I think we can all agree that the center position is the biggest area of opportunity for the Suns this offseason. Oh, we don’t agree that the frontline was an issue? You can agree to disagree, while I agree that you didn’t watch the postseason.
The move that James Jones didn’t make last trade deadline was ultimately the one that cost them a title. Not going after a big, even in the buyout market, left the rim unprotected for periods of the NBA Finals and taxed the efforts of Deandre Ayton.
The Suns need to have more than Dario Saric as a backup plan to the franchise center. Phoenix needs interior size.
Thankfully Steven Adams has been traded to the Grizzlies, so I don’t have to talk about why that isn’t the move to make. While there might not be names that jump off of the page at you, there are some quality bigs available via free agency this season. And, much like with the guards and the wings, I am here to break down who I think Phoenix should target.
How did I sort my targets? Once again, my criteria:
- 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: Nerlens Noel, New York Knicks
Measurables: 6’11”, 220 lb.
2020-21 Stats: 5.1 points, 61.4 FG%, 6.4 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 61.4 eFG%
Status: UFA, made $5.5M last season
Our frontline on the second team is our biggest weakness. If you add Nerlens Noel to the fray, it becomes a strength. While I’ve been a fan of his in the past, seeing how his absence affected the Knicks series against the Hawks fortified my desire to bring him to the Valley.
He is a solid rim protector. He is the one player I would really like to see Phoenix pursue this offseason for I believe he addresses some serious needs for the Suns. He isn’t someone who will fill up the stat sheet relative to points. No, he’s not a box score guy. What he does do is defend the rim and reinforce the interior of your defense.
Per BBall-Index, his offensive rebounding per 75 possessions of 3.5 is in the 87%tile. His passing lane defense is in the 95%tile. His percentage of rim shots contested is 67.2%, which places him in the 99%tile. By all accounts he is a solid defender and BBall-Index gives him gold badges for ‘pickpocketer’ and ‘interceptor’.
He played with Chris Paul in OKC a couple of years ago. His scoring increased by 66% when playing with Paul, his field goal percentage increased by 10 points, and his time on the court increased by 4.8 minutes per game.
He made $5M last season with the Knicks and didn’t have a season that would necessarily dictate a substantial increase moving forward. It’s simply a matter of whether or not he is enticed somewhere else to play.
The ‘Guy I Like’ Pick Up: Daniel Theis, Chicago Bulls
Measurables: 6’8”, 245 lb.
2020-21 Stats: 9.6 points, 54.1 FG%, 5.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 59.3 eFG%
Status: UFA, made $5.0M last season
The former German League star spent three years in Boston prior to being traded to the Bulls mid-way through last season. Theis has plenty of playoff experience and is considered a solid locker room guy by many who have played along side him.
Daniel Theis might lack traditional size for the center position, but he makes up for it with a hard-playing mentality and physicality. Yes, that can lead to some foul trouble along the way and we’ve just spent a season with an undersized frontcourt coming off of the bench, but I like players who have heart, and Theis has heart.
He is more of an offensive threat than a defensive threat, so he is opposite of what Nerlens Noel would potentially bring. It is up to James Jones to determine how he wants that position to function within the second team unit’s matrix, but if offense from the big is the goal, Theis would achieve that objective.
Per Sports Forecastor, Theis “brings a strong back-to-the-basket game with nice post moves, yet is also very mobile and does a nice job both shooting from the perimeter and lane-filling for big dunks. Has a great wingspan and soft hands for lobs and put-backs.”
Would he be the ideal fit? Maybe not. But I like who he is as a player. I like the hustle. I like the determination. He has the qualities that can equate to success.
The Realistic Pick Up: Dewayne Dedmon, Miami Heat
Measurables: 7’0”, 245 lb.
2020-21 Stats: 7.1 points, 70.8 FG%, 5.4 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 71.5 eFG%
Status: UFA, made $580,811 last season
If Phoenix doesn’t have much money to spend but they still want to add size, perhaps they should pick up the phone and give Dewayne Dedmon a ring. The NBA journeyman has played with seven total franchises, most recently signing with the Miami Heat this past April.
Dedmon brings with him some toughness, stability, and veteran leadership that would greatly assist the Suns’ frontcourt situation. Add in the fact that he be productive, and he is definitely someone worth looking into. Remember Damian Jones last season? Yeah. Dedmon is the opposite of that down low.
My guess is the Suns looked at Dedmon last season and passed. He was a free agent for the majority of the year. But again, if James Jones is looking to allocate money elsewhere to strengthen the team, and Dedmon can provide some size on the cheap, go for it.
The names might be sexy, but they are productive. Dario Saric will be out for the majority of next season. The Suns will have to find a solution behind Ayton. And they need to have more of an impact than Damian Jones or Jonathan Mobley did.
You could hope that Jalen Smith develops into the player we need him to be. But you can’t bank on that. Hope for the best relative to Stix but prepare for the worst. Bring in size to bang bodies against the likes of the Lakers and the Jazz. Add depth to the position that needs it most.