Phoenix Suns free agency preview

Posted by on December 6th, 12:13 am

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.

Michael Schwartz founded ValleyoftheSuns in October 2008 and is the owner/editor emeritus of the site. He is currently working toward his MBA in sports business at San Diego State University.

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Tags: Aaron Brooks · Free Agency · Grant Hill · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Analysis · Zabian Dowdell

18 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Rich Anthony, (KJL) // Dec 6, 2011 at 2:36 am

    I saw Andrew will be blogging for us and holding down the DDL fort. I like it – we used to wave the Suns banner alone, in the cold, many of DDL nights.

    Personally, I feel like this should be an evaluation year for the Suns. I don’t really believe anybody should be brought in because we’re not one piece away so why add another contract to the cap, (unless it’s a 1-year thing)?
    I think that this year should be used to evaluate the younger guys on the squad so that the Suns can see who would fit into the finally-arriving rebuild post-lockout season.

    At the same time, I think that the evaluation season would give potential max-deal stars a good look at what they could possibly be coming into next season.

    Guys like Lawal, Morris, Lopez, Chilly, (if he remains), and even JMZ need lots of playing time and lots of national eyes on them.
    If they can impress, even if only a couple of them, then at least we won’t have to waste future draft picks or free-agent cap space on repeat positions IE, our 18 and a half small forwards from last season.

    Nash doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, so I’m no longer bothering with any scenario that would involve him in a trade.
    I would hope that a team like LAL or CHI would offer Hill a chunk of cash big enough to get him to leave and try for a title. Though deep down I think that he is 100% loyal to the Warlocks in the valley and would never leave them while still an active player.

    As far as the scoring need goes, I’d wait to see who catches an amnesty axe in the face and they see if they’ll sign here for a year to catch passes from Nash and have an infinite green light to shoot.

    I don’t want ANY longish-term deals for a hired gun.

  • 2 Tomasz // Dec 6, 2011 at 7:17 am

    Is it possible that Gani Lawal won’t get the chance to play for Suns this season?
    What is the situation on his position in team?

  • 3 Rich Anthony, (KJL) // Dec 6, 2011 at 7:25 am

    When he went down last season in practice, he was getting ready to crack the rotation. He knows the system so I don’t see why that would change.

    If nothing else, I’d imagine that he’d get some playing time to see if any of that beast-mode play of his overseas translates.

  • 4 Drew // Dec 6, 2011 at 7:34 am

    I’m just wondering about Brandon Roy. We’ve read on here Michael Redd’s name being a roll of the dice for hopes of a former prolific scorer that could drink the rejuvenating water in the Phoenix traning room. Could Roy be just as interesting a scenario if he gets axed?

  • 5 Rich Anthony, (KJL) // Dec 6, 2011 at 7:53 am

    Redd is finished. Period. No sequel. No two-part finale.

    If B Roy is amnesty-axed, and would take a far smaller deal, I could see him landing in the valley if it were a 6th man role possibly being the scoring threat for the second unit 18 minutes a game.

    I don’t know if even our Warlocks have enough demon plasma floating around to properly mend those knees, though. As long as they don’t get any worse, I could see him being more than serviceable against an opposing team’s second string.

  • 6 Auggie5000 // Dec 6, 2011 at 9:08 am

    Brandon Roy is just what the Suns need if he is amnestied. But I would really like to see them get Tyson Chandler or Nene. Forget waiting until next season, if they can get one of them they will have a serious squad.

  • 7 steve // Dec 6, 2011 at 9:21 am

    Does this Andrew Schmitz happen to know who Submaranian Dharmarajan is? And does he know if said man likes fish sticks? (if it’s the Andrew Schmitz I know, he’ll know what I’m talking about, and I suspect it is, because that Andrew Schmitz was as big of a Suns fanatic as me)

    I think Robin is crucial as well. Despite our obvious holes, if we had two of the top 10 centers in the league, we’d have a shot at making the playoffs and maybe making some noise. If 2011-12 Robin is the same as 2010-11 Robin, we’re one Gortat injury away from being in the cellar.

