Editor’s Note: Hardwood Paroxysm’s Andrew Lynch is the latest addition to the ValleyoftheSuns staff.
The Phoenix Suns are on the verge of signing Sebastian Telfair and Shannon Brown to one-year deals, according to various reports. Brown will receive $3.5 million, and Telfair’s deal is said to be worth $1.5 mil. Telfair and Brown will take up the entirety of the Suns’ available MLE.
With one eye toward the future and the other toward a playoff run in 2012, the Suns are taking a slightly cockeyed approach to free agency. Vince Carter is headed out the door, Aaron Brooks is stuck in China with half of the Denver Nuggets and Zabian Dowdell may or may not be the right choice to spell Steve Nash in a compacted 66-game season. Many analysts and fans think that this is the time for the Suns to bottom out, secure a high lottery pick in the upcoming, loaded draft and count on the copious cap space they’ll have next year, barring any major salary commitments in the interim. Lon Babby and company seem on board with being noncommital in the long term, yet the front office reportedly believes that the core in Phoenix has a chance at the postseason. They’re therefore focused on shoring up the backup point guard spot and continuing to stockpile a never-ending supply of wings, with the key being short-term deals, low-cost deals that maintain that flexibility going forward.
The hope, one assumes, is that those two will have their play buoyed by Nash and company and allow the Suns to compete for the 7th or 8th seed in the Western Conference. If either or neither signing falls apart, then the only damage done was a total of $5 million for one year. No harm done to the long-term viability of Phoenix’s plans, no fouls other than the reach-ins committed when a player refuses to slide his feet and stay in front of his opponent. It’s a difficult and slightly curious course of action, but it’s the path down which we tread. As a result, the “major” free agent targets for Phoenix are anything but. The Suns are shopping in the bargain bin, looking for the floor model with a broken wheel and hoping to prop it up with the universal solution of the Point God. If they can lease for a year — or two, at the max — so much the better.
Sebastian Telfair – PG; unrestricted free agent; 2011 salary – $2.7 million
Most forms of entertainment have a particular theme, be it oppression, growing up or the circumstances of being an advanced life form from Mars responsible for killing Pierce Brosnan and susceptible only to horrible, ancient country songs. The Suns’ official theme this year is “reclamation projects,” Lifetime movie-style. Telfair came into the league to much fanfare, a product of the storied New York City basketball scene. He never lived up the substantial hype, unfortunately, and was involved in several off-court incidents that combined with his sub-par performance as a starter to garner a negative reputation. How poor did Telfair play? Of all players to appear in at least 400 games, his WS/48 is 5th worst. EVER. But the Telfair train is reportedly coming to the Valley for one year at a price tag between $1.5 million and $2 million.
There’s the chance of upside here*, though. Telfair’s a decent passer (a career 26.3% AST%) and on-the-ball defender. While his ORtg and DRtg might make eyes bleed and shouldn’t be viewed with children in the room — or the state — he’ll only be expected to take the load off Nash and will share that duty with Dowdell. Telfair has the ability to be a reliable, solid backup for a team in the Suns’ position — not a title contender by any means, but an entertaining team that may or may not have enough to make the playoffs. And his 3rd best comparison, according to Basketball-Reference, is Jordan. Reggie Jordan, but still.
*That’s a “Grandma loves all of her grandchildren, even the addict who steals from her purse on a daily basis and pushed her down the stairs…twice”-level compliment, but it’s better than crying.
Shannon Brown – G; unrestricted free agent; 2011 salary – $2.1 million
Since hybrids are all the rage, Phoenix is apparently kicking the tires on the Lakers’ dunktastic guard. Brown is reportedly also in agreement with the Suns for a one-year, $3.5 million deal. He’s played the vast majority of his minutes at the 2, but can serve as a ball-handler in a 127 Hours-sized pinch. A mediocre 3-point shooter, Brown’s shooting from 16-23 feet leaves a lot to be desired. The bright side, though, is that Shannon Brown might be tailor made by the basketball Zeuses to receive passes around the hoop from Steve Nash. Almost half of Brown’s shot attempts last year came at the rim, and he finished shots there at a 65.8 percent clip. If he keeps his energy up and cuts off the ball and on the baseline well, he’ll often be the beneficiary of secondary action generated by Nash/Gortat screen and rolls.
