What are the biggest needs of a 25-win Phoenix Suns team? Did they get increasingly better in the NBA Draft or are there more holes to fill?
With moderate cap space and some roster flexibility the Suns could be active this off-season with trades, signings, and everything in-between. The question then becomes is it more valuable to make moves this off-season that hurt the long-term rebuild for immediate gratification or to stay the course on this slow burn?
Sixth Topic: Five Questions on the 2013 Free-Agency
1. Breaking the Ice: Is there a free-agent that the Phoenix Suns should target above the rest?
Dave King: I am thinking the Suns should just find a shooter, someone who can come in and make 3s when the offense really needs it. Otherwise, just fill gaps behind whoever is traded away.
Jacob Padilla: Nobody in particular that I can think of, but there are plenty of players they should avoid. Stay away from Josh Smith, Andre Iguodala, Al Jefferson and the rest of the big name free agents. Signing a second or third option player is not going to help the Suns this year.
Jim Coughenour: The Suns could still use a shooting guard to compete for minutes with Shannon Brown and Malcolm Lee. I think they should go after Player X. Randy Foye (career .377 3P%) could be Player X. The Suns might be able to get him on a one year deal for about $2-3 million. Any kind of warm body would probably work, though. Or a cold one (have you seen Weekend at Bernie's?). Either way.
Kris Habbas: A young shooter that is cost efficient would be ideal. Someone like Anthony Morrow, Wayne Ellington, or Marco Belinelli could be flipped as assets around the trade deadline while an Andrew Goudelock could be a floor spacer to keep.
Richard Parker: None that I can think of. As mostly everyone has already said, we should just focus on rounding out our roster with a one year deal or two and head into the season prepared to lose a lot of games and enter the 2014 offseason with cap flexibility and youth. I like the idea of signing a shooter on a one year deal - someone like Martell Webster, Marco Bellinelli, or Wayne Ellington.
2. Should the team be overly aggressive in a year where there are not a lot of great options in free-agency?
JP: Absolutely not. Like I said, above, going after a big name this year is counterproductive. It's not going to improve the team enough to do anything but lower the Suns draft pick and it kills their cap space. Second tier players will get paid like stars and I want no part of that.
JC: I would be aggressive in exploring the market to move Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat for young talent. The team would still have a veteran presence in the locker room (Dragic, Dudley, Frye, Tucker) with these guys gone. I'd rather watch a different team win 25 games next season instead of last year's team plus Frye and Len. But... I wouldn't just give them away and before the trade deadline probably works too.
KH: Absolutely not. Sign a low cost shooter, sift through the undrafted free-agents and then call it a day. The current rotation needs development and adding veterans could hinder that process.
RP: Not at all. I think McDonough has already said this much, but we should focus on signing lower tier guys to one year deals once the tier 1 and tier 2 guys choose their destinations during the first couple weeks.
DK: Nope. Suns are still in transition. McDonough should be looking for trades, for Gortat at least. But then Gortat would just need to be replaced by someone else. But still, these guys wanted change and to bring back most of the lineup is nonsensical. A young player or two should be swapped for someone else's young player that brings a fresh attitude. Also, I still want Dudley traded simply to let him win games with someone, while the Suns get assets back.
3. Of all the positions, which one needs an upgrade the most? Explain.
JC: The Suns already took care of their biggest position of need when they canned Lance Blanks and brought in McMiracle. I would say shooting guard is still the extremity gushing the most blood, if we're deciding between limbs and only have one tourniquet. As previously mentioned, a guy like Foye could be a serviceable stop gap, but I'm really starting to lean towards Bernie Lomax.
KH: Shooting guard. Again, I would only look into the options for young, cost efficient shooters that will not be more that a stop-gap for this season. Archie Goodwin talks of playing the one, but he is naturally more of a two and that is where he will likely see the bulk of his minutes.
RP: We need shooting badly. I think shooting guard is where we need the most help. Even though we're bringing Shannon Brown back for another year, we still need someone who is efficient at knocking down open shots.
JP: Shooting guard is clearly the weakest position on the court. Shannon Brown is the only pure shooting guard on the roster, and our second best option is Jared Dudley, a guy who's played the three his whole career. This is especially true if the Suns really want to play Archie Goodwin at the point.
