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NBA Free Agent Market: Addressing a position the Suns struggle to fill, the power forward

Phoenix Suns v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/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.

The Suns’ power forward position is an intriguing one. It has been quite some time since they’ve had what you would define as a “true” power forward. Jae Crowder might have played bigger than his size, but he wasn’t truly a four. Marquese Chriss? If that is the case, then allow me to sigh on behalf of the fanbase.

I return to the same thought process and conversation that I did with the small forward position. Who do the Suns see themselves as? How do they anticipate they’ll fill the position? Is KD their power forward?

In a perfect world, Kevin Durant is playing the small forward position. Yes, due to his height, he can play the four and even some small-ball five, but typically those positions require more physicality and strength. We don’t need Durant banging bodies on the post with regularity.

Durant is a finesse player and can excel by playing and guarding opposing small forwards rather than trying to take on the burden of guarding their power forwards. If that is how the Suns view their roster construction this off-season — KD at the three — there is plenty of opportunity to properly fill the power forward position.

The Suns seemingly knew this and attempted to address it with their 52 pick in the NBA Draft, opting for 6’8” Toumani Camara from the University of Dayton. That being said, he’s a young player who lacks the true size of a power forward and is clearly a depth move by Phoenix.

As we explore all the options below, once again keep in mind what the expectations are for this team at this position. Understand that they have $162.5M currently invested in their other starting spots, if you were to play Point Booker, Bradley Beal, Kevin Durant, and Deandre Ayton in those slots.

If the plan is KD at the three, the power forward position will be the lowest paid position in our starting five. So let’s explore.

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

Starter Tier

Kenyon Martin, Jr. most likely will be brought back on his club option. I don’t see any world in which Houston is moving off of his contract, or even extending it. He’s young, extremely athletic, and worth trying with the newly drafted talent they’re bringing in.

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.

Rotation Tier

  • Rudy Gay— Utah Jazz: Player option for $6.5M

Rudy Gay is still in the league. Good for him. The 8th overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft, I’ve always been a fan.

He had a much brighter career ahead of him, and it didn’t necessarily work out, but he hung around the league and placed himself in a position to be relevant. I can absolutely see him opting in for his contract with the Jazz at that price point.

Could he opt out and join Phoenix on a veteran minimum? The possibility absolutely exists. Not sure of the fit, but I wouldn’t be opposed.

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

You have plenty of two-way contract guys here, and then you have Darius Bazley. He’s young, he’s defensively minded, and he seems like an ideal kid to develop under Frank Vogel and his coaching staff. It would benefit the Suns to bring him back and maybe even pay him a little bit more than the $6.2M qualifying offer.

Doing so makes it a highly tradable contract if and when it comes time to stack contracts when it comes time for Phoenix to make some moves. You can’t have everybody making either $30M+ or the veteran minimum. You need some mid-level contract guys to provide yourself with flexibility as it pertains to making trades. That is why Landry Shamet’s deal, although we all thought he was vastly overpaid, turned out to be a good contract. The Suns received Bradley Beal because they could stack his contract on top of that of Chris Paul.

Rotation Tier

Rui had a stellar postseason in which he averaged 12.2 points and 3.6 rebounds for the Lakers. This most likely drives up his price point and if there’s anybody who is willing to take a shot of him.

Whoever chooses to do so can be a fly in the Lakers ointment by doing so. I think that’s what a lot of teams should do this off-season. Make huge offers for Rui Hachimura and Austin Reaves. Drive their price point up and make the Lakers match.

Of course, this is coming from a Suns fan who wants nothing but the Lakers to fail at every turn. The league seems to operate otherwise. The Lakers were dead in the water last season until the league essentially bailed them out. The Jazz gave them Jared, Vanderbilt, the Wizards sent them Rui, and the team found an identity late in the season that allowed them to make it to the Western Conference Finals.

Grant Williams? His fit in Phoenix actually wouldn’t be a bad one. If the starting four was to remain intact, his addition would be welcomed. He’s a pest; the guy on the team who gets under the skin of the opposition. Having him play the three or four would be an interesting strategy and the Suns would once again have a Jae Crowder-like player.

All that being said, I do not see Rui Hachimura or Grant Williams becoming members of the Phoenix Suns this off-season.

Starter Tier

I do love me some P.J. Washington. He plays bigger than his 6’7” frame and hustles his ass off. But I highly doubt that Phoenix can get him the money that would entice him away.

Unrestricted Free Agent Guys

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

Fringe Tier

  • Markieff Morris: Last year of last contract was $2.9M
  • James Johnson: Last year of last contract was $900K
  • Andre Iguodala: Last year of last contract was $2.9M
  • Udonis Haslem: Last year of last contract was $2.9M
  • Oshae Brissett: Last year of last contract was $1.4M
  • Thanasis Antetokounmpo: Last year of last contract was $1.8M

The fringe has some ancient names on it. It’s like the cast of the newest Indiana Jones movie. I’m pretty sure AI and Udonis have already retired. They’d be no help to the Suns.

James Johnson is the only one who sparks my interest on this list. He’s an MMA fighter, for God’s sake! Talk about physicality! If you want to build out your roster with some toughness at the end of it, bring in Johnson. Just don’t look at his 2.5 points and 1.7 rebounds in 18 games played with the Pacers last season.

Pass on all of these guys.

Rotation Tier

  • Justise Winslow: Last year of last contract was $4.0M
  • Wenyen Gabriel: Last year of last contract was $900k
  • Derrick Jones Jr.: Last year of last contract was $3.2M
  • Yuta Watanabe: Last year of last contract was $1.9M
  • Keita Bates-Diop: Last year of last contract was $1.8M
  • Dario Saric: Last year of last contract was $9.0M
  • JaMychal Green: Last year of last contract was $2.6M
  • Jeff Green: Last year of last contract was $4.5M
  • Jalen McDaniels: Last year of last contract was $1.5M
  • Trey Lyles: Last year of last contract was $2.7M
  • Georges Niang: Last year of last contract was $3.4M

Per Spotrac, 6’8” Yuta Watanabe is not on the power forward list; he is listed as a small forward. But I didn’t do him justice on my small forward piece and what he could be. He’s a spot-up three point shooter, he has ties to Kevin Durant, and I think he would be the perfect addition for the Suns this off-season. He shot 44.5% from deep last season.

He’s swiftly climbing my list, and I’m thinking about writing a piece about him.

Trey Lyles is another unrestricted free agent that I would like the Suns to pursue. Not for a starting position, but as a back up. Trey Lyles coming off the bench will provide Phoenix with some offensive firepower that is much needed. Lyles played in 74 games off the bench for the Kings last season and would be someone who I could see being a part of the nine-man postseason rotation.

Starter Tier

  • Harrison Barnes: Last year of last contract was $21.5M

Unless he’s willing to take a massive pay cut, which I doubt, Barnes is a no-go. This is the 31-year old’s last shot to garner a sizeable contract.

All-Star Tier

  • Jerami Grant: Last year of last contract was $20.0M
  • Draymond Green: Last year of last contract was $24.9M

There’s plenty you can say about Draymond Green and what his fit with meeting with Phoenix. I think that his relationship with Kevin Durant derails any possibility of this happening, so I’m not even interested in really exploring it.

Jerami Grant is most likely looking for another payday himself, and his price point would be too high for Phoenix.

Given where Phoenix is relative to payroll and where they see themselves from a roster standpoint, it is the middle-tier guys they should purse. Who do you have your eye on?

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