Feb 25, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers center Spencer Hawes (32) drives against Toronto Raptors small forward Terrence Ross (31) during the fourth quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. The Raptors won 99-93. Mandatory Credit: Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

Spencer Hawes, Channing Frye and the stretch big market

Along with the rest of the free agent market that’s sputtered to a crawl as teams wait for LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony to sign is the unique market of stretch big men.

This isn’t like the depthless point guard market, where the deal the Toronto Raptors gave to Kyle Lowry starting at $12 million annually seems fair. Nor is the stretch power forward market already set like the backup guard market, where Jodie Meeks will start earning $7 million per season, Darren Collison got the $5 million mid-level exception and Ben Gordon got a contract, period.

The best stretch big men haven’t signed yet, so the market is a bit of a mystery. There’s also depth to this group, meaning that there could still be value signings to be had.

Suns free agent Channing Frye might be one of the big names out there. He is well-valued because of his shooting alone, while more versatile players like Spencer Hawes and Josh McRoberts feel this process out. The Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro reports that Hawes is visiting Phoenix, which comes after visits to the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers and the Portland Trail Blazers. McRoberts likewise visited Portland and is probably behind Frye and Hawes on teams’ priority lists.

Another name to watch is Raptors free agent Patrick Patterson. He struggled in 17 games to start the year with Sacramento, but a midseason trade to the Toronto Raptors turned his 41 percent shooting and 23 percent three-point accuracy to 47 and 41 percent at his new home.

Why might the Suns be so inclined to either re-sign Frye or look at other options?

Stretch big men are a big part of Phoenix’s pick-and-roll game, and with the likelihood the Suns return a team similar to last year’s, covering for the potential loss of Frye  is paramount in terms of not taking a step backward. I wrote it when Frye opted out, but to rehash, Markieff Morris‘ promising development isn’t directly tied to Frye’s future. Morris wouldn’t fill the same role, other than in title as starting power forward.

After all, Morris became most efficient when Jeff Hornacek‘s staff actually convinced him he needed to move into the post and forget about replicating Frye’s deadliest skill. Morris had to be himself, and perhaps it was an oversight that Alvin Gentry’s staff allowed Morris to pretend that he could be a stretch forward.

Phoenix may not get a big name like LeBron James. It might rather have a Plan B of keeping the cap space in decent shape heading into next summer, re-signing Eric Bledsoe and banking on familiarity and internal development to push a 48-win squad from a year ago into the playoffs.

If Plan B is the case, certainly there’s a greater risk of the locker room culture spoiling in the summer heat or opponents hatching out ways to stop Bledsoe and Goran Dragic. The Suns certainly can’t take steps backward, so making sure they maintain or improve upon their best halfcourt threat, the pick-and-pop, is a high priority.

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