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Bright Side weighs in: How did the Suns do in free agency?

Our Bright Side team shares their thoughts on how the Suns have navigated free agency.

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Frank Vogel Introductory Press Conference Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

When free agency began on June 30, I don’t know if we were prepared for the onslaught of moves made by the Phoenix Suns in the first 40 minutes. We knew the concern: how would James Jones bring in talent on veteran minimum contract? Given the landscape of the NBA under the new CBA, Phoenix was handcuffed with their ability to do so.

But this isn’t Phoenix circa 2017. This is Booker-Durant-Beal-Ayton Phoenix. Player want to come here, and come here they did. The Suns re-signed Josh Okogie and Damion Lee, and added Drew Eubanks, Keita Bates-Diop, Chimezie Metu, Yuta Watanabe, and Eric Gordon. Like, whoa.

Now that we have a clearer vision of what the Suns are attempting to accomplish and who they are accomplishing it with, it’s time to ping the Bright Side writing team to hear their thoughts on what transpired.

The majority of the roster has been set, or is at least taking shape. Which move the Suns made via free agency are you most impressed by?

Holden Sherman: Picking Josh Okogie over Torrey Craig. Craig was essentially unplayable for Monty Williams after the first few games of the Clippers series. While he was there for longer and is a more consistent shooter, Okogie is younger and brings more upside. To echo John’s point, I think Okogie could be a terrific point of attack defender in Vogel’s system. I also see him being an effective cutter when playing with Booker, Durant and Beal, who will obviously demand a ton of attention at all times.

Brandon Duenas: Eric Gordon. He was the missing piece to put the icing on the cake of what I thought was an outstanding offseason. Hell, it’s not done yet technically, but that was the move that solidified Phoenix’s depth and gave them a much-needed scoring threat off the bench. Getting him when he had more money on the table and other interested contenders is a massive W.

Damon Allred: Eric Gordon. I remember my jaw dropping when I saw the news just because I couldn’t believe he would take a minimum. Sure enough, context added that he turned down lucrative offers from other contenders. He might end up being important enough to close playoff games, and it’s important that no member of a closing lineup playoff lineup can be considered a weak link, so that’s why it stands out.

SoSaysJ: It has to be Eric Gordon, and not because of what I expect him to bring to the team. Eric Gordon signing with the Suns confirms that this franchise is once again a destination in the NBA. Sure, Chris Paul and Kevin Durant wanted to be here, but they both came at a price - and, with KD, a steep price. Eric Gordon, on the other hand, is coming to the Suns at the NBA version of a bargain basement price. Pushing for a trade is one thing, but when a player of Gordon’s caliber leaves money on the table to play here, that shows how far the franchise has come from the days when players - quite literally - did not want to be here.

Gavin Sporle: Each of the signings met a requirement to address some of the shortcomings of last season. Length, athleticism, shooting and shoring up the defensive end. There could be an argument made for each of the players based on each individuals wish list. From my perspective, I am most intrigued by the addition of Drew Eubanks. I think it’s an exciting fit in the Vogel defensive scheme and he adds efficiency off the bench on the offensive end that matches Deandre Ayton.

John Voita: Josh Okogie. Sure, Eric Gordon was a stellar acquisition and perhaps solidifies the team as a whole and Keita Bates-Diop was a steal, but bringing back Okogie was something I thought was unattainable. His value on the market, per John Hollinger’s BORD$, was $9.3 million. The Suns brought him back on a veteran minimum. I was fist pumping the air in when that notification came through.

Okogie playing in Frank Vogel’s defensive system is something that I did not think I’d see, and is something I am unbelievably excited for.

Is there a free agent target that the Suns did not sign that you wish they would have?

HS: I think Malik Beasley could have been an interesting fit if Eric Gordon went elsewhere. He’s someone who has shown flashes of being a complete scorer at times, but has not been able to put it all together. He would have been an intriguing option for Phoenix to buy low on after his rough end to his Lakers tenure.

BD: No one. I mean, they honestly got everyone on my wish list given the circumstances. The only guy I’m not crazy about is Damion Lee, but even then, I get it.

DA: Nope. Every add was a smart one, and I have no interest in taking big risks with this off-season.

SSJ: Nope. **chef’s kiss**

GS: Based on the minimum guys, Beasley makes the most sense, although I did like Justin Holiday as a potential guard back-up, particularly on the defensive end. But I think the Okogie resigning answered that.

JV: Chimezie Metu is the only one that isn’t necessarily like the others, but I get the fit and understand why the Suns signed him. He’ll be a solid back-of-the-bench type.

Who do you believe will be the fifth starter for the Suns?

