Mar 10, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) is defended by Washington Wizards small forward Trevor Ariza (1) in the second half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Suns free agency targets range LeBron James to Trevor Ariza

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The Phoenix Suns hit NBA free agency at 9 p.m. MST on Monday with the cap space to make major noise. Eric Bledsoe and P.J. Tucker are restricted free agents, Channing Frye is unrestricted and targets range from LeBron James to Kent Bazemore.

Here are the tiers of free agents who are available and also, on paper, solid fits in Phoenix.

The longest of longshots

LeBron James, Miami Heat
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
Chris Bosh, Miami Heat

James reportedly wants a max contract, reports ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. Phoenix can offer him that, but it would still have to clear loads of cap space to add another max player — by the way, CBS Sports’ Ken Berger has a solid article on what exactly a financial “sacrifice” means, and it’s not enough to fit two max deals with the Suns. Anthony, who has visits set up with teams not named the Suns, likely wouldn’t want to stray too far from a max deal, and maybe Bosh won’t either, though the market for him might be a little less.

Second-tier, probably max players

Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Suns
Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz
Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons
Chandler Parsons, Houston Rockets
Lance Stephenson, Indiana Pacers

The Suns are making Bledsoe an obvious priority, but he’s in the same contract bracket as draft classmate Hayward, a former student of former Utah assistant and shooting coach Jeff Hornacek. The Jazz are expected to match an offer for the restricted free agent even though the Suns could offer the max in the $15 million annual range, according to reports. The other three players on this list have a bit more mystery. The Pacers are expected to make a hard run at Stephenson, Parsons hasn’t been linked to the Suns, but would seemingly fit in as good or better than Hayward. And the Pistons could very well keep the talented Monroe, unless he receives an offer that will further restrict them financially. Monroe, however, fits Phoenix’s need for a low-post playmaker.

The pricey vets

Luol Deng, Cleveland Cavaliers

Phoenix’s reported interest in Lakers power forward Pau Gasol going back to last season apparently isn’t lingering, at least in terms of what the rumor mill is saying. He is the only other player who might fit into this category reserved for aging veterans who could make major contributions for an upcoming team. Deng, who is unlikely to be retained by Cleveland, has long been tied to the Suns since they traded him on draft night. David Aldridge reports he is simply going to hear who’s interested and then make a decision on who he’ll consider (the Hawks are considered to be in the mix). Any chase after Deng will obviously affect how Phoenix works with Tucker in this process. But is it more forward-thinking to give $15 million to a younger swingman rather than $10-12 million to a player already in or past his prime?

The impactful role players

Channing Frye, Phoenix Suns
P.J. Tucker, Phoenix Suns
Trevor Ariza, Washington Wizards
Jordan Hill, Los Angeles Lakers
Spencer Hawes, Cleveland Cavaliers
Josh McRoberts, Charlotte Hornets

Frye and Tucker are givens. Each played a big role in the fabric of the team and their locker room leadership makes them more valuable to Phoenix than they might be elsewhere. Ariza, who Yahoo! Sports’ Marc J. Spears believes will interest the Suns, would be an offensive upgrade over Tucker, though his much-improved three-point shot in 2013-14 could be viewed with skepticism since, in any other season, he’s never gotten within more than 5 percent o his 41 percent long-range percentage. Hill has been linked to the Suns in the past and could bolster a frontcourt as a double-double threat (in 20 minutes per game last season) and rim-protector. They haven’t been linked to the Suns, but Hawes and McRoberts would be targets if Frye signs elsewhere. Both are excellent passers at the 5 and 4 spots, respectively, and both made big differences for their teams by stretching the floor last season.

Young players that won’t break the bank

Kent Bazemore, Los Angeles Lakers
Evan Turner, Indiana Pacers
Ed Davis, Memphis Grizzlies

Bazemore played 23 games of extended minutes with the Lakers last season, and he averaged 13 points and three assists per game. He’s a combo guard of sorts who wouldn’t kill Phoenix salary-wise and would fit well as an athletic slasher. Spears reports he’ll hear from the Suns. Turner is just a year older than Bazemore and at 25 years old still has things to figure out. Davis is an interesting name — a year ago he was considered a candidate to receive an extension in Memphis and act as heir to Zach Randolph. Now he’s become a free agent whose stock is a bit low. Davis and Turner are unlikely to be overpaid at this point, making them low-risk considerations for Phoenix.

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