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NBA Free Agent Market: There are plenty of familiar names available at the small forward position for Phoenix to ponder

Cameron Johnson. T.J. Warren. Torrey Craig. Terrence Ross. Kelly Oubre, Jr.. Jae Crowder. Ever heard of ‘em?

2023 NBA Playoffs - Philadelphia 76ers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to the Free Agent Market series. In this five-part series we will analyze the state of the Phoenix Suns roster while exploring who is available via free agency this offseason.

We’ve reviewed options at point guard and shooting guard. It’s time to see what is available at small forward on the market.

Up is down. Down is up. The Phoenix Suns have become an organization we hardly recognize. And that’s a good thing.

What we believe to be conventional is anything but, and with new owner Mat Ishbia pulling out the pocketbook, almost anything is possible. The only thing stopping Suns these days? The new collective bargaining agreement.

Aprons, taxes, mid-level, exceptions, restrictions. There’s pages of verbiage that can deter you from reaching the ultimate goal: a championship. The Suns are going to be the first team to challenge that new CBA and try to build a super team in this new NBA landscape. If they’re going to do so, they’re going to need players. As dumb as a statement is, that might be, it’s gonna be one of the main challenges this off-season. Building a roster.

When we look at the small forward position for the Phoenix Suns, it’s hard to define how exactly the Suns should navigate because we don’t truly know who they see themselves as internally. Will Devin Booker, now that Bradley Beal is a member of the team, make the switch to point guard? Is it Beal who will run the point? Will Devin Booker play small forward for the team? How would you define Kevin Durant? Is he a small Ford or a power forward?

Per Spotrac, Kevin Durant is defined as a small forward and his $47.6M contract, coupled with that of club option guy Ish Wainwright, equates to $49.5 million allocated to the small forward position. But we don’t know if that’s how the Suns plan to operate next season. We don’t know if Book is filling that role or if it will be Kevin Durant.

So we’re going to go ahead and look at everybody who’s available at small forward and ponder whether or not they are coming to the Suns. We’re going to see some familiar names. We’re going to take a guess as to how Phoenix sees themselves.

One thing that is of note is that Phoenix is going to do everything they can to retain the majority of their guys who fall under the unrestricted free agent designation. That includes Torrey Craig and Josh Okogie.

Club Option Guys

These are the players who will wait and see if their team is wanting and willing to bring them back.

Fringe Tier

  • Lindy Waters, III — Oklahoma City Thunder: Club option for $1.9M
  • Admiral Schofield — Orlando Magic: Club option for $2.0M
  • Eugene Omoryuri — Detroit Pistons: Club option for $1.9M
  • Kevin Knox — Portland Trailblazers: Club option for $3.0M

Kevin Knox is the only intriguing name on this list, and that’s most likely because it’s one of the only ones we know. The former 9th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft has been a disappointment throughout his career, averaging 7.5 points on 38.5/34.2/71.3 splits in his 5 years.

Lindy Waters? Remember that guy? He scored a season-high 23 points against the Suns last March, so I have bias. If OKC moves on from him and doesn’t exercise their club option (which I do not know why they wouldn’t), sure. Take a flyer on him.

Rotation Tier

  • Kessler Edwards — Sacramento Kings: Club option for $1.9M
  • Isaiah Livers — Detroit Pistons: Club option for $1.8M
  • Ish Wainright — Phoenix Suns: Club option for $1.9M
  • Naji Marshall — New Orleans Pelicans: Club option for $1.9M
  • Lamar Stevens — Cleveland Cavaliers: Club option for $1.9M

Ish. Do you really want him back? Does he really have an impact? The price is right, however, and if the Suns are projected to be a top=heavy team, you need contracts like Wainright’s to build out your roster.

Starter Tier

  • Herbert Jones —New Orleans Pelicans: Club option for $1.8M

The Pelicans are picking that up, and they’ll most likely do the anti-James Jones move here and extend him. He’s worth it.

Player Option Guys

These are the players who will determine whether or not they want to stay with their current team or take a chance on the free agent market.

Starter Tier

He didn’t come over in the Bradley Beal trade, and that is the only way that I see Phoenix adding Kuzma to the team. He would have had to opt into his contract in an effort to land in the Valley. It is clear that Kuzma wants to play the market and make his first real bag as a player.

It’s not gonna be with the Suns.

All-Star Tier

Nope. Next. That was a quick conversation, wasn’t it?

