Phoenix Suns free agency: 6 frontcourt options this offseason

Serge Ibaka, Phoenix Suns (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
Serge Ibaka, Phoenix Suns (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images) /
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Phoenix Suns
OKLAHOMA CITY, Nerlens Noel #3 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images) /

Phoenix Suns backup centers to target in free agency

The way in which general manager James Jones builds his team will determine which of my back-up center targets fits his vision. The Phoenix Suns should have one of these two centers on the team next season serving as the backup at the start of next season.

But first, let’s address the “Aussie” in the room. Phoenix Suns center Aron Baynes, who is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, will probably not be re-signed by the Phoenix Suns because of cost and availability. On the cost side, plenty of teams will have an interest in Baynes, and a handful of teams could more than likely land him with the mid-level exception of $9.258 million.

Availability is the other issue as Baynes has missed 54 games over the last couple of years with a multitude of different injuries. Those games missed need to be taken into account considering Deandre Ayton has averaged an ankle sprain every 5 weeks during his 10 months of actual playing time with the Suns.

The Phoenix Suns will have more options than what is covered here, but they’d be better off focusing on obtaining one of these two players as a back-up, and the power forwards on slide three to play part-time center minutes as well.

Nerlens Noel is the player I want backing up Deandre Ayton for one reason, he plays defense. Noel is a decent scorer, but most (68 percent) of his points come inside the paint as he is not a mid-range or 3-point threat.

Noel is a strong rebounder and rim protector. He plays good individual defense, and although he does wander a bit losing contact with his man, he still works well within the team’s defense and ranks ahead of Ayton, Dwight Howard, and Clint Capela in the ESPN plus-minus rankings.

He was a 7-game starter for the Thunder this past season and averaged 12.0 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game.

The Suns are going to be vying for a playoff spot, and to do so they’ll have to address their defense. You don’t have to look any further than the Lakers suffocating defense played against the Miami Heat in their recent NBA Finals win to determine that defense still wins championships.

Of course, having more than one All-Star doesn’t hurt, either.

Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report wrote about Noel:

"“Between the limited funds and the frontcourt glut, signs are pointing to a Noel sighting in the bargain bin—even while he cements himself as a transcendent defender at age 26. That probably sounds like hyperbolic praise, but he’s just the fifth player in NBA history to post a 15-plus rebound percentage, a 5-plus block percentage, and a 2-plus steal percentage across 5,000 minutesWhile he doesn’t offer much more than size and athleticism at the offensive end, he’s at least used that combo to land among the 91st percentile of pick-and-roll screeners.”"

A potential free agent offer for Noel would be a two or three-year contract at $4 to $5 million per season which is basically what the Phoenix Suns paid Frank Kaminsky in 2019-2020. Last season Noel signed a1-year / $2,028,594 deal with the Thunder.

Now I am going to take a 180-degree turn to a player that is not defensive-minded. Former Sacramento Kings Center Harry Giles III who has a 7-3 wingspan and basically has Deandre Ayton’s size at 6-10, 240 pounds. Giles has a nice fluid mid-range shot as well as a good post-up game connecting on 56 percent of his shots.

I am not quite sure why that doesn’t translate into a 3-point range, but I am sure Monty Williams can figure it out because he and James Jones are always on the lookout for high IQ players for the Phoenix Suns, and coming out of Duke, Giles should certainly fall into that category.

The Sacramento Kings surprisingly decided not to offer Giles a qualifying offer. This unrestricted free agent has a very solid per-36-minute stat line with 17.1 points, 10.1 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.0 blocks, as he is better in all these categories than Frank Kaminsky and Aron Baynes are in their per-36-minutes numbers.

A free agent offer to Giles could look like a two year (with a second-year team option) contract in the $3 million give or take range per season.