Suns should make key 76ers role player an offseason priority

The Phoenix Suns are going to have to remake their roster this offseason around their three star players, and they should target this Philadelphia 76ers role player.
Los Angeles Clippers v Philadelphia 76ers
Los Angeles Clippers v Philadelphia 76ers / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

The Phoenix Suns are about to embark on a postseason journey that at no point during the regular season was guaranteed, but the front office will still have an eye on this summer. That's because the organization are once again going to have to get creative in building a roster around their three stars.

Add Grayson Allen's new four-year, $70 million deal into the mix, and it is an unenviable task. Already there has been some chatter that a former franchise great could make his way back to The Valley on a minimum deal, but any concrete talks on that front appear premature.

There was one standout role player during the recent play-in tournament games that the Suns have a chance to signing however, and that is Nicolas Batum.

Make no mistake, the 35-year-old Frenchman almost made it onto our recent list of eight free agents the Suns should avoid at all costs this summer. Batum is way past his best, and during the regular season with the Philadelphia 76ers, he had averages of 5.5 points and 4.2 assists in 57 games played.

That 38 of those were starts spoke more to the injury issues of the 76ers, although shooting a shade under 40 percent from 3-point range was impressive, and it was achieved by taking 3.1 attempts from deep each night.

But despite that shooting touch, Batum on the surface looked like the kind of player the Suns absolutely did not need, and the proof of this was given to us last offseason. The team signed Yuta Watanabe to much fanfare, and at that point in time he was a taller, better 3-point shooting (44.4 percent the previous season) version of what Batum currently offers.

Only Watanabe didn't work out with the Suns, and it proved that they needed a bit more than just veterans who could spot up and shoot around some star players in order to win big. This is the reason why Allen, Royce O'Neale and Eric Gordon would go on to be so important to the success of the group.

All three can shoot, but they can also provide some level of defending as well. Batum hasn't been known for that for a long time, and at his peak he was probably an above average defender, certainly nothing special on that end. What changed then?

In the 76ers' play-in win over the Miami Heat, it wasn't just the six made 3-pointers off the bench in 28 minutes of action, which made up the bulk of Batum's 20 points on the night. Second only to Embiid's 23. No, it was his work-rate on the defensive end, chipping in with some key deflections and stops, which ultimately helped the 76ers gut out the win.

Batum's other made basket - cleaning up an errant shot by acrobatically laying the ball in - typified his performance and seemed to give his teammates a lift. In making some plays on the defensive end down the stretch, Batum also showed a level of emotion that we have not always seen from his typically cool demeanour.

All of which is to say, the Suns now need to take a serious look at him on a minimum deal this offseason. He is an unrestricted free agent - and although the 76ers have his Bird Rights - they could be in for a wild summer that puts Batum well down their list of priorities. Fail to make it out of the first round of the playoffs, and who knows what the future could hold for Embiid.

Next. Phoenix Suns' best player of the 2023-24 regular season. Phoenix Suns' best player of the 2023-24 regular season. dark

Batum will get offers from other teams, and the Suns can hardly point to the fact that they're bonafide contenders themselves right now as a reason to join. They're probably closer to contention than the 76ers, but that's more to do with Embiid's health than anything else. The prospect of lining up next to Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal has to hold some appeal too.

If the Suns can get out of the first round themselves - they're favored at this point to do so - then Batum may seen spending a season or two in The Valley before calling it a career as one of his best routes to a championship. A scenario that the organization would have had no interest in even a week ago, but that play-in performance from a role player is exactly what they're currently missing.