ESPN Insider Kevin Pelton has put together an NBA free agency top-30 list based on projections of three-year WARP or “wins above replacement player.” By combining ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus statistic and Pelton’s player wins percentages, then projecting it for the next three seasons, we come to an understanding of how valuable players are on the court.
Two of the Phoenix Suns’ free agents, Eric Bledsoe and Channing Frye, rank in the top two-thirds of the top-30. Phoenix is reportedly working hard to re-sign both, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski.
Bledsoe ranks fifth, coming in behind LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kyle Lowry and Dirk Nowitzki. As we’ve discussed quite often here, Bledsoe ranks incredibly well in terms of defensive plus-minus amongst guards. Pelton also points out his true shooting percentage saw a major bump since his last season with the Los Angeles Clippers.
3-year WARP: 26.0 | 2014-15: 8.6 WARP, .549 Win%, +4.3 RPM
The top restricted free agent on the market, Bledsoe particularly shines in RPM’s defensive calculations. His plus-4.0 defensive RPM last season was far and away the best of any point guard; Ricky Rubio and Jrue Holiday were the two others above 2.0. Bledsoe’s offense made strides toward catching up last season, his first as a starter, when he improved his true shooting percentage (TS%) from .513 to .578 with improved finishing around the rim.
On this list, Bledsoe ranks in the top-10 ahead of 24-year-old power forward Greg Monroe, Rockets swingman Chandler Parsons, Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas, Heat forward Chris Bosh and Jazz swingman Gordon Hayward.
And as we’d expect, Frye is ranked as the 17th-best free agent, above some bigger-name players. He is ranked ahead of Lance Stephenson, Luol Deng and Pau Gasol, among others. He’s helped greatly by the Real Plus-Minus figure, and while there’s value in it, that stat likewise skews the perception of players that play within very good five-man units — Mario Chalmers ranks 20th, for example.
That said, it’s probably not a leap to say Frye deserves a little more credit in Phoenix’s success than Chalmers does in the Heat starting unit. Here’s Pelton’s blurb on Frye:
3-year WARP: 14.5 | 2014-15: 5.3 WARP, .467 Win%, +4.9 RPM
No big man available in free agency shoots better from deep than Frye, who made 160 3-pointers at a 37 percent clip while returning from a heart infection that sidelined him all of 2012-13. That shooting ability gives Frye strong defensive gravity — he draws defenders, opening things up for his teammates, which is why RPM rated him behind only Nowitzki among the best offensive big men. At the midlevel, Frye would be a bargain addition for a contender.
Phoenix has held firm that it covets Bledsoe and Frye. Even if that’s posturing, there’s no doubt the numbers back it up. Only two issues could keep the Suns from re-signing Bledsoe: concerns over his recent knee issues and a hard stance from the Bledsoe camp he doesn’t want to play in Phoenix. At this time, nothing indicates the Suns will have those issues.
The more difficult re-signing is Frye, an unrestricted free agent who has his flaws as well as other suitors in Cleveland and Golden State.