Are the Phoenix Suns facing a center squeeze?

Phoenix Suns, Deandre Ayton (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns, Deandre Ayton (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
Phoenix Suns, Deandre Ayton
Phoenix Suns, Deandre Ayton (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The potential departure of Deandre Ayton would have left the Phoenix Suns with a hole at the center position, but his re-signing may now force a squeeze in their big men department.

The Suns lost Javale McGee to the Dallas Mavericks in free agency, yet supplemented his loss by trading for the 6’11” Jock Landale. The Australian joins Bismack Biyombo and the returning Dario Saric as backup options for head coach Monty Williams.

While Saric and Landale can theoretically play power forward given their shooting capacity, defensive limitations mean they’re really five-out center options.

According to Basketball Reference, Saric spent 82% of time as a center for the Suns in 2020-21, while Landale played at the five for 93% of his rookie season with the San Antonio Spurs.

With a breadth of center options, would the Phoenix Suns be better served solidifying other areas of their roster?

After Aaron Holiday agreed to a deal with the Atlanta Hawks in free agency, and with Elfrid Payton unlikely to return, the Suns only have two genuine point-guards on their roster – Chris Paul and Cameron Payne.

This is a concern for two reasons – firstly Paul’s age and the wish for him to rest for periods of next regular season. Secondly, Payne’s form during the playoffs was substandard, causing Williams to turn to a backcourt of Devin Booker and Landry Shamet when Paul was off the floor.

Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul, Cameron Payne.
Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul, Cameron Payne. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Phoenix have 14 players currently contracted for next season, meaning they do have one roster spot available to acquire another point-guard. But if they wish to keep that spot open, then perhaps they should acquire another primary ball-handler in lieu of one their bigs.

The newly acquired Landale would be the one most in the firing line. Less than $50,000 of his $1.6 million contract is guaranteed, meaning the Suns could easily waive him at any point.

The other option would be to use Saric’s contract in a trade scenario. The Croatian is making $9.2 million next season, a decent salary in which to acquire another point-guard option.

dark. Next. $133 million – 5 reasons why matching Ayton’s offer was the right move

Who knows, perhaps the franchise holds onto their three backups as insurance. Maybe Ayton either requests a trade, or is used as a major asset in a blockbuster trade post eligibility on January 15th.