After pulling off a great coup last summer in getting Eric Bledsoe, the Phoenix Suns have enough assets to do the same kind of deal again.

The Phoenix Suns are in position to make a big splash this summer, armed with $20 million in cap space while Eric Bledsoe and P.J. Tucker test the restricted free agent waters and a handful of draft picks.

The Suns will be mentioned in most every big-name rumor as free agency approaches and runs rampant: Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Gordon Hayward, Greg Monroe, and so on and so on. The Suns have the means to acquire any of those - it's just a matter of fit and, in some cases, working out the trade parameters.

But don't count out another trade that follows last summer's blueprint of acquiring young, undervalued prospects for playoff-ready veterans. The Suns aren't "there" yet, so they need to keep acquiring undervalued youngsters whenever possible.

I know what you did last summer

Last summer, the Phoenix Suns had handful mid-priced veterans who were coveted by playoff-hopeful teams enough to produce a bevy of young talent and picks in return.

Washington wanted a starting center for a playoff run to replace the injured Emeka Okafor. The Suns gave them Marcin Gortat in exchange for the 17th overall pick in this year's draft.

Indiana wanted a backup PF for a title run. The Suns gave them Luis Scola in exchange for the 27th overall pick in this year's draft, third-leading scorer Gerald Green and leading rebounder Miles Plumlee.

But best of all, the Los Angeles Clippers wanted sweet shooting wing players. The Suns gave them Jared Dudley and a second round pick in exchange for starting point guard Eric Bledsoe who will be an All-Star candidate in the coming years.

That's three starters and two first-round draft picks for one starter and two veteran role players.

Can the Suns do it again?

First of all, Ryan McDonough is going to have a tougher time consummating deals this summer. Every GM in the league is going to raise the value on anyone McD wants in return.

You want the guy on the end of my bench, that my coach wouldn't even play last year?


Uh well, we have big plans for that guy. Sorry. (cups hand over phone, whispers to assistant 'trade away everyone in front of that kid! Get him on the court next season!')

But seriously, other GMs would be wise to hesitate working with McDonough on a similar trade this summer. Yet, the offseason is all about acquiring talent, and many GMs looking at the playoffs will undervalue their young assets in order to get that glue guy who help get them over the top in the playoffs.

Channing Frye for Harrison Barnes

First of all, I'll say that Barnes has never been on my 'drool list'. He is not a first or second option on any team because he doesn't appear to have that killer scoring instinct. He's primarily a jump shooter despite having enough handle and athleticism to get to the rack when he wants. He's similar to Rudy Gay in that way.

However, he did start 81 games for the Warriors a year ago as a 20-year old rookie, and helped them make the playoffs as the fourth scoring option in the offense behind Curry, Thompson and Lee.

Barnes struggled this past season when he was moved to the bench in favor of Andre Iguodala. Barnes was needed to provide scoring punch in the second unit, but regressed under the pressure of being a more primary option.

Still, he's only 21 and has the skillset to be a great player.

How could the Suns pilfer Barnes from Golden State?

The Warriors have no room for Barnes in their starting lineup, having Andre Iguodala under contract for three more seasons.

What they really need is a stretch big man to compliment their inside scoring of David Lee and paint presence (but non-scoring threat) Andrew Bogut.

Amin Elhassan of mentioned on a podcast with RealGM last week (there's 40 great minutes of Suns talk right there!) that Channing Frye would be a perfect fit for the Warriors offense, spreading the floor with his shooting while also being able to defend the post on the defensive end.

Would the Warriors want to swap Barnes for Frye?

My take

While this is definitely an intriguing option, I don't really want to do the trade unless the Suns have already made some other moves to squeeze Frye's minutes.

I love having Frye on this team and he loves being here. He is a great calming influence in the locker room that's really necessary for a young team to stay even-keeled. And most of all, he's got a great connection with Goran Dragic, who will be a free agent next summer if he wants to be.

But if, and it's a big IF, the Suns acquire another stretch big man in the draft (Payne) or trade (Love) or free agency (Bosh) and don't have the room for Frye in the lineup anymore, maybe just maybe swapping Frye for Barnes is a great deal.

Barnes is much like Bledsoe - stuck behind an All-Star caliber player ahead of him with no starting role in sight. The Warriors just might decide a sure-thing stretch big man is more important for their "here and now" playoff run than the development of Barnes into a Sixth Man candidate.

Would you trade Channing Frye for Harrison Barnes this summer?

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Alex Len comes from what was maybe the worst draft in a decade. When Mason Plumlee, he of 7.4 and 4.4 rebounds per game, is a finalist for Rookie of the Year, it was a bad year for rookies.

While fellow rookie Archie Goodwin ran up the score on Sacramento with 29 points in the season finale, 7-1 center Alex Len had a much worse final game: 0 points, 4 rebounds in 12 minutes. This from the #5 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.

Bust, right?

