Free Agent Fits For Phoenix Suns


The Phoenix Suns rebuild under GM Ryan McDonough has been based on the strategy of acquiring as many “assets” as possible.

These assets have come in the form of young talent (Len, Booker, Warren), draft picks (4 picks within the top 35 in this year’s draft), and favorable contracts (Bledsoe, Knight, and the Morris Twins).

Across the NBA, teams have been functioning under the premise that in order to win an NBA title, you need to have superstars. You need Shaq, Kobe, or both. You need Dwayne Wade, Lebron, or both. Championships require stars.

Looking through the last 30 NBA champions, the Pistons in 2004 were the only team that I believe you can easily argue did not have a top five NBA player.

They had plenty of talented players, in “Mr. Big Shot” Chauncey Billups (15th in APG), Richard “Rip” Hamilton and “Big” Ben Wallace but only Wallace was in the top 10 in any statistical category and he averaged less than 10 points per game. The team also had Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince. That team was deep, incredible at defense, and truly unique.

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Because of how difficult winning the Piston way has proven to be, the strategy of working to acquire star players is used by arguably every team in the NBA. However, teams try to accomplish this goal in a variety of different ways.

For example, the 76ers spent multiple consecutive years sabotaging their roster and losing as many games as possible in order to increase the likelihood that they end up with the highest draft picks possible. The hope was that at the top of the draft they would be able to find the next KD, Lebron, Karl-Anthony Towns, etc.

The Phoenix Suns have been acquiring draft assets with the same idea in mind. The problem the Suns have had is that the draft hasn’t yielded a superstar, yet. There is a lot of promise in the selections of Len, Booker and Warren, but none appear to have All-NBA potential.

This leaves the Suns in a position where they have one player on the verge of stardom, Eric Bledsoe, and a bunch of young and promising players who appear to lack star power. The Suns certainly will do everything they can to acquire a transformational player through the draft if forced to keep their picks.

With the draft considered weak, many believe the Phoenix Suns are trying to package a combination of picks and players to acquire a star player. However, this traditionally doesn’t work. If you’d like to see some potential trade ideas the Suns could execute before the draft, you can find them here.

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Because the Suns trading for a superstar is difficult at best, The Suns will try and use a more traditional asset: money. The Suns will be looking to acquire a star in free agency.

While technically Lebron is a free agent again, it would be earth-shattering if he left Cleveland again, this time after only two years. The top player and only real superstar in free agency, Kevin Durant, is a longshot for the Suns similar to Lebron a few seasons ago.

There are a few elite talents that could help the Suns get incrementally closer to becoming the championship contender they desire. While none have the star power of a Lebron or KD, they could be pieces that end up being necessary to a title run.

Here is a list of the unrestricted players the Suns should target in the upcoming free agency.

  1. Al Horford The Suns are in desperate need of a power forward after the trade of Markieff Morris. Even though Horford is nearing the end of his prime, his ability to play the 4 or 5 and shoot at a high percentage would be an excellent fit with the Suns. At age 29, his next contract will take him through the end of his prime. One thing I really liked when looking at Horford’s stats is that he dramatically increased his 3-point attempts per game. After never taking more than .5 3PA per game, this year Horford shot 3.1 threes per game and made them at a 34% clip (Same as Devin Booker). This could allow Horford to maintain high value further into his 30’s and help him have a larger impact on a team focused on pacing and spacing.
  2. Nicolas Batum – (2015 14.9 PPG, 5.8 APG, and 6.1 RPG) The Suns are in need of a talented wing player to pair with Devin Booker. Batum is in the beginning of his prime and showed improvement in every major statistical categories in an increased role in Charlotte. Batum can play small and power forward while allowing the Suns to stretch the floor and punish teams who collapsing on the drives of Bledsoe and Knight. Devin Booker showed promise but made only 34% of his 3’s last season. Batum is a career 36% three-point shooter so he has the ability to keep defenses honest and help space out the floor, something crucial to the Suns offensive style of play. Just as important will be his defense. PJ Tucker is the lead defender and is on the decline, Batum will help guard the Kawhi’s, Lebron’s and KD’s of the world.
  3. Ryan Anderson Let me first say that I think Ryan Anderson is overrated. I thought that he would make a huge impact on the Pelicans when he left Orlando, but New Orleans has ended up mired in mediocrity. Anderson’s 3pt % has dropped the last two seasons despite taking fewer threes. It would make sense that playing alongside a superstar in Anthony Davis would have helped pull his defenders further away and helping open the 3pt shot, so him shooting worse with Davis is puzzling. However, he is also a big man who averages less than six rebounds and less than half a blocked shot per game over his career. That being said, he is a natural fit at a position of need. Anderson is only 28 years old so it’s possible his recent lack of success could be attributed to minor injury or playing on a team that lacked any other elite scoring talent on the perimeter. If the Suns sign him, it would make sense, but considering he’s likely to get a max contract, it may not be the best financial decision.

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These three unrestricted Free Agents truly have the ability to help push the Suns forward and toward their ultimate goal of finally bringing an NBA title to the desert.

The Suns may choose to sign different players, they may choose to continue the rebuild process more slowly, but if the Suns are looking to make a splash, acquiring one of these players is the best way to do it.