4. The team has (roughly) 6.5 million in salary cap this summer... How should they spend that money?
KH: In some cases the best way to spend money is by not spending it at all... Over the years teams have made some of their biggest mistakes by spending money just because they have it. The roster has depth with the three rookies and the returning players from last season. No need to win an additional 3-5 games because of an unnecessary signing.
RP: Unless we're getting Dwight Howard or CP3, once again, they should just aim to sign one year deals to reach the salary floor. There's no reason to max out our salary cap on role players that won't lead us anywhere (except to a lower draft pick) - see summer 2010. Retaining financial flexibility and youth for 2014 should be the primary goal here.
JP: First of all, they should spend a little bit of that to guarantee Tucker's contract. For sentimental reasons I'd like to see Garrett stick around as well but it looks like he's not going to get any more of a shot than last year. The only possible addition I see making sense is a cheap shooting guard on a one-year deal. Somebody like Wayne Ellington, Roger Mason Jr. or Daequan Cook.
JC: Garrett's gone. I don't see the team carrying four point guards (Dragic, Marshall, Goodwin). Tucker should definitely be back. Phoenix should keep as far under the cap as they can to facilitate potential deals down the road. The Suns have managed to accomplish the dubious feat of putting together a 25 win team with very little cap space until next summer. Lomax is looking better and better.
DK: Keep it. Take on salary in a trade for a good asset, but that's all. Make trades, and then fill in behind. Maybe sign a cheap shooter or big-time rebounder.
5. Should the team enter next season as is (unless a trade presents itself) to develop their youth and continue to position themselves for the 2014 NBA Draft?
RP: Yes, for the most part. Like I've said, we should look to develop our young players and head into the 2014 offseason with as much cap room as we can get and a very high draft pick. However, we should also trade Gortat at some point this year, whether that be before the season begins or just before the trade deadline. We should also definitely trade Scola as soon as possible for a draft pick or a young player.
JP: I could potentially see the team signing a shooting guard like I mentioned, or perhaps picking up another UDFA to try out. But beyond that I don't see much change happening barring a trade. The Suns have already eclipsed both the salary cap floor and the minimum roster count, so they don't really need to add anybody.
JC: Did you say 2014 NBA Draft? Let's skip to that. Or we could look at Babby's killer P's - preparation, perseverance, poise, pride, performance. I would add patience, since this is no time to panic after all of the posturing just to get to this point. A measured, opportunistic approach that looks at the bigger picture is what the team has preached and should remain their modus operandi moving forward.
DK: Nope. Make trades. This same lineup cannot be happier next year than they were last year. They all, to a man, wanted big changes. I think that will happen.
KH: Absolutely. The team has depth at most positions as is and there is no need to mortgage the future for a few wins today.
BONUS: How can the Suns win free-agency, remain financially flexible, develop their youth, and position themselves for the 2014 NBA Draft?
JP: Don't blow cap space on a long term deal. Trade away Luis Scola. Perhaps find someone who can turn into a key role player moving forward a la Danny Green or P.J. Tucker. Outside of that, they should sit tight for now, work on getting Hornacek's system in place, develop the rookies and prepare to endure what's going to be another rough season.
JC: The Suns still need to get younger going into next season. I count AT LEAST eight players on the roster that are past a developmental stage. As things presently stand, on opening night the Suns will have more players 27 and older (6) than 23 and under (4)... the latter of which is the same number as opening night last season. This is still a roster with an identity crisis.
DK: By doing what I said above. Switch out some parts in trades, freshen up the attitude, bring in guys who hustle hard and work to play together instead of in spite of each other.
KH: Sign Goudelock as a shooter/floor spacer off of the bench and then give the lion's share of the minutes to Dragic, Goodwin, Tucker, and Len. Let them develop and see what they have for the future as the better "young" players on the roster.
RP: The Suns can have a "successful" year if they only sign one year deals to retain 2014 cap flexibility, trade Gortat and Scola at some point this year for draft picks and/or young talent, see significant development from their young players as the season progresses (Len, Goodwin, Morrises, Marshall), all while having one of the worst records in the league, if not the worst, to earn a top 3 draft pick next year. Then, we would be in position to draft a franchise star and still have significant cap space to use during next year's free agency.