HS: While I think the conventional answer may be Eric Gordon, I think it will end up being Keita Bates-Diop. I think he brings a defensive edge over Gordon and Okogie due to his size, something that Phoenix will be lacking in the backcourt.

BD: Okogie until it doesn’t work. His point-of-attack defense and hustle will be much needed. In bigger lineups I could see Bates-Diop starting, and even Yuta is in the conversation for floor spacing and intangibles. Eric Gordon should be closing with the “big 4” more often than not.

DA: I think Okogie starts the most games but Gordon closes the most games. Setting the tone defensively will be imperative for Frank Vogel but maximizing spacing in clutch situations will be even more-so.

SSJ: Josh Okogie. For starters, the Suns were 8-0 in the regular season with him as the starter next to KD. So there’s that. I also expect JO to become a more consistent three-point shooter this season. I understand that he only shot 33.5% from beyond the arc last season - and he looked downright awful doing it at times. But from January through March last season (35 games), Okogie shot 37.9% from three. So, the potential is there.

GS: As it stands, I have a preference for Keita Bates-Diop which allows KD to avoid the bash and crash of the “four” position. But I’m ok with whatever we decide to do, as long as it isn’t adjusting the line-up to match the opposition, like we did last season, they should be changing to match-up with us!

JV: The Suns have positioned themselves to have some quality flexibility. If they choose to go small, Okogie can play the small forward and KD becomes the four. But I believe, without any training camp under their belt and this being a way-too-early predication, that Keita Bates-Diop will be the Suns’ fifth starter.

The Suns currently have 16 players under contract. Who will they part ways with?

HS: Ish Wainwright. I think Phoenix’s free agency acquisitions angle away from him being on the team. He’s undersized for his position and doesn’t bring enough upside as a shooter. I expect the Baylor product to not be riding with the Valley come October.

BD: Ish and Todd. I still don’t think they’re done and there could be another guy on the way. It’s going to be a competitive camp.

DA: Todd. Unless he comes out of nowhere to really show out in Vegas, I’m afraid he just hasn’t put enough solid tape out at either the NBA or G League level in his time since leaving Ignite.

SSJ: Todd. Only playing 18 games over two seasons for the Washington Wizards speaks volumes. I think he’ll need to really impress during Summer League to even make it a question.

GS: Todd for me, although I think that we might waive “nice guy” Ish as well. There is still some potential options out there for roster expansion, so it will be interesting to see what the remainder of free agency holds for the Phoenix Suns.

JV: They’ll most likely put Saben Lee and Isaiah Todd on two-way contracts, then if need be, bid adieu to Ish Wainright. He hears that chatter for sure.

What overall grade do you give the Suns for how they’ve navigated free agency thus far?

HS: B+ For the circumstances Phoenix has done very well. They’ve gotten younger, improved their three-point shooting, and brought in a lot of players who have very high upside for the roles that they will be playing. Because all of Phoenix’s primary guards have had bad injury luck recently, I’d like to see them add another point guard before it’s all said and done for some insurance.

BD: A+. Not sure what they could’ve done better given the situation they were in financially. They added another star AND depth. What more could you ask for? I’m typically a realist or pessimistic with offseasons, but I think they killed it. A lot of these signings are going to age very well, too. Just watch.

DA: Echoing others, it’s an A for me based on doing so much with so little avenues to construct the roster.

SSJ: A+. James Jones went into the offseason with a thin roster and no money to spend (salary cap-wise, not Mat Ishbia-wise). Now, we’re talking about which players the Suns will have to part ways with. Plus, the players he brought in all fill deficiencies we saw last season and seem perfect a Frank Vogel led team. There’s not much one can ask for.

GS: I’m going with an A, I’m not one to go out and say that anything is perfect and this is no different, but this offseason was as close as it gets for the Suns. We addressed every need that many of us were most concerned about, and I love that we added athleticism, youth and length to a line-up that will surely play an exciting and explosive offensive game.

JV: That’s an A for me as well. Given the challenge set before them, James Jones bumped, set, and spiked free agency home!

As the moratorium is now over, we will see restricted free agents begin to come off of the board. Teams previously did not want to tie up their money into these players, thus hampering their ability to make offers to unrestricted free agents. The roster is far from being set, and we have NBA Summer League just around the corner to observe newly acquired Jordan Goodwin and Isaiah Todd, as well as the Suns’ 52nd overall pick in to Toumani Camara.

Thank you to all of the Bright Side contributors who added their thoughts to this piece. As you can see, as we prepare for the 2023-24 season, we’ve compiled a stellar staff to bring you Suns coverage.

Let us know your thoughts and answers the questions above in the comments below.

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