a guard/wing that could play alongside their current second unit of Cam Payne, Landry Shamet, Cam Johnson, and JaVale McGee.
Kenrich Williams- Forward, Oklahoma City Thunder
Williams is a gritty forward built like a tank that does all the little things very well. He isn’t great at any one thing, but he doesn’t need to be to add value when he steps on the floor. Williams wouldn’t be a “sexy” addition, but he’s someone I think Suns fans would latch onto quickly through his gritty play.
Robert Covington- Foward, Portland Trail Blazers
I could see this one happening if the Suns are on the phone with Portland (who decide to blow it up) and they fail to figure something out for Nance. Maybe both sides find a way to get RoCo in the desert. He could help add another rugged interior + team defender to the mix and thrive in Phoenix’s defensive system.
Unlikely, but could become available
Harrison Barnes- Forward, Sacramento Kings
Barnes at the five occasionally? Playing alongside Ayton? Why the hell not to both. He’s actually a perfect fit next to Ayton as a stretch four that can create his own shot and plays sound defense. I’m not sure if the Kings even look to move him or what the Suns would have to give up to make it happen, but I wouldn’t put it past Jones to at least consider making a move for the veteran forward. This is the least likely option on this list by far due to financial implications and who Phoenix would likely have to trade to get him.
Eric Gordon- SG, Houston Rockets
His heart might still be in Phoenix (if you know, you know). This probably won’t happen either, so I’ll keep it short... but they could use a reliable shot creator off the bench.
Daniel Theis- F/C, Houston Rockets
Theis by far feels like the next least likely on this list given he’s mostly a strict five, but if Kaminsky is out for longer than expected or has a setback and they want depth then he’s a name that will pop up a lot this trade deadline with how bad Houston is.
Ultimately, due to some overachieving teams plus the play-in game limiting the number of teams that might look to sell, this looks like a fairly bleak market right now in terms of needle movers. That said, there are some interesting names that could help round out the Suns’ bench depth.