3-on-5: Free agency and the Suns’ next move


It’s been a wild week of free agent signings and trades in the NBA. I asked the Godfather (Michael Schwartz) and Michael Corleone (Kevin Zimmerman) of Valley of the Suns to join me for a 3-on-5 to discuss all the wheeling and dealing as well as the outlook for the Suns.

I hope that analogy doesn’t make me Fredo.

1. Which team most improved its chances of winning a championship through free agent signings or trades?

Schwartz: I hate to go with the easy answer, but in this case it doubles as the right answer. Houston catapulted into the championship race with the acquisition of Dwight Howard after starting the offseason with a roster that screamed “fringe playoff team.” With Harden and Howard forming arguably the league’s best inside-outside duo along with a slew of role players that Daryl Morey has collected over the years, the Rockets finally have departed the treadmill of mediocrity to join the upper crust of the West.

Zimmerman: I can’t say I like any signing other than the Dwight Howard deal. Al Jefferson at very best makes the Bobcats average, and I don’t understand how Josh Smith fits into the Pistons’ long-term future – does he stunt the growth of their young bigs? The Rockets also got a sneaky good signing in Omri Casspi, and I think their offensive model makes a so-so player like that even more impactful. The Iguodala signing in Golden State does get a second-place finish, however.

Weisert: The Clippers have improved the most. While the Howard deal is certainly a game changer, I’m not sure it makes Houston a title contender. The Rockets still have a lot of money invested in Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, neither of whom is guaranteed to make an impact next year. The Clippers on the other hand have one of the best coaches in the league (and one of the biggest coaching upgrades in history.) They have a happy Chris Paul. And they just acquired an elite shooter in J.J. Redick as well as a great all-around player/locker room guy in Jared Dudley. They are right in the mix for the 2nd-best team in the West.

2. Which recently signed (verbally agreed to) free agent is most likely to be viewed as overpaid before his contract is up?

Schwartz: Based on Detroit’s history, probably Josh Smith. He will make $14 million a season for the next four years and could be either forced to play small forward or restrict the development of the Pistons’ two best young players, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. Along with Monta Ellis, Smith almost seemed to be destined to be overpaid by his new team, and considering this only takes Detroit from bad to mediocre, I think in a few years they will look back on this deal as an overpay.

Zimmerman: Andre Iguodala is an interesting fit in Golden State but his age seems like it could catch up with him. And while I think he’s the type of athlete whose body probably won’t break down during the next four years where he’ll be paid more than $48 million, he’s already a second or third option. Weisert broke down values of certain roles and skills, but it’s sadly questionable if being a nice guy and smart basketball player is worth that much – and it pains me to write that.

Weisert: I think Jose Calderon is overpaid right now, without ever having played a minute for Dallas. I understand the market for starting point guards is inflated right now, but Calderon is not a Top 15 point guard in the NBA, and there’s no way giving a 31 year old more than $7 million per year for four years is a good idea. Calderon takes great care of the ball and shoots great percentages, but he lacks athleticism and scoring ability, two things Dallas is going to need over the next few seasons as Dirk ages. He is more of a 2-3 year, mid-level kind of player. This deal definitely makes no sense in when you consider the Mavs also signed Devin Harris for three years.

3. Which player(s) acquired via free agency or trade is the worst fit for his new team?

Schwartz: I’m not a fan of the Carl Landry deal, especially for a Kings team that already has DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Thompson, Chuck Hayes and Patrick Patterson upfront. Landry is a solid player who has always played particularly well against the Suns, but mid-level contracts are often the worst kind of deal in the NBA’s salary structure. Sacramento would have been better off saving its money for something more than a backup at a position of strength.

Zimmerman: Josh Smith. I imagine the Pistons will be exciting with a very athletic and dynamic frontcourt. Greg Monroe and Smith are two of the best passers at their respective positions, and Andre Drummond should be able to make them a very good defensive front. Offensively, though, Smith’s lack of consistency on the perimeter makes it very difficult for Detroit to stretch the floor with many of its lineups, at least in my mind.

Weisert: Tyreke Evans with the Pelicans is bad fit. The Pelicans traded Nerlens Noel for Jrue Holiday. A hotly contested move, but one I supported nonetheless. Then they traded Robin Lopez, who was very productive for them last year, for Evans. Tyreke has proven, over his four years in the NBA, that he’s best when used as a ball-handler. He was a disaster at small forward last year in Sacramento. This acquisition means the Pelicans sacrificed two potential front court mates for Anthony Davis to have three players – Evans, Holiday, and Eric Gordon – who need the ball in their hands to be effective. And they’re paying 8 figures to each of those guys.

