By their actions thus far on the first day of free agency, the Phoenix Suns seem intent on using their cap space to reload with young talent — but they have yet to shut the door on a certain two-time MVP either.
With around $25 million of cap space (not including cap holds or amnesty possibilities), the Suns possess the financial backing to be a major player in free agency, particularly if Nash departs, and thus they were linked to a long list of players including Eric Gordon, O.J. Mayo, Goran Dragic, Ray Felton, Jamal Crawford, Michael Beasley, Jordan Hill, Chris Kaman and Nick Young, along with their own free agents Nash and Robin Lopez.
But before going into more depth on the players the Suns are chasing, it’s important to note that their top priority (at least in terms of scheduling sitdown meetings) was not their former franchise player. The same could not be said of the Toronto Raptors, who have offered Nash a three-year, $36 million contract, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein.
Stein reported that the Raptors are one of four teams (along with the Knicks, Nets and Mavericks) “that pose the greatest danger to the Suns in terms of signing Nash away.” Stein also reported that the Raps were expected to send a “five-deep” contingent to woo Nash once the clock struck midnight ET on Saturday, similar to the convoy of Suns who convinced Two Time to return to Phoenix eight years ago.
It has been thought that the Suns would offer Nash two years and $20 million, a deal that does not seem likely to get it done, especially since Nash has said he wants “to be validated monetarily to an extent.”
Nash has been playing on an undervalued contract throughout his Suns career (he made about $11 mil per year the last eight years), an original contract that seemed outrageous at the time to some in the industry yet ended up being a steal for Phoenix. It’s crazy that eight years later he might net a deal with a greater average salary, perhaps from the same owner who thought he would not hold up on a long-term deal back in 2004.
If the Toronto offer is true, and some NBA reporters are not sure it is, the Suns would almost certainly need to offer a third year to keep Nash and probably offer at least $11 million per if not the same $12 per as the Raptors.
Personally, I don’t feel the Suns would be smart to burn half their cap space on a player who would finish the deal as a 41-year-old. I understand why Nash would be worth that in a market like Toronto, both for basketball reasons and reasons that go beyond the play on the court, but with the Suns set to rebuild tying up so much cap space in an aging legend just doesn’t make sense.
It’s been thought for some time the Suns would want to “save face” by making a very competitive offer even if it ends up falling short, so I do expect them to factor in the Nash sweepstakes before all is said and done. Yet getting into a bidding war with the Raptors does not exactly seem prudent.
Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted that the Suns have expressed interest in Landry Fields as part of a potential sign-and-trade package for Nash from New York, a team that Stein reports is in Nash’s top two along with the Raptors (he would be “eager” to meet the Mavs if they miss on D-Will as well). The Suns were very interested in Fields before the 2010 draft as they were Iman Shumpert before the 2011 draft, so such a deal would be no surprise to me.
I’ve wanted the Suns to make such a Nash trade for some time, as if losing Two Time is inevitable it would be nice to get a young wing or two in return. Fields struggled a bit last year after a superb rookie campaign, but he would be a nice piece for the Suns.
As for Phoenix’s free-agent targets, ESPN’s Chris Broussard reported that stud restricted free agent shooting guard Eric Gordon will meet with the Suns Tuesday in Phoenix.
Gordon is predictably seeking a four-year, $58 million max contract, which is widely expected to be matched by the Hornets. Why New Orleans doesn’t just offer that deal and end all this pomp and circumstance I don’t know, but judging by what Roy Hibbert is doing that must be how business will be handled going forward by stud restricted free agents who don’t get max deals from their own teams.
The Hornets may not want to pay Gordon that much, but I doubt they would risk losing such an important piece of their rebuilding plan and the Chris Paul trade over a few million dollars a year.
Signing Gordon to an offer sheet would tie up the Suns’ cap space for three days during which time they could miss out on other targets. Since Nash ($17.5 million) and Grant Hill ($9.8 mil) have such big cap holds, they would likely need to resolve their situations (or at least Nash’s) before being able to throw a huge offer at Gordon. They could certainly fit both Nash and Gordon under their cap but would likely need to renounce the rest of their free agents, and they would need to sign Nash first to lower that cap hold.
A max contract is probably a bit much for Gordon, but in this case I think it’s worth it. Gordon is just 23 years old and averages 18.2 points per game for his career. He can be that dynamic wing scorer the Suns so dearly lack and an important piece of the rebuilding puzzle.
Head coach Alvin Gentry often gushed about Gordon when the Clippers visited, saying the Suns loved him before the 2008 draft. I’m certain Gentry would be ecstatic about such a signing.
If you are going to overpay, I think it’s better to overpay for a bonafide stud than the kind of role players that traditionally get too much dough, and considering how difficult it is to add impact players this would be the right time to roll the dice.
The Suns reported on Twitter that the team of Babby, Blanks and Gentry are meeting with Michael Beasley today in Los Angeles and will meet with Robin Lopez later in the City of Angels.
Beasley would provide the kind of scoring punch the Suns could use but doesn’t play any semblance of defense and is quite the knucklehead, which seems to go against the kind of player the Suns want for their culture. I would not hate Beasley on a one-year flyer kind of contract, but I would be terrified to guarantee him any kind of long-term money as tantalizing as his potential is.
Babby has said all along that the Suns will match any offer for their restricted free agent Lopez, so the hope would be that nobody pays him the kind of stupid money young 7-footers often get in free agency. I would sign off on something in the $4 million a year range.
The Suns have touched base with Mayo, according to Coro, and I think he could be an ideal signing. Mayo’s role lessened in Memphis in previous seasons, yet there is a reason he was selected third overall. His scoring punch at the off guard spot could be very useful for the Suns, and he could have something to prove on a short-term deal through which he could build his value in Phoenix.
I like the Suns reaching out to Jordan Hill as Lopez insurance. You can never have too many Wildcats on your roster after all.
Chris Kaman does not make a ton of sense to me because he’s not the kind of player the Suns should invest in with Gortat under contract and Lopez such a priority.
Ray Felton could be a nice mentor for Marshall, but I would only sign him if the Suns go into powder-saving mode and bring him on for one year. Same goes for Jamal Crawford.
The Suns have set up visits in Phoenix with Felton and Goran Dragic, according to the team’s Twitter account, but the former Nash heir apparent apparently wants $10 million a year and a starting job. That seems to be a bit too much of an investment for The Dragon, especially with Marshall waiting in the wings.
As I wrote last night, the Suns could go in many directions during this free agency period, so it is good to see them in the middle of so many rumors on the first day of free agency.