The Phoenix Suns enter the 2020 off-season with the ability to create as much as $25 million in cap space to address their major areas of need, upgrading the power forward position and adding a more experienced backup guard. Who should they target in free agency?
Barring the ability to make a trade for a star power forward or a promising young player who may be in need of a change of scenery such as Aaron Gordon or Lauri Markkanen, the Phoenix Suns’ best avenue to upgrade the power forward position for the 2020-21 season may be in free agency.
As most NBA fans are aware, this 2020 free agency class isn’t exactly teeming with star-level talent.
If guys like Anthony Davis, DeMar DeRozan and Gordon Hayward re-sign or opt in to the final year of their massive contracts as expected, the most sought after unrestricted free agents on the market may be Fred VanVleet, Danilo Gallinari, Serge Ibaka, and Montrezl Harrell.
All are proven starting commodities in the league, but not exactly franchise cornerstones.
If there are no NBA stars available, is there any free agent out there who is at the stage of their career where they could be on the cusp of elevating to stardom like Tracy McGrady in 2000, Gilbert Arenas in 2003 or Joe Johnson in 2005?
I would argue that there is.
Before I reveal this player, take a look at these numbers for two NBA all-stars this season for a frame of reference:
Player A: PTS: 23.6 REB: 7.5 FG: 45.9% 3P: 35.9% FT: 80% PER: 18.7
Player B: PTS: 22.1 REB: 6.9 FG: 44.8% 3P: 39.8% FT: 80.6% PER: 20.4
Now look at these numbers for this player after the trade deadline:
Player C: PTS: 22.7 REB: 9.4 FG: 54.9% 3P: 38.8% FT: 73.9% PER: 23.3
Player C is the second scenario is impending free agent Christian Wood.
It is a small 13 game sample size after the Pistons traded Andre Drummond to the Cleveland Cavaliers and made Wood a featured part of their offense, but those are all-star numbers.
Wood clearly isn’t the go-to scorer that Jayson Tatum is or the all-around rising star that Pascal Siakam is and he is not the passer or ball handler that either of them are, but could he be on the verge of stardom?
Wood is 24 and has only appeared in 113 games thus far in his NBA career over four seasons (he did not appear in an NBA game in 2017-18).
He was exactly the kind of unpolished, raw talent that many NBA teams overlook as they don’t have the time or patience for a player like him to develop. Especially considering that he was undrafted out of UNLV in 2015.
His redemption story in the 2019-20 season has been one of the more under-the-radar feel-good stories in the entire NBA.
He flashed all of the ideal tools for the modern NBA big man. He boasts a 7’3″ wingspan, great lateral quickness, plenty of athleticism, and the ability to be a very effective rim-runner.
He also has exhibited a smooth jump shot and shooting 39% from three-point range as an athletic 6’10” big man should have NBA teams salivating.
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After watching Dario Saric and Frank Kaminsky repeatedly show their limited athleticism and inability to finish over defenders in the paint, wouldn’t it be nice to have a bouncy stretch big man like Wood?
Breaking the bank for Wood in the $15 million annual salary range would likely not be necessary and a huge risk for a multiple year deal for a guy based on a 13 game sample size, but if you are the Suns, isn’t it worth paying even as much as $10-12 million on a two-year deal to see if you may have a budding star on your hands?
Just like everything else in the NBA and life right now, there is a lot up in the air about free agency and what Wood’s value will be around the league.
The fact that he also was diagnosed with COVID-19 could affect his perception as well although it really shouldn’t in my opinion as he was the first known NBA player to be completely cleared of it as of March 26.
For a team that hasn’t hosted a playoff game since Twitter was a relatively new thing, why not take a swing at the free agent with the biggest boom potential this off-season?