Phoenix Suns free agency preview

The theme of Phoenix Suns free agency this offseason will likely be a refrain Chicago Cubs fans are most familiar with: “Wait ’til next year.”

Much has been made about the Suns’ potential for gobs of cap space next offseason, perhaps enough to sign a pair of max free agents if it comes to that, but to borrow a popular sports cliche let’s take things one season at a time.

The Suns have already made clear that their first order of business involves re-signing Grant Hill. Since he’s been working out with the Suns and has stated his desire to return, Phoenix is definitely the frontrunner. However, NBA.com’s David Aldridge reported that the Clippers, Bulls and Knicks are also in the hunt for Hill’s services.

You may remember that Hill nearly signed with the Knicks as a free agent two years ago. He has familiarity with Mike D’Antoni from their year together in the desert, and of course he played three seasons with Amare Stoudemire. His defense would be a welcome addition in the Big Apple.

Although Hill isn’t the kind of shooter many think the Bulls need to add, he would fit into their defensive-minded system just fine, and the Clippers could be a small forward away from really making some noise in the West. His veteran presence would make a huge difference on such a young Clippers team.

If Hill leaves, the Suns will certainly pursue another rotation wing. They likely will even if he stays, but that would give the Suns the same glut of five wings for four rotation spots that led to Josh Childress’ exile on the bench last season.

Still, The Arizona Republic reported that such a wing and a backup point guard make up the rest of Phoenix’s offseason shopping list after Hill.

The wing will ideally be a shooting guard who can become the go-to guy the Suns lacked all last season without Amare Stoudemire and then even more severely once Jason Richardson departed.

However, the market does not appear to be long on go-to guys willing to play on a one-year deal for no more than the $5 million allowed by the mid-level exception (the Suns project to be over the cap with Hill and Aaron Brooks’ cap holds). Therefore, it’s likely the Suns will lack that presence once again and rely largely on Steve Nash to make the offense go.

HoopsWorld reported that the Suns are one of many teams kicking the tires on Jamal Crawford, along with the Nets, Hornets, Bulls, Heat, Lakers, Mavericks and Trail Blazers.

In some ways Crawford would be an excellent fit as he would provide instant offense off the bench (the kind of punch last year’s bench unit lacked in a big way), could play both guard spots and is the type of player who can take over down the stretch as the Suns know all too well.

Although Crawford scored just 14.2 ppg last season, he scored at least 17 per game six of the previous seven seasons for four different teams.

Crawford’s defense doesn’t leave much to be desired, but the real issue is likely his price tag, especially with all those teams chasing. For one year at the midlevel, this would be an ideal signing, but a 31-year-old Jamal Crawford is not somebody the Suns should be investing in long term.

The Republic reported that the Suns were interested in Kings restricted shooting guard Marcus Thornton, who is basically Crawford seven years younger. For all those same reasons I think Thornton would be a great fit for this year, but he also is not exactly the kind of player the Suns should be locking up long term, and the Kings likely won’t let him get away after he thrived in Sacto last season.

Michael Redd in theory would be a solid pick-up, but there is tons of inherent risk in a player who has played 61 games total the past three seasons due to knee injuries.

Redd is exactly the kind of guy who would take a one-year, low money deal (what better place for a shooting guard to rebuild his value than next to Steve Nash?), but it would be ridiculous to think Redd will come right in and be the All-Star he used to be, or anything close to it.

With the Suns’ miracle-working training staff I wouldn’t mind the team rolling the dice with Redd, but he would be most certainly be a gamble.

The Suns’ other hole to fill is at the backup point guard spot, a position where they have been seeking help pretty much since Steve Nash returned in 2004. Aaron Brooks was supposed to be the man for this role, but of course he is stuck in China for the next few months with only his $5 mil cap hold left to remind Suns fans of him.

However, if I ran the Suns, I would not make finding a backup point guard a huge priority. Sure, it would be nice, but they have a guy in-house in Zabian Dowdell who did a reasonable job last season in his limited opportunities as the backup point guard. Z certainly has his limitations (shooting in particular), but he can run the team and defend pretty adeptly.

In theory, Brooks will be back a couple months into the season, which gives Dowdell that first chunk of the year to prove whether or not he’s a long-term answer as a backup point guard.

If they sign another legit point guard, they are basically saying goodbye to Brooks and hoping they can flip him into some sort of asset when he returns stateside, and I doubt too many teams will be clamoring for AB midway through the year.

So in summation the Suns could really use a shooting guard who can play some one, be the go-to guy in crunch time, create off the dribble, play defense and come at the low, low price of one year and $5 million.

So long as that player does not exist, the Suns will likely use this free agency period to sign a player or two who can provide some of those desired attributes.

And 1

  • Schmitz and I participated in today’s 5-on-5 on the Suns, which included questions on which player the 2011-12 season is most important for (Schmitz and I both said Robin Lopez), who the most intriguing Sun is and whether the shortened season will help or hurt the Suns.
  • The NBA schedule will be officially released tomorrow. Paul Coro got his hands on a copy ahead of time and reported that the Suns will miss all of the East’s stars at home and play three games in a row twice.
  • Jared Dudley will be hosting a meet and greet on Tuesday from 6:30-7:30 p.m. at the Majerle’s Grill in downtown Phoenix. The first 50 people to arrive will receive a free “Jared Dudley Grilled Chicken” sandwich.

Tags: Aaron Brooks Grant Hill Jamal Crawford Marcus Thornton Michael Redd Zabian Dowdell

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