4. What should the Suns next move be?

Schwartz: I’ve been saying it for some time, but they need to find a way to turn Marcin Gortat and Luis Scola into young assets. A move might not materialize until the season begins when an injury may force a team into a trade for a big man. Not many teams need a center and possess the kind of young assets the Suns desire, but then again nobody saw the Eric Bledsoe trade either before it happened. Scola could be a great bench scorer for a contender who could provide value later in the season. At this point everything should be pointed toward continuing to accumulate assets for next season.

Zimmerman: I honestly didn’t know what Ryan McDonough could get with the valuable role players the Suns have, but shipping away Jared Dudley proved he could target someone he likes and give up a very reasonable player. So with that, I think pulling off similar trades of a Luis Scola or Marcin Gortat could be next. But it’ll be more interesting, in my opinion, to see if the Suns could – or should – gut the roster of the Morris twins, Kendall Marshall and Michael Beasley. Those guys should be of equal priority, but it’s a wonder if there will be any takers out there.

Weisert: Take a breather and be patient. The Suns’ front office pulled off some shrewd moves drafting Alex Len and acquiring Eric Bledsoe. They have taken a step in the right direction for the first time since getting four draft picks for Steve Nash. The NBA is like a poker tournament. The Suns won some early hands, now they can sit back, pick their spots, and let the shorter stacks battle it out. No one in and around the Suns’ organization believes the team will win as currently constructed which means Phoenix is in position to acquire a great asset in the 2014 draft. All the Suns need to do is build up the trade value of some of its veterans – Gortat, Scola, Beasley – in hopes that some team will want to make a move at the trade deadline.

5. Which team(s) will be the Suns’ biggest competition in the race for the cellar next season?

Schwartz: Teams like Charlotte and Detroit seem to be saying they can’t stay in the cellar forever by signing big-name free agents that likely will take them out of the very bottom of the league. If Boston trades Rondo or has him sit out the bulk of the year, then they will be a prime candidate, and Philly figures to be dreadful as well along with the Magic. In the West I can’t see many teams that should be worse than the Suns, although perhaps Utah could give them a run if the Jazz continue to drop vets.

Zimmerman: I think the Philadelphia 76ers’ odd way of retooling will make them easily the worst team off the bat. But I think Milwaukee could be a darkhorse to be at the bottom of the barrel. They’ve made some very average decisions – little risk, little reward – like the signing of O.J. Mayo. Their front office, which also lost assistant GM Jeff Weltman to Toronto this offseason, is facing some very ugly truths after trading away the young Tobias Harris and hiring a coach that struggled to do anything that impressive with a talented-enough roster in Atlanta.

Weisert: I think the Suns have an excellent shot to repeat as Western Conference cellar dwellers. The only teams that will give them a run for their money are Utah and Sacramento. The Jazz are full of expiring contracts and young players. Trey Burke, Enes Kanter, and Derrick Favors will get a chance to prove themselves as pros, but I expect they’ll struggle early on. Sacramento worsened the log jam in both their backcourt and frontcourt by acquiring Carl Landry and Greivis Vasquez. The only thing that might hinder their cellar hopes is DeMarcus Cousins playing for a contract. Out East, I expect the Magic and 76ers to be pitiful, while the Cavs and Bobcats should begrudgingly improve from last year.

Tags: 3-on-5 Free Agency Phoenix Suns Phoenix Suns Analysis

  • http://ultimatesimbaseball.com Brenton

    Scola seems like he should have value, but I had a hard time thinking of a team that in need of Scola/Gortat that had anything worthwhile. Some teams clearly would be interested, like Toronto, but the only teams willing to take on Scola, and to a lesser extent Gortat, are going to be fringe title contenders or delusional 6 seeds(Toronto fits that bill pretty well). Possibly a team like Portland would go for Marcin, but no team is going to give up anything all that great for a mediocre center on the last year of his deal or a good role player forward.

    Miami would probably be the best fit for Scola, but they have nothing worth taking back(that they would offer). We arent trading Gortat for Aldridge.

    The best scenario I could come up with that was even remotely plausible would be something like Gortat to Toronto for Terrence Ross and Landry Fields. Im not sure Ross is worth it, even though I like him as a player, and the Raptors gave all their picks to Memphis for Rudy Gay.

  • Ty-Sun

    Only compared to other starting centers in the NBA is it fair to call Gortat “mediocre”. I can think of six teams that could be interested in Gortat but none that would be dieing to get him.

