Despite similar offers from contenders, Grant Hill decided that Phoenix is still home to him on Friday after he agreed to sign a one-year, $6.5 million deal, according to The Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro. The Suns reportedly increased their offer from $5 million to Hill on Thursday. Phoenix had made Hill its “top priority” this offseason. San Antonio, Chicago and New York were also in the running for his services, with San Antonio apparently willing to offer two years. Hill’s return to Phoenix seems to indicate three things: how highly he values Aaron Nelson and the Suns training staff, his sense of loyalty to the team and to Nash*, and his own sense of security in his legacy. Hill seems to be a surefire Hall of Famer, but winning a ring would have allayed any naysaying about his credentials.
*Suns fans likely rested a little easier with the news of Hill’s return. It may or may not impact Nash’s decision to stay through this year, but the inverse is much clearer: had Hill signed elsewhere, the odds of Nash asking for a trade almost certainly would have skyrocketed.
A championship is by no means assured with any contender, however, as the surprising Dallas Mavericks showed last year in vanquishing several favored teams in the playoffs. With the Knicks, Hill’s chances relied on Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony dominating on the offensive end and making at least a token effort on defense as satellites around New York’s new defensive star, Tyson Chandler. In San Antonio, an odd combination of aged stars and young pieces may have been enough to contend for a title; in a loaded Western Conference, though, the chances were slim. All things considered, Hill chose comfort and contentment, at least for one more year. And by re-signing with Phoenix, he left open the possibility that he and Nash will continue to play together after they leave the Valley.
The on-court implications are marginal at best. With his production right (or slightly below) league average by almost any measure since joining the Suns – a PER ranging from 14.0 to 15.7; a WS/48 between .087 and .127, much of Hill’s value derives from his familiarity with the system and the players in it. He’s a decent overall defender and will be as long as his athleticism remains, but he was susceptible in isolation last year, per Synergy Sports. On the plus side, he defended the 3-point line relatively well for a team that was 4th worst in opponent 3-point accuracy. And with a one-year deal, this signing has zero impact on the team’s financial flexibility after the season.
This move, combined with the signings of Sebastian Telfair and Shannon Brown, likely marks the end of the Suns’ offseason. Speaking of Telfair, he’ll wear No. 31 (hat-tip to Alex Kennedy).
The signings of Hill, Telfair, and Brown are mirrored by the departure of three players who wore purple and orange last season. Phoenix opened up some more room in its wing rotation and cleared some cap space by agreeing to deal swingman Mickael Pietrus’ $5.3 million contract to Toronto for a conditional second-rounder. This is a pure salary dump, a move that perhaps allowed the Suns to feel comfortable offering Hill more money, and it also frees up a spot in the wing rotation for Josh Childress. The Suns’ wings will now be Hill, Jared Dudley, Brown and Childress in some order. Pietrus is a “three-and-D guy, though one prone to mental lapses on both ends,” as Zach Lowe so appropriately says. His defense left something to be desired last season, at least during his stint in Phoenix, but he continued to shoot well from deep at times. Perhaps Pietrus’ most significant contribution was his Twitter advice to all the lovers in the internet-universe on Valentine’s Day, continuing the storied tradition of Suns players interacting with their fans through social media. Bravo, sir. Bravo.
In other, more expected news, Vince Carter is no longer a member of the Suns. Phoenix waived Carter, though they’re still on the hook for his $4 million buyout. Though he largely played well in Orlando, excepting a playoff series or two, Carter’s production slipped since coming to the Suns in the Marcin Gortat trade. As the year wore on, he found himself in a timeshare with Jared Dudley, similar to the center situation with Gortat and Robin Lopez. When the Suns were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, Dudley replaced Carter in the starting lineup. Carter reportedly hopes to sign with a contender.*
*In some ways, he is the Bizarro-Grant Hill. Both had outstanding college careers. Both had the “Next Jordan” title thrust upon them, to varying degrees, during their time in the limelight. And both will be Hall of Fame candidates. As I said earlier, Hill seems to be a shoo-in; I think his decision to re-sign with Phoenix reveals that, more importantly, he thinks he is a shoo-in. But Vince is a different cat. He has over 20,000 NBA points — a veritable golden ticket to Hall induction, yet many people who are smarter than I am believe that he will fall short of Springfield. The difference between the two candidacies strikes me as the difference between the “stuff” that surrounds both players.
Grant Hill likely doesn’t need an NBA championship to get into the Hall of Fame. Vince Carter probably won’t get in even if he wins one. And the dichotomy is fascinating.
Finally, Gani Lawal’s Suns career will end with his two minutes played in 2010-11, per the same Arizona Republic report.
Lawal became a victim of the Suns’ depth at power forward, where they have Channing Frye, Hakim Warrick and rookie first-round draft pick Markieff Morris. A portion of Lawal’s salary would have become guaranteed if he had made the training camp roster.
Lawal, who has been playing in Poland, underwent knee surgery at the start of the year after he tore his anterior cruciate ligament and partially tore his medial collateral ligament in practice. He had made one appearance with the Suns for two minutes. Lawal, 23, was the final move made by the previous Suns regime when it drafted him 46th overall in the 2010 draft.
There’s not much to say about a rookie who barely made an appearance on the court, other than this: 18 personal fouls per 36 minutes is awesome.