The Suns made a commendable push to sign prized free agent LaMarcus Aldridge, but finished as runners up to the Spurs. Sigh. What's next for the Suns roster this summer?
It's possible the Suns could take the court this upcoming season with the roster as it is now, and the depth chart would look something like this:
I see a need for another shooter and another PF, and that's even if they can smooth things over with Keef after the Mook trade, and attempts to sign his replacement. If Keef is shipped out, there will be no real PFs on the roster unless his trade returns one, or you count end of bench Jon Leuer as a rotation player. The Suns have about $8M in cap space cleared from the trade of Marcus Morris, Reggie Bullock and Danny Granger. Let's examine what might come next.
Still under contract for the next four seasons at a reasonable $8M/year, the status of Markieff Morris grew more complicated over the last few days. He saw the Suns dump his twin brother, despite the twins' obviously tight bond and repeated statements they wanted to play together. Then he saw the team (and city) make a hard charge toward signing his replacement.
"If some of those moves ruffle Goran's feathers, so be it," Babby said.
Keef's feathers are duly ruffled. According to one man's allegation, the result of Keef's hurt feelings sent him to the ER, so this is not a small consideration. When you look at Morris' overall body of work with his temper problems on the court, it seems safe to assume he won't handle these slights well.
None of this necessarily matters because Keef lacks leverage in the situation, as he's under contract with the Suns for four more seasons. If he wants to throw a pity party, or act in a recalcitrant manner, he can do that. But if he wants to play NBA basketball, it will be for the Suns or whatever team they may choose to trade him to. They hold all the cards here.
Still, it usually doesn't make sense to keep a malcontent around, and the abrupt trading of Marcus demonstrates that the organization might have reached the end of their patience in dealing with the twins' antics. It would likely take a fair amount of fence-mending to bring Keef back next season, and it might be best for all involved to go their separate ways.
Whether Keef stays or goes, the Suns still have a hole to fill at PF, needing at least a backup should Keef stay. Here are some of the remaining options:
If you need to be reminded of how good a value Keef's contract is, look no further than Lee's $15.5M price tag. A roughly equivalent player to Keef, Lee rebounds better, scores about the same, and isn't as good on the defensive end. His reputation took a bit of a hit when the Warriors improved after replacing him with Draymond Green in their starting lineup, but the 32 year old Lee's still a productive player when given minutes.
The Warriors are eager to dump his bloated salary, so the Suns could secure an asset such as a draft pick or picks in return, but would also have to send some salary back to Golden State. Lee's overpaid, though the good news is the contract expires after this season. He's also known as a high character individual and great teammate, which would certainly be welcome for a Suns team trying to improve chemistry.
Another player known for strong character and professionalism but also growing long in the tooth, 34 year old West has already entertained suitors on the free agent market. One of those teams is the Spurs, and if they get him in addition to Aldridge, well, that would just be a kick in the crotch.
West is a rock solid player: strong defender, generally efficient scorer, and competent rebounder, though he's not the same player who made a couple of All-Star games with New Orleans in the late '00s. He'd look very nice on the Suns, but they haven't even been mentioned as a team he's considering. While I hate to say it, he profiles as the type of player who goes to San Antonio late in his career and gets a ring out of the deal. Damn them.
Bass is another dependable role player who won't wow anybody, but provides value all the same. He's a decent defender who has posted "meaty part of the bell curve" stats of 14.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per 36 minutes over his career. Not a three point shooter, Bass makes his living in the mid-range, where he shot an impressive 45.5% from 16 feet out to the arc last season.
He's started most of the last two years for the Celtics, making $6+M/year. I'd assume he'll command a salary in that ballpark for his next contract, depending upon whether teams view him as a starter or backup.
You knew this was coming, right? Could Amar'e make a Dan Majerle-like late career return to the Valley of the Sun? Beyond the sentimental reasons (which are, of course, ultimately irrelevant), there are valid basketball reasons to bring Amar'e back to the Suns.
While his defense is as bad as ever, and his rebounding as mediocre as ever, the dude can still score efficiently. In his short stint with the Mavs last season, he shot 58% from the field in scoring 23.5 points/36 minutes, good for a sterling 22.3 PER and 117 O-Rating. Amar'e will turn 33 this season, and wasn't able to play a full 82 games in any of his Knicks seasons, but could benefit from the Suns vaunted training staff, as he did earlier in his career.
Annual salary and length of contract would obviously be key here. Amar'e has made $166M so far in his NBA career, so one would hope he doesn't need to make decisions based on financial considerations anymore. If the Suns could get him for something like 2 years/$8-10M total, he might provide the perfect scoring pop off the bench.
The one player on this list who is a true stretch big, Villanueva shot a respectable 38% from 3 last season as sort of a bigger, taller version of Anthony Tolliver. At this point in his career, the 30 year old Villanueva has proven to be no more than a specialist and certainly not a viable starter. But there's value in a 6'11" player who can spot up at the arc and nail 3s at a decent rate, especially at the bargain basement salary of $1.3M the Mavs paid him last year.
If the Suns need a backup PF and a shooter, Villanueva is both. And much like the Tolliver signing a year ago, it won't harm anything if he washes out. If it's a low risk/low reward move you're looking for, Villanueva's your man.
What say you, Suns fans? Keep Keef? Don't keep Keef? Sign one of these other guys?