    If Andrew Bynum decides to sign anywhere other than Dallas, the Mavs could be interested although they don’t have a lot to trade except future draft picks (which would be fine by me). They are probably the best bet IF they can’t sign Bynum. Dallas Fans are getting very restless, Dirk isn’t getting any younger and Gortat might be the best “plan C” option open to them.

    Cleveland sounds as though they are making a play for Bynum too but I’m hearing that they are only willing to offer a one year contract. It would have to be a very big one year contract for Bynum to sign with them instead of Dallas which sounds as though they are willing to offer a 3 year deal (with the 3rd year a team option year).

    Boston needed a center before the Garnett trade and they need one now more than ever. Their potential interest in Gortat may depend on whether they plan to just tank this season or try to reload as quickly as possible.

    New Orleans seems interested in trading for Asik but if Houston is serious about not trading him then NO might shift their interest to Gortat.

    Atlanta might be a team that would be interested but they are another team that I’m not sure whether they are tanking this season or not.

    And finally, there’s OKC. Yes, they got Adams in the draft but they still have Perkins on contract for two season. OKC will contend again this year and I suppose their interest in Gortat will depend on getting rid of Perkins and how many other assets they will have to give up to dump his contract.

    I can’t think of any other teams that would be interested in trading for Gortat unless the trade was very lopsided in their favor. But, as was mentioned, that could change depending on the injury situation once the season actually gets started.

    I think the Suns should actually see a fair amount of interest in Scola during the off-season though. His contract is reasonable and he could provide great offense coming off the bench for a contender. I think we will see him traded before Gortat.

  • Scott

    FWIW, we’re 2 games into SL and it looks to me like MCW is outplaying Marshall already.

  • Ty-Sun

    Not that I’m complaining but the Lakers seem to just be getting dumber and dumber. They just signed Chris Kaman to a 1 year contract “to ensure they have a quality starting center” next season.

    Gasol played his best ball at the 5 and his production only started to decline when they moved him to the 4. He would probably work well at the 5 in D’Antoni’s system so unless they are paying Kaman $3.2 mil next season to be Gasol’s backup I think they just screwed themselves again. They could have used their mini mid-level exception to boost their roster at PF instead but odds are they wouldn’t have been able to do much there either.

    I feel bad for Steve Nash… but not for the Lakers.

  • KidBuxton

    I think 76ers and The Magic will compete with the suns for the bottom of the pile. I think being in the west and having the more difficult schedule might shoot the suns straight to the bottom overall though. However, I’m not a conspiracy guy butttt…I wish they broadcast the draft lottery picks live cos I think even if the suns were bottom, they wouldn’t get the No.1 pick.

    I’m glad a lot of mediocre teams have signed these ‘star’ players. Al Jefferson is a total idiot. I used to like the dude but if the guy just wants to get paid so be it.

    Scola will definitely bring the suns something back, I’d expect that trade done by the start of the season.

  • Scott

    Lakers have announced they’re using amnesty on MWP.

    Logically – to me at least – they should be exploring trade opportunities for Nash to Toronto.

  • DBreezy

    @Scott,

    Watching all of the new young guards in the SL, the thing that is striking is how easily they penetrate into the lane relative to Kendall. I’m even thinking of Kendall’s D league stint as well. Some of the new guys have struggles to finish, might have worse handles, and in general make poorer decisions with the ball at this point. However their ability to get themselves into useful points on the court makes everything so much easier for them. I suspect we’ll soon see the same with Goodwin and Marshall.

  • foreveris2long

    Scott, missed the Orlando summer league today. What were the stats for MCW? Hopefully they have a game on tape delay tonight. DBreezy I cannot wait to see Vegas Summer League but not too excited to see Marshall. Maybe he will surprise me.

  • Scott

    I was only able to catch the first quarter of the game with MCW today, and I only caught it in passing, while I was doing other stuff. I didn’t catch any of the rest; the OSL TV schedule is not the best, or at least it wasn’t today. Way too much “Game Time,” and too few repeats of the games.

    I was glad to catch some of MCW, though, as I’d been looking at him as a prospect since I guess about a year before Kendall Marshall was drafted. I held the position at that time that I felt they’d take Marshall, due to chronically lacking a PG, but they didn’t need to, and there would be more PGs to pick from the following year, like specifically MCW. And MCW is playing fairly well, dishing, driving, scoring, and defending.

    I think Marshall probably has the higher IQ, but Marshall so far has been like weak tea … nothing of interest.