Restricted Free Agent Guys

These are the players who can sign an offer sheet with any team, but the player’s original team can retain him by matching the terms of that offer. The original team is said to have the “right of first refusal.”

Fringe Tier

  • Dylan Windler — Cleveland Cavaliers: Qualifying offer is $5.9M
  • Jack White — Denver Nuggets: Qualifying offer is $1.8M
  • Terry Taylor — Chicago Bulls: Qualifying offer is $1.8M
  • Matt Ryan — Minnesota Timberwolves: Qualifying offer is $1.8M
  • Justin Lewis — Chicago Bulls: Qualifying offer is $1.8M
  • Keon Ellis — Sacramento Kings: Qualifying offer is $1.8M
  • Darius Days — Houston Rockets: Qualifying offer is $1.8M
  • Julian Champagnie — San Antonio Spurs: Qualifying offer is $1.8M
  • Jamal Cain — Miami Heat: Qualifying offer is $1.8M
  • Kendall Brown — Indiana Pacers: Qualifying offer is $1.8M

Outside of Dylan Wilder, bunch of two-way guys.

Rotation Tier

I’ve always been intrigued by Reddish, and he continually lets teams down wherever he goes. Atlanta. The Knicks. The Blazers. He hasn’t put together two solid months and his entire career. He averaged 11 points on 44.3/31.8/83.3 splits in 20 games with the Blazers last season.

Is he worth 7.7M? I’m sure he is to somebody, but I highly doubt that Phoenix would pursue him.

Starter Tier

Johnson could be one of the more interesting players to watch this off-season. The Nets, I believe, would bring him back if it was on an $8.5M deal, or even more. He’s proven to be a solid starter in the NBA despite the draft day criticism he received when Phoenix chose him in 2019.

Somehow, some way, if Phoenix can make this happen…if Mat Ishbia would open up that pocketbook again and bring Johnson back to Phoenix, could you imagine? Could you imagine the stories? Could you imagine how much the rest of the league would hate the Suns?

He’s the best option out there in my opinion, and I simply don’t see a path on how he returns to Phoenix. But if anybody could change that path, it is Ishbia.

Unrestricted Free Agent Guys

These guys control their own fate and can choose who they want to play for.

Fringe Tier

  • Louis King: Last year of last contract was $1.4M
  • Danny Green: Last year of last contract was $2.0M

Danny Green has been lingering in the league for quite a few seasons now, and while he does bring a veteran presence and could potentially be somebody that the Suns can bring it on a better minimum deal, I’m not sure that the production level will be there. The three-time NBA Champion only played in 11 games last season between Memphis and Cleveland.

But would we need the production level? If you’re simply filling roster spots, I’m sure you could do worse.

Rotation Tier

  • Juan Toscano-Anderson: Last year of last contract was $1.9M
  • Terrence Ross: Last year of last contract was $900k
  • T.J. Warren: Last year of last contract was $2.6M
  • Yuta Watanabe: Last year of last contract was $1.9M
  • Joe Ingles: Last year of last contract was $6.5M
  • Torrey Craig: Last year of last contract was $5.0M

Here we go.

Lots of Suns in this category, eh? It wasn’t reported by Windhorst above that the Suns will be pursuing T.J. Warren or Terrence Ross, but I’m sure that they will. If you can bring both of those guys back on contract that they had last year, that’s a huge win. They provide some continuity to the team.

Torrey Craig, come on down. We know James Jones loves you!

Starter Tier

  • Kelly Oubre Jr.: Last year of last contract was $12.3M
  • Jae Crowder: Last year of last contract was $9.7M
  • Dillon Brooks: Last year of last contract was $11.7M

No, maybe, and no. In that order.

Kelly Oubre, Jr. will continue to believe he is a starter and want’s starter money, therefore he has no place in Phoenix. The 27-year old averaged 20.3 points for the Hornets last season and will be doing push ups after fouls and blowing kisses to crowds. They just won’t bi in Phoenix.

Jae Crowder is an interesting option. This might be his last chance to put himself on the market and see what his value is, and he may be surprised. After forcing himself out of Phoenix, he ended up in Milwaukee, playing a total of 41 postseason minutes with the Bucks. Every team needs a f*** s*** up guy, and that is something the Suns need.

There’s no money that the Suns would allocate towards Dillon Brooks, and it’s going to be really interesting to see how his off-season goes.

There’s the list. What do you think?

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