Free agency begins ...

Hedo Turkoglu, Ben Gordon, Ron Artest, Jason Kidd, Lamar Odom, Shawn Marion,  Allen Iverson, Rasheed Wallace, Andre Miller, etc.

July 1 is here, and finally teams that have been penny pinching in hopes of grabbing a big name free agent this offseason can pounce.  Unfortunately, the Phoenix Suns are far from being one of those teams. 

We all know the financial situation of the Phoenix Suns pretty well – it’s ugly.  The Diesel trade did free up some dollars, but most of that money is being used to dig the Suns out of a financial hole rather than to sign big name players. 

Everyone from the Suns’ 2008-09 roster is on contract as of now except for Grant Hill, Matt Barnes, Stromile Swift and, of course, Shaquille O’Neal.

Assuming Swift will not be re-signed, what should the Suns do with Grant Hill and Matt Barnes?

Grant Hill

Grant Hill was terrific last season, arguably the most productive player on the team.  The Suns have stated that he is No. 1 on their free agent list. At 36, he was the Suns’ best perimeter defender, best transition finisher, and healthiest player … yes healthiest (played all 82 games)!

Grant Hill did everything in his power to earn a new two-year deal this offseason. With that said … I DON’T think the Suns should re-sign him. Yes, Grant was outstanding last season, but as Kerr so emphatically continues to state, “We are a team in transition.” 

The front office wants this team heading in a new direction. That direction of youth does not fit a 36-year-old Grant Hill.

It is time to give Earl Clark and Jared Dudley a shot at the rotation, and re-signing Grant Hill will slow down that process. Although Grant Hill is still a good basketball player and an even better man, it is time to stray away from the elderly + Amar’e approach and go young.

Final Verdict: Do not re-sign.

Matt Barnes

For the veteran minimum, Matt Barnes was a solid player with for Suns last season, but he was undoubtedly Mr. “IN-consistency.” The Suns-Barnes relationship did not fit as well as many had planned. Barnes showed he could defend, run the floor, and hit the occasional three ball, but his schizophrenic productivity and atrocious decision making has me saying “no thanks” to the versatile swingman.

Barnes will most likely get looks from contending teams that need a defensive-minded wing player, such as the Cleveland Cavaliers.  I can almost assure you that the painfully inconsistent Matt Barnes will not be sporting purple and orange next season.

Final Verdict: Do not re-sign.

While the Suns are not able to make a big splash in free agency this offseason, there are some quality players that the Suns could get on the cheap.

After the draft when Kerr was asked about the Suns’ front line without Shaq, he said, “We think we’ll be able to sign a veteran player at a minimum contract and get somebody who can contribute. We’ve done that. We did that with Matt Barnes last year.”

Whether the Suns frontcourt is Andris Biedrins-Brandan Wright, Tyson Chandler-Amar’e, or Robin Lopez-Amar’e, it is clear that the Suns need to add some active big men to their roster.

Although the Suns have very little to spend, some names they could afford include:

Channing Frye – PF/C Portland - The Trail Blazers recently chose not to offer the former Wildcat a qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent.  The former 8th overall pick has proven that he can be productive in the NBA, as he averaged 12.3 ppg and 5.8 rpg his rookie season with New York.

Frye, who went to high school a few miles away from US Airways Center, brings the ability to knock down the 18-footer with regularity along with nice size (6-11, 245 pounds). He has solid athleticism but is an average defender. Big men generally take longer to develop; maybe the 26-year old can still make a name for himself. 

Brandon Bass – PF Dallas - The LSU product has yet to get a chance to showcase his complete talent in the NBA, yet in small doses he has been stellar.  He finishes in traffic, rebounds very well and possesses a natural knack for the ball. He may ask for more money than the Suns have, but if he stays in the $3-4 million range, the Suns could help themselves with the Dallas big.

Zaza Pachulia – PF/C Atlanta – Zaza is the type of player every team needs, as he is a 25-year-old energetic big who plays extremely hard. He also clears the glass and isn’t afraid to stick his nose in any situation, as Kevin Garnett could tell you.  Pachulia made $4 million last year in Atlanta, yet in this economy it is hard to believe he gets any more than that.

Chirs Wilcox – PF/C New York – Wilcox has certainly not lived up to his 8th pick hype after seven seasons in the NBA. Wilcox had a few successful years with the no-longer standing SuperSonics, but he is still a bust.  He will be coming off of a $6.5 mil per year contract, yet should garner no more than $3 million per year this time around. The uber-athletic big man would fit nicely in Gentry’s system.

Some other names: Charlie Villanueva, Antonio McDyess, Drew Gooden, Joe Smith, Shelden Williams, Chris “Birdman” Andersen.

Although July 1 is more about potential trades than free agent signings for the Suns, do not look past the quality free agents the team can afford this offseason. Regardless of who gets moved and who comes to Phoenix via trades, the Suns could really use some active bigs in free agency.  Luckily, many quality bangers can be found on the cheap, so hopefully the Suns take note of that.

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