  • 8 JohnVancouver // Dec 6, 2011 at 10:54 am

    I’ve been beating the drum for Matt Janning since summer league – any chance we bring him back? Cheap, can play both guard slots and the team loved him

    If he blossoms he could make Brooks a nice tradeable asset

  • 9 Freddy // Dec 6, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    @ JohnVancouver
    100% agree with you
    PREDICTION: SUNS sign Matt Janning this offseason, but his role is more likely going to be what Zabian Dowdell’s role was last season. COUPLE MINUTES PER GAMES (max 5) AND GARBAGE TIME!!!!!!!

  • 10 JohnVancouver // Dec 6, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    That’s all he needs – working with the team in practice and learning from Hill and Nash are most importnat to a guy like him at this stage.

  • 11 Scott // Dec 6, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    I think Majerle’s needs to make Dudley’s signature dish Grilled Hot Wings. Because, obviously, he’s a wing, he’s a spark plug who can get hot from deep, and he grills the opposing players on defense.

    Furthermore, patrons can dunk Dudley’s wings into bleu cheese, thus celebrating … well, the 10 dunks we can we hope for this year. :)

    @Rich -

    I could easily be wrong, but my impression is that Roy is more far gone than Redd. Roy is bone on bone, which can’t get better, while Redd was said to be back in playing form by the end of last season.

    I wouldn’t expect the Redd of 4 seasons ago, but if he can pass the physical I’d offer him the same 2 year contract the Suns originally offered Hill: veteran minimum, team option on 2nd year.

    @Michael -

    IMO, there’s no way the Suns can get by just fielding Nash and Dowdell at PG, and waiting for Brooks to return. Even if Dowdell was good enough to win backup PG over someone else, the Suns still need 3 PGs in the line up. Nash is virtually guaranteed to mish a few games this season, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Dowdell got dinged up for a few games as well.

    As I see it, the Suns’ commitment to Brooks is mainly an insurance policy. Since there are no good PGs in the FA market (Bibby might be a sentimental choice, but not by the numbers), I think the logical course is to trade Pietrus for a PG.

  • 12 Scott // Dec 6, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    I should add that Sabonis played on bad feet / ankles his whole NBA career, and if Portland keeps Roy, that may be the plan there.

  • 13 sun-arc // Dec 6, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    Sabonis didn’t have to run or jump. Roy can’t get away with what the big dude could.

    I agree with Scott. They have to find another PG just in case. Janning may be that player if they really can’t find anything else. Can you imagine Janning and Z as our PG’s for a whole game. Yeesh.

    But the PG isn’t as big an issue as a go-to scorer to help nash, no matter what position that person is. If its a SF- fine- put Hill as back up or move him to starting 2 if need be.

    Redd and Roy are both big gambles, but at the right price, its worth taking over most of the other names floated around (Nick Young, for instance). But at the same time, we can’t give them more than a year of contract (maybe 2?). And, what happens when they are injured? And are either of them really going to be that go-to scorer at this point? More of a threat than Dudz?

    Well, surely more of a threat than Pietrus. So, if we can shed him for a shooting vet, I guess its an upgrade. But those are big if’s.

    Another if, then: What if we could somehow genetically merge Von Wafer with Pietrus to form a player we can afford who can shoot and defend…?

  • 14 Michael Schwartz // Dec 6, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    Yeah, of course they are going to sign SOMEBODY as a third PG, I just meant it doesn’t need to be a huge priority. However, the more I look at that schedule I’m starting to have second thoughts on that take. Under no circumstances should Nash play three straight games and it might be wise to rest him on a back-to-back every once in a while. He wore down during the stretch run next season and the Suns should be doing everything possible to prevent that. That being said, I wouldn’t throw long-term dollars at the position, but a cheap, serviceable vet on a one-year deal would be nice.

