Suns retain Channing Frye, but did they overpay?

After a day of back-and-forth rumors and reports, Channing Frye will remain a Phoenix Sun — for another five seasons.

The Suns anted up for the long-term deal that will pay Frye $30 million, which is reportedly $8 million more than their original offer. Ultimately, I think these Suns are a better team with the 6-foot-11 center than without him, but I’ve found myself asking if the Suns overpaid for him. I took the concept out of basketball terms to try to find an answer.

Would you spend two Andrew Jacksons at a steakhouse for a plate of potatoes and peas? Didn’t think so. Neither would I. I want the steak, too.

Giving Frye $30 million is essentially paying big money for peas and potatoes. He can shoot threes (172 deep balls with the NBA’s sixth-best three-point percentage), create mismatches and draw defenders to the perimeter, but he can’t rebound the ball or play tough, aggressive defense — the meat of a big man’s game.

He’s a center! Centers rebound. The Suns may have plans to use him at power forward if they can’t re-sign Amare Stoudemire, but he’d have to rebound there, too. Frye grabbed double-digit rebounds just six times during the regular season in his 2009-10 campaign.

So is a big man who can’t do the fundamental things a big man is supposed to do worth $30 million? My gut instinct is no, he isn’t. The price range is comparable to other centers in the NBA in terms of scoring, but in terms of rebounding, Frye will be overpaid.

I can’t totally blame the Suns, as their hand was kind of forced by the market. Frye and his agent clearly understood market value for a second-tier center this offseason. The Milwaukee Bucks gave Drew Gooden five years and $32 million. But Gooden — a power forward — can go for 16-20 rebounds on a given night. Frye’s season high was 11.

The Toronto Raptors, who are notorious for dubious transactions, gave Amir Johnson five years and $34 million. I can’t even describe how mind-boggling that deal is. Johnson averaged 6.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per game last season. That is all it takes to get $34 million? In relation to that, the Suns got a bargain on Frye. So from this perspective, I can’t criticize the Suns’ decision to pay a little more to meet market value.

There is no doubt Frye is a unique player. You can’t find a lot of players like him. Andrea Bargnani might be the only comparable shooting big man. But the Suns will need a big man who can rebound. This has been a challenge with Stoudemire and now may have been their chance to upgrade. All the Suns can hope for is improved rebounding, strength and toughness now that they have committed to Frye.

If the Suns feared they’d miss the three-point threat, they should have gone after someone like Kyle Korver or J.J. Redick. It’s more likely that they want to retain the dynamic element to Frye’s game and I don’t blame them, but I just don’t know if it was worth $30 million.

I was actually surprised to see the Suns make the offer they did previously at five years and $25 million. I found it generous and thought Frye would jump all over it, especially since it would mean staying in Phoenix, where he has said he loves playing. Apparently, I was wrong.

Frye was certainly an asset to the Suns last season, particularly off the bench. But in my mind, he didn’t earn himself $6 million a year. I think the Suns are better for keeping him, but the price wasn’t right. Again, what good is an expensive meal if you’re only getting side dishes?

The Suns will have to make the right moves to complement Frye’s style of play and use him properly or they will simply end up with a $30 million disappointment.

Tags: Channing Frye Free Agency Phoenix Suns

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