I mean, if you're the 5th overall pick in the Draft and you're taller than 95% of the players in the league, you ought to be able to dominate. Or, at the very least, score a few points against a team missing their best center, DeMarcus Cousins, right?

But hey, at least he gave Nick Young his favorite moment of the season.

2013-14 in review

Len finished with the worst PER on the team at 7.2, indicating that the average NBA player was twice as valuable as him this season (league average = 15.0 PER). Len made only 42.3% of his shots, nearly all of them within a couple feet of the basket.


Len did have a late start on the season due to the foot injury (stress fracture requiring surgery) in college, and only played 42 games. When he did return to the lineup, the Suns were in a playoff chase that went down to the very last game of the season, so a rawrawraw 20-year old rookie center was not going to get much time off the pine.

Still, he did what he could on the practice court and between games to show the coach he was ready.

"From the time he came in, after his ankle issues," coach Jeff Hornacek said of Len. "He did a great job of working hard."

A closer look at Len's shot chart shows he was fairly effective as long as he stayed right at the basket.


The kid's got skills. He's long. He's aggressive. Here's a nice step-through dunk of Len's this season.

Len was slightly below league average on shots at the rim, which is saying a lot for a rookie. Remember how Markieff Morris and even Goran Dragic were terrible at scoring at the rim as rookies but got a lot better in after two seasons.

"Both guys have a good feel for the game," Hornacek said of Len and fellow rookie Goodwin. "They will figure out the speed of the game. Those guys are two of the hardest working guys on the team. They are in there in practice every day, they’re in the weight room, they stay after."

But I won't take any more time sugarcoating Len's rookie season. It was bad. Real bad.

"It was frustrating," Len said of injuries impacting so much of the season. "But it is what it is. I'm looking forward, I don't look back."

The good news is that it's over.

Summer of 2014 - where it all starts

This summer will be a big one for Alex Len. He certainly can't get any worse. Let's see him go to Summer League with a lot more rope, minutes and opportunity to succeed.

"I’ve always felt that the offseason between your first and second year is the biggest summer of your career," GM Ryan McDonough said of the rookies. "We knew we drafted two of the younger guys in last year’s draft and it was going to take time. You saw flashes of potential this year. Summer league will be big for them. It’s a big summer for those guys."

Len said he will stay in Phoenix this summer.

"It's going to be a huge summer," Len said in his exit interview. "Getting healthy, getting stronger, getting better. I'm going to stay here this summer."

"I just need to play a lot, I'm going to try to play as many pickup games as I can," he continued.

I could discuss his pros and cons, but all you need to do is look at his scouting report from college. It's all still true and all still relevant. In case you've forgotten, here it is.

Alex Len can get a lot better this summer. We didn't see that Alex Len this year - the one on the video from Maryland (at least, in the strengths section!). That Len was much more mobile than the one we watched in Phoenix. And most of that video was WITH playing with that stress fracture before he was shut down for surgery.

"The game was too fast for me this year," he said. "For me, the game just needs to slow down."

He's going to turn just 21 this summer and it generally takes big men longer to develop than little men, especially when recovering from injury. He's lifting weights and getting his mobility back as the ankles recover.

He has the benefit of offseason coaching from the staff that brought you Miles Plumlee, who'd logged only 55 minutes as a rookie for a team in a playoff chase. Len got 362 minutes, so there's a big plus.

He has the benefit of a coach who put every single Suns rotation player in a position to succeed this past year - he played to their strengths and hid their weaknesses. Hornacek can do that for Len too.

Len just needs to stay healthy, gain 20-30 pounds and mature into his NBA skill set. All that takes time and patience.

But once Summer League starts, the clock begins to tick.

Good fit?

One thing ESPN Insider/NBA scout Amin Elhassan said since day one, and repeated even before the preseason scrimmage in Flagstaff last September, is that Alex Len is not a natural fit in the Suns offense.

Len is more of a lumbering guy than gazelle. And in the Suns offense, he will always look slow by comparison. This is no Amare Stoudemire, though a Maryland blogger suggested as much last summer.

But he is really long, and really talented. Maybe he'll be a taller, slow-motion Amare who can dive to the basket and finish? Maybe.

More likely, he's more a Marc Gasol type with a good midrange range and eventually a good postup game. Except that Hornacek said guys hanging around the 15-foot mark clog the lane too much. He already moved the Morrii out of there.

So Len will likely be a close-to-the-basket guy who CAN step out, but spends most of his time near the hoop.

Does that fit the Suns offense and defensive schemes? I hope so.


Depending on your mood today, you're either thinking I'm dumping too much on Alex, or that I'm being realistic. I mean this article to be realistic.

Alex did not have a good season. He showed flashes of potential, and in a handful of games he made his mark. But he really is unpolished, and he needs to stay healthy for a while to break out of his shell.

Grade: D-

I'm really hoping my post-Summer League score is an A, though.

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