Phoenix has officially thrown qualifying offers to reserve center Robin Lopez and point guard Aaron Brooks, effectively making the duo restricted free agents, the Suns announced Thursday. The team had until June 30 to make the offers and keep their right of first refusal, giving Phoenix the ability to match any contract offers when the free agency period begins Sunday.
In regards to Lopez, the move is in accordance with what President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby alluded to after the season, when he said Phoenix would attempt to match other teams’ offers. Lopez’s qualifying offer is for a hair over $4 million.
That could be a hard thing to do if teams covet the 7-footer’s rim protecting abilities enough that he becomes overpaid in terms of his statistical output. His averages in 2011-12 dropped to 5.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game in just 14 minutes played while he backed up starter Marcin Gortat.
The Suns’ interest in Brooks isn’t surprising either.
In an act of relationship-building, General Manager Lance Blanks visited Brooks (whose qualifying offer is for just under $3 million) during the offseason while the NBA’s Most Improved Player in 2009-10 played for the Guangdong Southern Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association. After the 2011 trade deadline that saw the Suns ship out Goran Dragic and a first-rounder for Brooks, the 6-foot, 160-pound guard averaged 9.6 points and 4.2 assists in nearly 19 minutes per game backing up Steve Nash.
Brooks’ future is more uncertain considering the Suns will have to court Nash when the free agency period begins.
For the time being, Sebastian Telfair remains as the only lock at point guard for Phoenix’s roster, so keeping Brooks as an option can’t hurt.