The Phoenix Suns did not land their dream scenario of signing a LeBron James or a Chris Bosh this offseason, but it doesn’t mean it can be labeled as a failure. Executives around the NBA have given praise to the Suns for their shrewd moves of signing Isaiah Thomas to strengthen an already strong position, and the signing of forward Anthony Tolliver to a low-risk, high-reward deal. The important thing to remember is that they are loading up on assets so that they can be ready to make a big move when the opportunity arises.
ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz talked to a number of NBA executives in Las Vegas this week, and the Suns came after the Spurs in terms of who was getting the most positive reviews.
More than a couple insiders cited the Phoenix Suns as a managerial success. “They keep acquiring high-value assets,” said one general manger, “But the big thing is that they’re putting a great product on the floor while they do it. A lot of people in our business forget that part of the job.”
One part of the offseason that didn’t go as planned, outside of the looming Eric Bledsoe negotiations, is not bringing back forward Channing Frye.
The University of Arizona product signed a 4-year $32 million deal with the Orlando Magic, leaving the Suns void of their stretch big man. Some around the NBA are crediting Frye for pocketing in the height of the evolution, where big men are being counted on to shoot the ball from the outside.
Once upon a time, NBA offenses were almost entirely about isolation possessions and exploiting mismatches. A corner-3 shooter was a novelty act, and drive-and-kick schemes were regarded as gimmicky.
Goodbye to all that. The shooting revolution reigns supreme, which is why it’s difficult to find naysayers in Las Vegas on Channing Frye’s 4-year, $32 million deal, and there’s more support for Jodie Meeks’ 3-year, $19.5 million contract than you might imagine.
“This is where the analytics movement is driving the market,” says a general manager who can be fairly characterized as middle-of-the-road on analytics. “We’re seeing the extinction of the mid-range game. It’s a driver-and-putter league now. Nobody wants to play with their irons.”
Players who wouldn’t have gotten a look 15 years ago are now in high demand, and non-athletes with a reasonable shot fake are the NBA’s answer to the left-handed relief pitcher.
“You have to be able to shoot the ball” said the NBA veteran. “Especially big men. You look at Spencer Hawes. Look at Channing Frye. That’s good money. You can have a job for a long time if you can shoot.”