That’s if he plays with the first unit, of course. Jared Dudley came a long way last year to earn his spot in the starting lineup during the home stretch, and reports say that he’s worked hard on his ball-handling and one-on-one skills this summer to help secure that spot going forward. If he doesn’t get much run with the starters, the Suns will expect Brown to provide scoring punch off the bench with Telfair and Robin Lopez. In this scenario, the question becomes whether or not Brown can hit open mid-range jumpers, as the Suns’ offense went incredibly stagnant last year when Nash went to the bench. There may even be some slight rotation experimentation this year by the Mad Scientist as Alvin Gentry tries to squeeze the most out of the disparate pieces he’s given, with Brown starting and Dudley coming off of the bench.
Much of this roster speculation and consideration of which pieces fit where is dependent on Grant Hill’s decision. If he chooses to pursue other options, then the picture becomes even dimmer for Phoenix. Replacements are few and cap space will be non-existent; only players willing to take the veteran’s minimum would be able to sign with the Suns going forward, other than their own free agents.
Which is a real shame, because prior to these signings there were two potential targets that jumped off the page. Now the hopes of acquiring either player are limper than Don Giovanni’s lizard. Just to rub some salt in the wound, here are the two guys I really wanted to see the Suns try to sign — and would love to see take the vet’s minimum to come play with Steve Nash and the Polish Hammer:
Michael Redd – SG; unrestricted free agent; 2011 salary – $18.3 million
Michael Redd is the perfect potential addition, a possibility perpetually posited by Schwartz this week. Redd’s salary over the past few years belies the talent that he brought to Milwaukee as a scorer — a career 38.3 percent shooter from three whose value peaked around .150 WS/48. Unfortunately, his scoring (and the Bucks’ prospects) were torpedoed by repeated ACL and MCL injuries; he’s only played 61 games in the past three years.
If you’re reading this, then you know the argument in favor of Redd in Phoenix: the Warlocks. Aaron Nelson and the Suns training staff are three steps past renowned at this point for their ability to rehabilitate players with checkered (at best) injury pasts. For the right deal — a one- or two-year, unguaranteed deal at or below the MLE — Redd is worth the risk as a floor spacer and scorer. The past two years saw a significant drop in Redd’s 3-point percentage, but that seems as likely to be due to a combination of rust, injuries, and small sample size (only 77 cumulative attempts) as deterioration in ability.
Delonte West – G; unrestricted free agent; 2011 salary – $854K
West is coming off of a scary injury and, like Redd, could likely benefit from the Warlocks. Over the past three years he’s seen his share of point guard duties increase, playing a larger percentage of his minutes at the 1 in each season than the one prior. A 37.3 perent shooter from deep, he can help keep the spacing that the Suns offense thrives on, though he’s not the volume shooter that Redd is. He’d bring a defensive tenacity and grit to the Suns as well, and everyone who’s ever watched a Western movie knows that grit is one of the most undervalued qualities a man can possess.
Unfortunately, with the Telfair and Brown additions, West is probably off the Suns’ radar. He’s also interested in the Lakers and Mavericks, as well as a potential return to Boston. With little (if any) cap space and a roster fighting to make the playoffs, not for a championship, it’s unlikely the Suns can make a serious run at West.
And maybe that’s for the best. The secret best-case scenario for this year’s Suns might be a combination of the sublime and the macabre. Another season of Steve Nash is always a good thing, but a long-term rebuilding plan would be even better. These one-year signings could start Phoenix down that path as they struggle valiantly for the playoffs but come up far short by depending on Sebastian Telfair and Shannon Brown. Perhaps instead of fighting and dying for the 9th or 10th seed by signing Delonte West and Michael Redd, the Suns will bury themselves a little deeper and score a better draft pick.
If the Suns can dream — and they clearly are, with these signings — then I can, too.