The Phoenix Suns have not signed a top-of-the-market free agent in the past decade, and the list is quite short over their full existence as a franchise. This is not breaking news.
Now that the best part of free agency is over - as Ray pointed out yesterday in his "what's left on the market" piece - look for the Suns to turn to the trade market for major long-term and short-term improvements to the roster.
In my opinion, the Suns won't open the season with a player named Morris on the roster, unless Chris Morris comes out of retirement, so something will happen over the next three months.
This article focuses on available power forward replacements.
If you want nothing more than a long-range bomber to stretch the floor from the PF position, like he did in Orlando a few years ago and New Orleans more recently until the surge of the The Brow, then Ryan Anderson is the big man for you. Anderson can drop 5-8 threes in a game without even getting tired. Heck, he could do that in one quarter. He can also rebound respectably (6-8 per 36 minutes, though declining in recent years).
But he's an absolute sloth on pick-and-roll defense, and a turnstile defending in isolation, so you'd really better get a lot of points out of him.
He is eminently available in New Orleans, who just spent hundreds of millions on an extension for The Brow ($140 million) and re-upping Omer Asik ($60 mil) and Alexis Ajinca ($30 million). Anderson was already mostly out of the rotation late last year as The Brow owned nearly all the PF minutes and Anderson is too slow to spot at SF.
Anderson could fit cleanly into the Suns cap without giving up any assets in the deal, and New Orleans just might be okay with that given their other obligations.
He's definitely on the market. And if given the minutes, he would provide a steady 18 points and 8-10 rebounds from the power forward position. His ability to score around the basket in a variety of ways would be a welcome addition to the Suns offense.
However, he's a turnstile on defense who gives up as much as he produces, making him a "wash" overall on the floor on most nights. The other problem is contract, a whopping $15.5 million in 2015-16 that's about $7 million more than the Suns have available in cap space. I don't think he's worth any real assets to acquire for one year of playing time.
The Bulls just drafted Bobby Portis, a power forward by trade and one of the best talents in the second half of the draft's first round. You know I loved the kid, though he didn't rise up the Suns boards as high as I thought he might have.
Add Portis to a power forward rotation of Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic - who won't be shackled as much next year with a new coach - and you've got an odd-man-out scenario for Taj Gibson. The Suns have a salary slot open that just barely fits Taj into the fold if the Bulls just want to move him, but the Suns would likely want to send back player(s) - like P.J. Tucker - rather than picks.
Adding Gibson allows the Suns to find a taker for Keef without bringing back a starting caliber PF in the same transaction.
In the past week, Charlotte has added Spencer Hawes and Frank Kaminsky, who both play stretch-big positions. The Hornets also have Al Jefferson for one more season and unproven Cody Zeller entering his third season, but nothing on their front line after that.
Rumors had Zeller on the market if they drafted Kaminsky. Zeller came on strong in his second season last year off the bench as a big who can defend pretty well and rebound okay (5.8 in 24 minutes), but has not come anywhere near a stretch player on offense. He scores well at the basket (57% conversion), but is poor outside 3 feet. Could be the scheme, could be Zeller. I do know that coach Hornacek though Zeller has plenty of range in pre-draft workouts in 2013.
Maybe the Suns should explore sending Markieff Morris to Charlotte to give them a proven front-court player who can play either PF or C (in a small lineup). He can play next to Kaminsky, who is much more of a stretch four/five.
In return, the Suns could acquire Cody Zeller, who Hornacek loved in predraft workouts and thought could become a good three-point shooter, and a future draft pick for Keef. Charlotte doesn't have much else the Suns would want at this time, unless you're a Marvin Williams fan (yes, he's still in the league).
While Denver tried to clear Ty Lawson off the books, they are also open to clearing any number of their players this summer after stumbling twice as hard as anything the Suns have suffered in the past couple of years. They have a lot of nice pieces, but like the Suns none of them are superstars.
Kenneth Faried is an overpaid role player who can gobble up rebounds and dunks in bunches, but doesn't provide much else and is fairly clueless on defense. Add in that he's paid 50% more than Keef, and you might want to hold off on that guy.
However, if Danilo Gallinari could get healthy he just might be a lot of what the Suns need. He's a stretch four, like Anderson, but actually a worse rebounder. The Suns could mask his rebounding issues with Chandler/Len at center if he can stretch the floor on the other end like the Suns offense needs so badly.
Gallinari is only under contract for the 2015-16 season, and could be had if the Suns want to swap a PF (Keef) for him.
I know, I know, you've heard this one before. But Love remains just about the best fit in the game for the Suns offense, and though he signed a near-max extension last week in Cleveland, his buddy LeBron James is giving the Cavs the cold shoulder until they max out his client Tristan Thompson as well. It just so happens that Thompson plays the same position as Love.
At center, Anderson Varejao is coming back from injury (again) and Timofey Mozgov is under contract as well, so LeBron's client won't get as many minutes next year if he's behind those three in the pecking order.
The Cavs had to extend Love after giving up Andrew Wiggins for him, but likely will look for trade options for Love over the next year. Love cannot be traded until January. If he's not yet fitting into the Cleveland scheme, GM David Griffin just might brush aside his lingering feelings against Phoenix to pick up the phone from Ryan McDonough when it rings.
Ryan McDonough has executed nearly a dozen trades in the past three summers, half of them in the past six months. He's not afraid to wheel and deal.
In fact, the Suns could execute more than one of these trades to reshape the PF position for 2015-16 without handicapping their future if they are ready to move on entirely from the Morris twins.
The only superstar in the bunch is Kevin Love, and even he isn't necessarily a messiah. In fact, he most certainly isn't. But that's the market out there.
In acquiring Tyson Chandler, the Suns signaled they are tired of losing and know that the team is just too talented as it is to "tank" properly. This Suns franchise doesn't like the idea of tanking anyway, so don't be surprised when they still make moves to try to make the playoffs.
Most of these trades could help in that regard.