Grade the signing: Suns add ideal big man on opening day of free agency

The Phoenix Suns wasted no time in adding an ideal big man to their roster on the opening day of the NBA's free agency.
New Orleans Pelicans v Los Angeles Clippers
New Orleans Pelicans v Los Angeles Clippers / Harry How/GettyImages

The Phoenix Suns wasted no time in the early hours of the NBA's free agency getting underway Sunday, as they signed Mason Plumlee to a one-year, minimum deal. The 34-year-old looking on paper like an ideal backup big man for this organization next season.

The Drew Eubanks experience is one that did not come off last season - and with Eubanks having declined his player option to test the open market - the Suns moved quickly to get an ideal backup. With Bol Bol also coming back into the fold, the franchise now looks to have some frontcourt depth and versatility.

But what exactly will Plumlee bring and is there a chance he could outperform the expectations that will be put in place for him?

Plumlee managed 14.7 minutes per game in 46 appearances (11 starts) last time out for the L.A. Clippers, while in six playoff appearances his minutes only shrunk slightly to 11 minutes each night. With over a decade's experience in the league, Plumlee will slot right into the backup role in Phoenix.

Really the fact the Suns could get him on the minimum at all is again testement to the power of having three star players and a chance to complete at the highest level with this group. It is unclear what the market for Plumlee was, but centers with as much experience as Plumlee who can hold their own in certain matchups are not easily found in the league today.

The biggest positive he will bring this group is his large inside presence. A quality that the more athletic Eubanks lacked last season, while he is bigger even than current starter Jusuf Nurkic. He's also that bit quicker and more agile than the Bosnian - although admittedly not by much - and will be a welcome inside addition for this group.

The prospect of Oso Ighodaro and Jalen Bridges (if he sticks with this team) learning from Plumlee is also a nice bonus, showing he is capable of helping both in the short-term and in being a veteran for some of the younger guys coming through. When you're trying to win you can't start rookie bigs right away unless you're Dereck Lively II, and Plumlee bridges that gap nicely.

In fact you could make the case that he could take some minutes from Nurkic next season. Health permitting he should push for more minutes - and although he is in no way the offensive player that Nurkic is for this group - he will make a living feeding off the open looks of his star teammates each night. Pick-and-roll prospects with Devin Booker and Bradley Beal have upside potential as well.

There is one clear drawback however, and that is with the spacing issues this roster are likely to run into. Plumlee, much like Nurkic, is not a floor spacer. He's a traditional center in the truest sense, and he won't be straying far from the paint on either end of the court. The Minnesota Timberwolves already exposed Nurkic in the playoffs last year, and Plumlee isn't much different as a player.

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He will likely handle himself better against monsters like Rudy Gobert and Nikola Jokic, but his limitations are known and aren't going to change. On the other hand prior to the Clippers going after him in 2022-23, Plumlee played and started in all 56 games prior to being traded to Los Angeles at the deadline, and managed 12.2 points and 9.7 rebounds in 28.5 minutes per game.

Given the cap situation of the Suns however, adding a player like Plumlee has to be seen as a positive. He knows exactly what will be required of him next season, and unlike Eubanks he has the chance to push Nurkic for more minutes. Trading Nurkic at this point doesn't look likely - but if the Suns could somehow pull that off - Plumlee could step into the starting spot. A great free agency pickup.

Final Grade: B+