The moment July 1 arrived, NBA teams were running from agent to agent in hopes of landing “their guy” via free agency. Ben Gordon found a home in Detroit, Ron Artest is now part of Laker Nation, Hedo Turkoglu chose Toronto, and Trevor Ariza is in H-Town.
While all of the NBA powerhouses are continually improving, the Suns are still spectators. As the franchise weighs out its options regarding Amar’e Stoudemire, Steve Nash, and Jason Richardson, quality players are being signed. The Suns certainly do not have the money to go after a Lamar Odom, Marvin Williams, or David Lee, but there are some players that the Suns can get without damaging Sarver’s bank account any further.
I have talked about some big men on the free agent market that the Suns could afford, and now it’s time to address another position of need: small forward.
As it seems more and more likely that Grant Hill opts for Boston or Cleveland, the Suns will be thin at small forward. Yes, Earl Clark can play some three, Jared Dudley can play some three, and even Jason Richardson could play some three. But the Suns need some more depth at the position, preferably someone who can defend.
The 2009 free agents do seem a little top heavy, but when you dig down deep into the teeth of the talent pool, there are some hidden gems. The Suns need a player about 6-6 or 6-7 who has the skill set to play up-tempo and the athleticism and toughness to defend. It is apparent that there are a handful of players that not only fit that bill, but have some potential as well.
These players are best known as the “post-hype sleepers.” Post-hype sleepers are players that were highly regarded coming into the league but struggled early in their careers. Usually after some more experience and a change of scenery, the post-hype sleeper performs at the level that he was expected to perform at initially.
The affordable “post-hype sleeper” swingmen who give the Suns what they need are as follows:
Gerald Green – SF – 6-8, 200 – Going into the 2005 NBA Draft, Green was one of the most highly-touted prospects around. He was considered a lock to go in the top five, but because he refused to work out for any teams outside of the top six he slipped to the 18th pick, where the Celtics selected him.
He was the top high school prospect when he declared for the draft. He won the ABCD All-Star Camp MVP and the McDonald’s All-American Slam Dunk Contest. His athleticism is unquestioned (39-inch vertical), but his offensive game remains a bit unpolished. He has great size and length – 6-8 with a 6-10 wingspan – that coupled with his athleticism could make him a terrific defender.
Green has already been on four different teams in five seasons in the NBA, but maybe that is the experience that he needed. He made a name for himself when he won the dunk contest in 2007, but has done little to further his game. Hopefully he has grown from the seemingly invincible high school kid to an NBA professional.
Regardless of his lack of success in the league, Green’s potential and athleticism alone would be enough for the Suns to take a flier on him. Now that he has a couple of years under his belt, he could step in and play quality minutes for Alvin Gentry next season.
He loves to get out and run and has the ability to knock down the open three and get to the hole. His length and size would allow him to guard an array of positions.
Gerald Green is the definition of a post-hype sleeper. People view him as a complete bust, but they forget that he is still only 23 years old. If the Suns are able to sign Green for a couple million dollars, they could not only be getting a serviceable player for next season, but also a young player who fits into the future plans.
Rodney Carney – SF – 6-7, 215 - Carney, like Green, has the physical tools to be a star in the NBA. He has good size and length – 6-7 with a 6-10 wingspan – and unbelievable athleticism with a 38.5-inch vert. Carney was a stud at Memphis averaging 17.2 ppg his senior season.
Carney was drafted 16th overall by the Bulls but was traded to the Sixers for Thabo Sefalosha. After two decent years in Philadelphia (6.6 ppg and 5.8 ppg), Carney was shipped to Minnesota for a trade exception. Last year with Minnesota, Carney averaged 7.2 ppg in 17 minutes.
Carney has yet to reach his maximum potential in the NBA, but he has proven he can score the ball. He would be a great fit in Gentry’s Seven Seconds or Less scheme, as he thrives in transition and at times can be deadly from three.
He is a lot like Matt Barnes. He is a long and athletic slashing three-point shooter who has the tools to guard multiple positions. Like Barnes, he lacks a mid-range game and is very inconsistent.
But he loves to run the floor and is a great finisher in transition. Sounds like a Suns player to me.
Carney is young enough at 25 and talented enough to warrant a roster spot on the 2009-10 Phoenix Suns. Who knows, a change of scenery could finally allow Carney to reach his full potential.
Joey Graham – SF- 6-7, 230 – Although Green and Carney have far more upside than Joey Graham, Graham is the type of hard-nosed player the Suns need. Since he was drafted 16th overall by the Raptors, Graham has been known as a defensive specialist in the NBA.
He is one of the strongest players at his position in the NBA, with 26 bench press reps at the 2005 combine. He also has the athleticism to go along with his big body, iwith a 36-inch vert. Graham is just a hard worker who can guard power forwards as well as shooting guards.
Graham averaged 17.7 ppg his senior season at Oklahoma State, but his four seasons in the NBA have proven that his offensive game is very limited. He is a good finisher and slasher, but his range ends at around 18 feet. He operates effectively from the post, and his pullup jumper is above average.
Yes Graham is not as exciting as Green and Carney, but for the right price, his defense and toughness would be a great addition to the Phoenix Suns.
Other names to consider:
Anthony Parker (probably too expensive)