Soon to be free agent center would be dream Suns pickup this summer

The Phoenix Suns are going to need to remake part of their roster this summer if they want to compete, and this center would be the ideal place to start.
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Although the NBA playoffs have yet to even start, even the most hardcore of Phoenix Suns supporters know that a first championship will not be coming to The Valley this season. Instead a disappointing end awaits the franchise, with plenty of questions that will need to be answered this summer.

With Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal making over $150 million combined next season, filling out the roster is going to once again include the addition of players on minimum contracts. Bol Bol was one such guy they added in this way last summer, and he has been a complete success relative to the expectations that the organization had for him this season.

The Suns are going to have to think bigger in order to climb the Western Conference standings though, and should be targeting Nic Claxton.

There's no doubt that the center rotation for this group right now is just not good enough to compete at the highest level. With head coach Frank Vogel having admitted as much recently - saying both Jusuf Nurkic and Drew Eubanks will sit games depending on matchup in the playoffs - there will be a big need for the Suns to upgrade the position over the offseason.

Which is where the soon to be 25-year-old Claxton of the Brooklyn Nets enters the equation. In theory the Suns don't have the kind of cap space available to sign Claxton - an unrestricted free agent this summer - to any kind of long-term deal that he would be interested in committing to.

Unlike Grayson Allen for example, the Suns don't have Claxton's Bird Rights, and so cannot offer him a deal greater than what their cap sheet is currently able to absorb. This is why owner Mat Ishbia has spoken with a degree of confidence about bringing both Allen and Royce O'Neale back next season and beyond.

Both are unrestricted free agents this summer - and while they can and likely will be offered more money to play elsewhere - having their Bird Rights at least allows the franchise to offer a more competitive contract to stick around. Doing so will still have further tax implications down the road, but Ishbia has shown he's willing to spend the money to try and build a winner.

Claxton's last contract was for two years and just over $17 million, and he's going to want both more money and long-term security wherever he goes next. But what if Claxton backed himself by signing a minimum deal with the Suns, to put himself in the shop window by playing on national television frequently, all while trying to win a championship?

Allen has done the exact same thing this season - the final of his current contract - and in leading the league in 3-point shooting is now in line for a big payday this offseason. The Suns could also sell Claxton on reuniting with Durant, a player he appeared to have nice chemistry with during their time together in Brooklyn.

Sadly though, this is very unlikely. Claxton is averaging a shade below a double-double this season, and has the length and athleticism to be an immediate upgrade for several teams in the league. The Nets may also try and keep him, although quite how happy he is in The Big Apple on a not very good team is currently unknown.

There may be one actual way to make this happen though, and that could be through a sign-and-trade. The Nets could re-sign Claxton - while the Suns could do the same with Allen - and send both Allen, Nurkic and perhaps even Nassir Little to the Nets in exchange for Claxton and whatever other players are needed to make the money work.

The Suns and Nets managed to work out a trade that saw Durant go to The Valley, while O'Neale also came over at the deadline as well. The working relationship between the two appears friendly, the only stumbling block would be the package. The Suns are out of picks, and a combo of Allen and Nurkic likely wouldn't entice.

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Still, it was those same players plus Little and Keon Johnson who were given up in exchange for Deandre Ayton last summer. Ayton's value has never been lower - but at the time when that trade took place - Ayton's stock was undoubtedly higher than Claxton's both is now or has ever been. Allen and Nurkic have completely rehabbed their value in Phoenix as well.

This still seems unlikely, but it would give the Suns not only a center who could stay on the court in the playoffs, but a bridge from this version of the team to one that exists in the future without Durant. For those who think this is a step too far, you're probably right. But you'd have been called crazy this time last year for thinking Bradley Beal could ever be a Sun as well. Difficult, but not impossible.