“You can never have too many wings.”
While that statement rings true in the modern NBA, I wish we had just one more wing who had some girth entering the 2021 NBA Finals. The Suns were (potentially) one solid backup power forward away from winning a title. Although we’ll focus more on the bigs in the next section, there are plenty of additions available who fall under the “wing” category that can make a big impact next season.
While the guard position isn’t one that I believe needs much tweaking — outside of making up for one of the vets leaving — the money saved in that area can greatly assist in bringing in a quality wing and/or big. Phoenix has plenty of depth in this area with Jae Crowder, Cameron Johnson, Mikal Bridges, Jalen Smith, and Dario Saric all under contract next year.
Torrey Craig most likely will be gone, although I hope he isn’t. He is an ideal fit for Phoenix given his affinity to play 3-and-D. If he does leave, expect Jones to look to replace his production.
Perhaps Jones will focus his energy on finding the right big guy, but given his track record, he believes in “the more wings, the better” philosophy. Using that as a baseline, here are some players to keep an eye on as free agency approaches.
As a refresher, here is how I am defining the different levels of available players:
- The Dream Pick Up: Highly unlikely but I’d love to see it if the Suns pulled the trigger.
- The Guy I Like Pick Up: Someone who I personally like, whether it be fit or style of play.
- The Realistic Pick Up: A player who fits the needs of the team as well is a possible addition due to variables such as age, contractual possibility, fit with the team.
The Dream Pick Up: Kelly Olynyk, Houston Rockets
Measurables: 6’11”, 240 lb.
2020-21 Stats: 13.5 points, 48.4 FG%, 7.0 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 57.4 eFG%
Status: UFA, made $12.2M last season
I originally had Montrezl Harrell in this spot. But alas, he exercised his option and the Lakers sent him to the Washington Wizards on draft night as the team — and LeBron — attempt to do the anti-Booker and anti-Giannis strategy of building a superteam rather than growing a team organically. Enjoy D.C., Trez.
Perhaps it’s wishful thinking once again, but Kelly Olynyk would be a great addition. Much akin to Montrezl Harrell, Olynyk is a high-motor guy who contributes in multiple facets of the game.
While he isn’t the defensive force Harrell is, he is an offensive threat that would greatly benefit our second team unit. Throw in his physicality on the boards and it would be like having Aron Baynes but more athletic.
The 9th-year player from Gonzaga was part of the Victor Oladipo trade last season and found himself playing next to Christian Wood. While he averaged 10 points and 6.1 rebounds in Miami prior to the trade, he flourished in Houston to the tune of 19 points and 8.4 rebounds.
He possesses guard-like handles due to being a point guard prior to an eight-inch growth spurt and he grew up idolizing Steve Nash. He’s what would happen if Sweet Lou Amundson ate the mushroom in Super Mario Bros. He’s a great player who will hit the market. If only the Suns could reel him in.
Although Olynyk would greatly help the organization, I believe he’s played his way out of the Suns’ reach. If he was willing to take a discount to come to Phoenix in hopes that he might contribute to a championship, that would be amazing. I’m not holding my breath, however.
The ‘Guy I Like’ Pick Up: Trey Lyles, San Antonio Spurs
Measurables: 6’9”, 234 lb.
2020-21 Stats: 5.0 points, 47.8 FG%, 3.7 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 55.6 eFG%
Status: UFA, made $5.5M last season
Trey Lyles was taken one pick ahead of his former former collegiate teammate Devin Booker in the 2015 NBA Draft. Their careers have been quite different. Booker is the face of a franchise. Lyles is looking for a place to call home.
After spending time with the team that drafted him, the Utah Jazz, he ended up on the Nuggets and eventually the Spurs. He received plenty of playing time in the shortened 2019-20 campaign, starting 53 of his 63 games for San Antonio. He missed his chance to impress as he contributed just 6.4 points in 20.2 minutes played that season, and he saw his role reduced in 2020-21 as other members of the Spurs surpassed him for playing time.
So why do I like Trey? For one, I believe in his talent. He was the 12th ranked national prospect coming out of high school. He has a smooth jumper and can hit the three-ball. I believe that if he is in the right situation, he will contribute. The Suns could be that place for him.
I could see the Suns picking him up on a one-year “prove it” deal. He’s going to have to gamble on himself. The disadvantage of that scenario is that if he wants guaranteed minutes, he might not get them in Phoenix. The other thing working against the Lyles acquisition? He is represented by Rich Paul and Klutch.
The Realistic Pick Up: Ersan Ilyasova, Utah Jazz
Measurables: 6’9”, 235 lb.
2020-21 Stats: 3.8 points, 38.9 FG%, 43.9 3PT%, 1.7 rebounds, 0.2 assists, 55.6 eFG%
Status: UFA, made $1.2M last season
If the Suns are looking to save money, fill the roster, and add leadership all at the same time, Ersan Ilyasova is their guy.
He’s no Olynyk, but I am a fan of the skillset, leadership, and experience that Ersan Ilyasvoa brings to the table. With 13 years in the NBA under his belt, and 8 postseason appearances, he falls into the “low risk” category. Granted, it could equate to a low reward, but that is what you get from the back end of your bench.
How would I define Ersan’s skill set? Imagine Dario Saric with a better jumper but no inside presence or playmaking. Maybe not what the Suns are looking for, but could contribute when needed out of the 14th spot on the roster.
Just four seasons ago Ilyasova was a key bench contributor for the Philadelphia 76ers, scoring 9.6 points per game in the playoffs. He has been on and off of rosters for the past two seasons, signing recently with the Jazz this past March. The team had a little too much frontcourt depth for him to break into the regular rotation and the 34 year-old played in just one game last season.
Given the Suns financial situation, if they are looking to use their money on a big or a guard, Ersan is an ideal “fill the rest of the roster” guy.
You can never have too many wings, especially hosting an NBA Finals watch party. If the Suns look to make up the potential loss of Torrey Craig and Abdel Nadar, free agency most likely is the route they will choose. I’m sure they have their eyes set on more guys than I put forth on this list, but hey, who knows? Perhaps I am right. Maybe Trez will be a Sun next year!
It all begins August 2...