Under the radar free agents for the Phoenix Suns

The worst action movies of the last decade and a half all have one thing in common: fighter jets. While the advent of jet planes has undoubtedly been great for America’s national security, air show fans, and people harboring grudges against geese, it has been almost universally putrid for action movies.

Sure, we loved Top Gun, but because of its success we were forced to sit through insufferable flops like Broken Arrow, Stealth, and Behind Enemy Lines. If you have seen any or all of these films, I am deeply sorry for you, but these awful movies have taught us one thing. To get close to a target, you must fly under the radar. Remember the F-18’s flying under the Golden Gate Bridge in The Rock. It’s like that.

This is a strategy the Phoenix Suns might have to employ this offseason if they miss out on Eric Gordon and need to spend their cap space elsewhere. Here are some under the radar guys for the Suns to consider, none of whom is as bad at basketball as Owen Wilson was as a fighter pilot/action star.

1.  Carl Landry – PF (2011-12 Stats: 12.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 18.31 PER)

In his first five years in the league, Landry has played for three different NBA teams. This could be perceived as a lack of talent or value, but I believe Landry’s journey around the Western Conference had more do with crowded rosters than anything else.

In Houston, Landry was paired with Luis Scola, who played the exact same position as he. The Kings had a logjam of front court players and there wasn’t enough playing time for any of them. Landry seemed to find a home in New Orleans over the last season and a half, but the franchise has been in such disarray that I don’t think he had a chance to truly showcase his skills.

Carl is a consistent and efficient big man who could become an impact player if given the chance to start. ESPN has reported that Landry would prefer to stay in New Orleans next year, but his price tag (he made $8.5 million this year) and No. 1 pick Anthony Davis might force him out. If that happens, Phoenix would be an excellent landing spot.

2.  J.J. Hickson – PF (2011-12 Stats w/ Portland: 19 games, 15.1 ppg, 54% FG, 8.3 rpg)

What can be said about J.J. Hickson that hasn’t been said about the Mercury Grand Marquis? It’s long, not overly attractive, does most of what you expect it to do, and has lots of room (for improvement). Hickson is by no means the sexiest guy on this list, but he could be a solid rebounder and frontcourt presence for a team willing to give him a shot.

What impresses me most about Hickson is how he performed at the end of last year. He was acquired by Portland toward the end of the season long after the Blazers had thrown in the towel. Hickson started 10 games for Portland and posted five double-doubles in the process. Granted, his end-of-the-season run was the definition of a contract-year performance, but nevertheless, J.J. has the ability to score inside and rebound.

His athleticism could be great next to Gortat, although he isn’t much of a defender. I strongly believe the Suns need a more physical presence at the PF spot. Channing Frye is not that guy and Markieff Morris is still maturing as a player. If none of the other players on this list come to Phoenix, Hickson could be a good fit.

3.  Boris Diaw – PF (2011-12 Stats w/San Antonio: 20 games, 4.7 ppg, 59% FG, 4.2 rpg, 2.6 apg)

This addition may be a few months late, but a Diaw return to Phoenix could definitely help the Suns. Apparently Steve Nash pushed hard for the Suns to sign Diaw after he was bought out by Charlotte last season. The front office didn’t listen and Boris ended up becoming a key contributor for the top-seeded Spurs.

All the things Diaw did for the Spurs, he can do for the Suns in the coming year. Diaw entered the league as a point guard, so he has excellent passing skills for a big man. Marcin Gortat and Diaw could make a potent high post/low post combo. In addition, Diaw is solid post defender, which is always a good asset to have. The reason Boris is still in league is his unique combination of skills. If the Suns have any cap room left after the dust settles, they could get excellent value for it by signing Diaw.

4.  Steve Novak – SF (2011-12 Stats: 8.8 ppg, 2.5 3PM, 47% 3pt)

Who doesn’t need a floor spacer? Novak is one of the best shooters in the game right now. He led the league in 3-point field goal percentage last season and was tied for third in shots made from beyond the arc. Novak doesn’t give you much else aside from six fouls, but the Suns’ offense has always run better with a deadly 3-point threat on the floor, and Novak is as good a threat as any.

Even with Nash gone, a guy like Novak can only mean more space for Gortat and better driving lanes for new additions Goran Dragic and Michael Beasley.  Novak’s lack of other skills may actually be a good thing for Phoenix as it could help keep the price down should the front office choose to pursue him.

5.  Jerryd Bayless – PG/SG (2011-12 Stats: 31 games, 11.4 ppg, 2.8 apg, 17.80 PER)

The former Arizona Wilcat has had a crazy start to his young career. He was drafted by the Indiana Pacers and immediately traded to the Portland Trail Blazers. After two seasons in Portland, he was shipped to New Orleans. After just 11 games, the Hornets traded him to Toronto.

Jerryd averaged double-digit points in each of his two seasons in Canada, but ESPN’s Marc Stein has reported that Toronto has rescinded its qualifying offer to Bayless, making him an unrestricted free agent. Bayless had some injury trouble last season, which limited him to 31 games. This combined with four teams in four years might frighten some people away, but I think Bayless is still looking for the right opportunity to showcase his skills.

Though he’s listed as a point guard, Bayless plays better at the two spot (his career average of less than four assists/game would seem to agree with me). Kevin Love and Bayless came up together and played against one another at the AAU and Collegiate level. Appearing on the BS Report with Bill Simmons, Love was asked which guy from his class was most likely to break out. Love answered Bayless without hesitation.

Now that was over a year ago, but for a star like Love to vouch for Bayless’ talent, it could mean that Jerryd warrants a look from the Suns. At the very least Bayless can shoot and get to the hoop, and the Suns are in need of those skills right. Perhaps a return to the desert could help Bayless rediscover the magic that made him a star at Arizona.

When I began writing this list, there were 15 names on it. Many of them have agreed to deals in the last few days, while others were removed simply for being Ivan Johnson. The point is that come July 11, many of these guys will get snapped up quick, so if any of them are the missing piece in Phoenix the Suns will have to move quickly as they won’t be the only team flying under the radar.

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Tags: Boris Diaw Carl Landry Ersan Ilyasova Free Agents Jerryd Bayless JJ Hickson Phoenix Suns Steve Novak

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