Top 5 Pre-Draft Phoenix Suns Free Agent Targets

Feb 8, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Archie Goodwin (20) shoots the ball past Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) during the first half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 8, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Archie Goodwin (20) shoots the ball past Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) during the first half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports /

Every off-season matters, but the Phoenix Suns free agent moves of 2016 could define the near future for the franchise.

With two lottery picks, three first-rounders, an uneven roster that underachieved in 2015-2016, and a free agency period that can shift the landscape of the NBA overnight, the Suns can not afford to strikeout this time.

With four draft picks the Suns will add more youth later this month, but when July 1 rolls around, the Suns should have a few free agents ready to target.

Here are the top 5 Phoenix Suns free agent targets, plus a quick cap overview.

Expected 2016-2017 NBA salary cap: $92 million

Current Suns 2016-2017 contracts: $64 million

1.)  Kevin Durant 

Even if it’s a longshot it does not hurt to try, right? Phoenix nearly landed superstar LaMarcus Aldridge last summer, and LeBron James had his agent meet with the Suns two summers ago before he made his decision to return home to Cleveland, so I’m not clinically insane putting Durant’s name on this list.

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With the salary cap expected to rise over $90 million for the 2016-2017 season, the Suns have about $30 million in wiggle room to make a splash in free agency.

That wiggle room could increase further if they decide to deal Brandon Knight or Tyson Chandler, who are both owed $13 million next season. And it would be worth it if it meant landing the 2014 MVP and four-time scoring champion, who will turn any team into a title contender.

2.) Ryan Anderson 

I know, not the sexiest pick for the number two target in a fairly deep free agent pool, but with no true power forward on the roster right now, eventually the Suns will need one, and Anderson would be a great fit.

There were talks of a Markieff Morris for Ryan Anderson trade early in the 2015-16 season, but those started to fade when Anderson started putting together another efficient scoring season.

The eight-year man out of the University of California averaged 17.0 PPG (second to his own 19.8 PPG in 2013-2014 and fourth in this year’s free agent pool) and shot over 36 percent from behind the three point line for the seventh time in his career.

3.) Nicolas Batum

More three-point shooters? Batum could fill another much needed gap in the Suns’ offense as a swingman. With P.J. Tucker, 31, having only one year left on his contract, the 27 year-old Batum figures to be entering his prime and could immediately be inserted into the starting lineup with a defined role on the team.

Batum and Booker would be a deadly three-point duo as well, and would certainly help boost the Suns back into the top 10 of team three-point percentage (last year they were T-17th).

Similar to Anderson, in his eight years, Batum has had five seasons shooting over 36 percent from deep. Even if the Suns do retain Tucker, Batum and Tucker could mesh well together, being that Tucker is more of  a defensive presence. Note that it appears unlikely Batum leaves in free agency, but he is worth pursuing.

4.) Kent Bazemore

The biggest need for the Suns this off-season should be defense, and Bazemore could provide that at a more affordable price than others.

Of the unrestricted free agents that will be available this summer, Bazemore, 26, boasts the second most SPG with 1.3 last season, only behind Rajon Rondo (2.0 SPG).

The 6’5″ SG/SF has an incredible 6’11.5″ wingspan, and averaged a versatile 15.1 PPG, 6.6 PPG, 3.0 APG, 1.7 SPG, and 0.7 BPG per 36 minutes last season, the best offensive season the four-year man has had thus far. Bazemore was also an efficient shooter on the other end with a 50/40/80 clip in 2016.

5.) Luol Deng 

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Let operation ‘bring Deng back to Phoenix’ commence. Well, he never really was a Phoenix Sun, but the 31 year-old was drafted but Phoenix in 2004 with the seventh overall pick. Another all around guy, albiet past his prime, would be able to produce in multiple categories each night.

Consistency is something the Suns need, and since Deng is older and probably looking to sign with a title contender, they might have to overpay for him, thus why he is fifth on this list.

The 2016 pool is a strong one, but we may see a lot of one-year deals so players can sign even bigger, long-term contracts in 2017 when the cap is expected to be about $107 million.

Kevin Durant could sign a one-year deal with Oklahoma City and enter free agency with Russell Westbrook next year, but this potential flurry of one year deals could provide opportunity for the Suns to grab someone for the short term as well.

must read: Suns' Secret Stash: Bogdan Bogdanovic

But short term can not be the only focus. This must be the off-season that builds the future of the franchise.