  • 15 Grover // Dec 7, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    Roy would be a horrible fit for a Nash led Suns team … Think Hedo. Nash needs catch and shoot guys or guys who dive on pick and rolls, not guys who need to bounce the ball and go one on one for 15 seconds. Roy couldnt be more custom tailored to fail with Nash. Redd is a much better fit (although talk about a putrid duo of guards on defense with Nash and Redd together.. Put Frye and Warrick out their with them an we could set an NBA record for opponent FG%). This, of course, ignoring who is healthy as neither has a clean outlook.

    Afflalo would be great too, though awfully similar to Hill in style (but with 3 pt range).

  • 16 sun-arc // Dec 7, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    Well, we need someone that can take some of the load off nash too- and Roy could do that. I think he’s not a starter anyway, with his knees, so I don’t think you’d have to worry about him playing much with Nash.

    Hill has 3 pt range from the corners, and works fine. I think Affalo would be great, but we won’t get him. And Redd is a big gamble.

    I wonder if we could sneak Kirilenko to our team under the radar and move Hill to the starting 2 spot for 24 minutes a game, with Dudley backing him up. So we’d have nash, Hill, Kirilenko, Morris, Gortat as our starters, and Dowdell (?), Dudz, Chill, Frye, and Lopez as the second unit. (Frye not starting to be the scoring threat for team-2).

    Its a gamble, but probably better than Roy or Redd.

  • 17 Grover // Dec 8, 2011 at 12:49 am

    The other 2 guard that ironically fits the Suns needs (at least among those who are free agents) is J-Rich. I’m sure neither J-Rich, Gentry, or Sarver are itching for a reunion, but his skill set is close to a perfect match for Nash as he plays extremely well without the ball, is a tremendous finisher, and shoots well from behind the 3 pt line. If only his attitude had been better and he were willing to play D. Of course if that was true, we could never afford him.

    Not a fan of the Kirilenko suggestion as his best years seem to be long gone. At least with Redd, there is hope that he is recovered from his injury. Kirilenko just got old, and there is no coming back from that. Plus great shooters (Redd qualifies) never lose their touch…. they might struggle to get open or become huge liabilities on D (he’ll fit right in!), but they can still shoot. We need at least two shooters outside for the Nash-Gortat PNR to be most effective, otherwise the defense has too many ways to help.

    Jamal Crawford? Not a fan of his as I get a bad impression of his locker room presence, though I don’t know why. Crawford would, however, be the most capable of all these guys of playing PG at times to give Nash some much needed rest. Probably too expensive, however.

    Marcus Thornton is another available option – certainly did some damage to the Suns last year – but a bit unproven.

    Phoenix has almost nothing to trade and the pool of available 2 guards this year is awful. Sarver needs to open the wallet and get Afflalo as he helps now, is proven, and is young enough to keep playing well for at least 4-5 more years. I’m quite positive Sarver won’t do it, but he should.

  • 18 Rich Anthony, (KJL) // Dec 8, 2011 at 4:33 am

    All of these names that have been tossed out, I still take Roy in a 6th man role, depending on what demonic therapy the Warlocks would implement in regards to him.

    All other guard suggestions are absolutely horrible.

    And this, right here, is why we should have taken a scorer of some sort in the draft. If not a pure scorer, then a pure shooter. There were tons of them in the draft; the triggler should have been pulled on it.

    Personally, if it isn’t B. Roy, then I don’t want the Suns bringing them in. May as well let JMZ finally have a year with true starter minutes and see what he can do.
    People keep talking about how he isn’t a go-to scorer, but the Nash-driven system doesn’t require the team to have a go-to scorer at the 2. It’s kind of counter productive. All Dudley needs to do is get 18 a game and I think he can do it with starter minutes.

    The attacking positions in this offense have always been at the 3, the 4, and the 1. The 2 has scored but it has always been via a Nash spoon-feed.

    Maybe Morris will be a bit of a sleeper. Though, nothing from his college days make me believe that to be the case.

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