The Phoenix Suns played no part in Monday’s blockbuster three-team trade centered around Dion Waiters, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect them. With Waiters heading to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith joining the Cleveland Cavaliers, Samuel Dalembert was waived by the New York Knicks and got lost in the shuffle.
That’s where the Suns, hypothetically, come in.
While Waiters joining OKC could affect Phoenix in a really bad way if the move proves to be a prudent one for the Thunder, Dalembert represents an intriguing possibility that could influence the Suns in a positive way.
Bear with me for a second. While I understand adding a guy who averaged 4.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game in 32 appearances for the Knicks isn’t going to inspire any standing ovations, Phoenix has a pretty clear weakness in the paint.
The Suns are in the lower half in the league in rebounds per game. According to NBA.com, they’re giving up 46.9 points in the paint per game, the fourth worst mark in the association. In theory, adding another shot-blocking big to challenge shots in the lane would help on those fronts.
Dalembert’s near-$2 million contract will count toward New York’s payroll this season, and according to ESPN, the Cleveland Cavaliers, Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans and Houston Rockets may consider offering him a prorated contract after he clears waivers on Thursday.
Should the Phoenix Suns join the fray?
More from Valley of the Suns
- Ranking the Phoenix Suns’ 5 holiday games in 2023-24
- Zion Williamson gets compared to Phoenix Suns legend
- Suns player preview: Bol Bol can be the perfect role player
- Former Suns’ guard shows he is officially done with Phoenix
- NBA insider guarantees Suns’ rival won’t make blockbuster trade
To save everyone the suspense, probably not. While adding another rebounder and shot-blocker like Dalembert would represent a step in the right direction for the league’s 20th ranked defense (28th in OPP PPG), he’s not the game-changing center fans are hoping for.
First of all, Alex Len is averaging 7.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game in 12 starts for the Suns. While some are still impatient with the second-year center’s progress, he’s indisputably an upgrade over what we’ve seen out of Miles Plumlee, Samuel Dalembert AND third-stringer Shavlik Randolph this season.
Just take a look at the raw numbers:
The Per 36 Minutes numbers show Samuel Dalembert is slightly superior to backup Miles Plumlee, but at 33 years old, it’s highly doubtful Dalembert would even earn enough minutes to prove it:
Basically, Len is quite clearly deserving of his starting job thanks to his shot-blocking, his ability to spread the floor with a midrange jumper and his potential at the age of 21. Plumlee’s numbers don’t differentiate too much from Dalembert’s, but as a more athletic, younger backup, he fits the job description better.
That means that signing Dalembert would really only be an insurance move for Len/Plumlee. Dalembert would provide the Suns with a superior third-stringer, but Randolph only averages 6.3 minutes per game this season. How often would Jeff Hornacek honestly use Dalembert as a backup’s backup?
We should also point out that Dalembert doesn’t fit this team’s identity. While moving in a more defensive direction is a good idea, especially when it comes to the defensive glass, adding a 33-year-old center to a team that likes to run makes no sense.
After all, Hornacek prefers to go small at the end of close games, which means that not even Len or Plumlee are on the floor in those situations.
Going with small ball lineups that feature the point guard hydra generally leads to good things, but as we saw last night against the Milwaukee Bucks, when Len isn’t on the floor and Hornacek opts for a Goran Dragic–Eric Bledsoe–Isaiah Thomas–Markieff Morris lineup (with Gerald Green, Marcus Morris or P.J. Tucker rounding it off), rebounds are hard to come by.
In the last three minutes of the game against the Bucks last night, Phoenix strung together a couple of excellent defensive possessions, swarming ball handlers with double-teams and rotating back perfectly the keep the pressure applied. But the Suns couldn’t close those possessions out by corralling the rebound from all the resulting misses.
In other words, if Len and Plumlee aren’t cracking the Suns’ late-game rotations to help with that rebounding dilemma, adding Dalembert certainly wouldn’t change things.
I understand the urge the Suns feel to add a solid rebounder and rim protector to the ranks, but Samuel Dalembert is not that guy. Len is the long-term solution at center, and Dalembert would really only be an upgrade over Phoenix’s third-string center.