    In the final game of SL last year we saw Marshall’s best game, I think, in that he actually penetrated and dished, and scored points. He controlled the offense. He did not replicate that performance in the regular season, but hopefully the competition at PG will goad him to do it again in SL.

    He’s a floor general type PG and he needs to act like one.

    I think he’s lacking in confidence on all fronts and afraid he’ll make a mistake. That in turn feeds into his tendency to be lazy. So he avoids making errors by doing nothing. What he needs to be is more of a bold control freak. He needs to get in there and deform the opposing defense with his own actions, to his own ends. While I’m inclined to like Marshall, I absolutely hatehatehate it when he strolls up the court and then, when he crosses the half court line, he simply passes the ball to the nearest player. Man, that sucks.

    Which is why my nickname for him the past year has been “Ballboy.” He brings the ball up the court, then his job is done. Thank you again, Ballboy! :(

    I believe he can do better than that, but the question is: will he?

  • Ebz

    What about signing Monta Ellis? But that would make our backcourts so small tho…at the same time, we need scorer. Oh man, why did not we chase J.Smith or big Al…?

    Feel sorry for Steve Nash, maybe he was thinking that he should’ve taken that 2 years contract offered by Suns before. But maybe he knew, even though he took the offer, he might get traded.

    Tough business.

  • Scott

    Let me just add that I think Hornacek’s advice to Marshall should be, “Be bold and control the game. Don’t worry too much about mistakes. Get in there and own every foot of the court. Be aggressive and make the defense follow you. If you don’t have multiple players moving out of position to cover you, then you need to take a high percentage shot and embarrass them into covering you.”

    I think the floor general PG can be played a bit like the way a bullfighter plays the bull. You get in there with the ball and tease the defenders into following you, and if they don’t follow close enough or hard enough, you poke them by scoring some points.

  • Junior

    Ebz-

    We are in rebuilding mode. I do not want to see any money being used to acquire a star.

    Suns, have to tank and really try to get the #1 draft pick.

    2015- we have our 1st and Lakers owe us a draft pick.

  • worldofnoah

    Trade idea: Gortat and Scola to Clippers for Jordan, Bullock, 2014 1st round pick and a 2015 2nd round pick. What do you think?

  • Thunder Dan

    This team is garbage now anyway, who really cares?

  • http://ultimatesimbaseball.com Brenton

    “Only compared to other starting centers in the NBA is it fair to call Gortat “mediocre”. ”

    Umm… who else would we be comparing him to?

    “Trade idea: Gortat and Scola to Clippers for Jordan, Bullock, 2014 1st round pick and a 2015 2nd round pick. What do you think? ”

    Id rather have Gortat than Jordan. Those picks would be garbage picks, and Bullock isnt good enough to trade for Gortat. Clippers arent a good trade partner now that Bledsoe is with the Suns.

    “I do not want to see any money being used to acquire a star. ”

    Monta Ellis isnt a star, he is an overrated sixth man(at best). If there was an actual star to be had, that is when you should use your money to sign him.

  • suns fan from israel

    dallas are looking for a good center and could go for gortat. the Thunder might need one if they amnisty Perkins. i dont know what the Nuggets are trying to do but they also might need a solid big guy.
    Scola is a very good asset. big guy for little money. would draw a lot of attention.
    The tweens can leave for a Contender looking for a massive guy with solid 3pt shooting.
    Beasly is going to make a lot less money next year so it’s not such a bad idea to keep him. he could really help us to tank big this season :)

  • Foreveris2long

    WorldofNoah, Why would the Suns want Jordan at $10,000,000/yr? He may be the most over priced center in the league. Are you kidding me?He is a salary cap killer. Although I think he is a decent center who could become good with a lot of work but he is not nearly worth his salary. No,no,no.

  • Foreveris2long

    Scott, Good assessment of Marshall. It absolutely pains me to watch him play point guard. I use to referee pee wee basketball when they had a rule you could not press the opponent in their backcourt when they were bringing the ball up court. so what would happen is as soon as the kids cross center court if the person with the ball had shaky handles, he would immediately pass it. That reminds me so much of Marshall. Let’s hope there is a drastic change for Marshall this summer.

  • Ty-Sun

    Be clear in your statements, Brenton, and there will be no room for doubt. You simply said that Gortat was “a mediocre center”. As I said, I also consider him a mediocre NBA starting center but that still makes him one of the best centers in the world. We can’t read your mind and know what you meant, only what you actually say.

    “Umm… who else would we be comparing him to?”

    Since you didn’t make it clear… perhaps all NBA centers? Every team carries at least two and some three. That’s how I read your initial statement since you didn’t clarify it.

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