20121216_hcs_sy4_042

Times are tough! Like the economy, over the past couple of years, the Suns roster has been ravaged and their performance has caused many to run screaming in terror. As our politicians face many different options on the table to turn things around, so do our Suns. And like our politicians, we fans cannot seem to come together and agree to a solution to our problems.

In an effort to bridge the gap across the aisle, I will try, by process of elimination, to help think through our options so that we may be able to pare them down to the most likely strategy for future success.

Before we dive head first into the extremely shallow pool of free agents [most likely culminating with a severe head trauma and probably paralysis], I want to first present a few caveats, whatever those are.

When looking at the free agent ["FA"] crops, I only looked at unrestricted players. Restricted guys are tough to pry away from their teams unless it's one of those poison-pill deals (Lin, Asik) where the suitor can back-load a contract for a second-year player who doesn't have a guaranteed contract (ie. second rounder, or free agent). Those don't come often. At all. So let's focus only on unrestricted players.

Additionally, I don't plan on commenting on all of the FA players.

I will only highlight a few, and here is why: It is clear the Suns have a number of role players, and based on the range of thoughts we fans have on those role players, they number several and are from decent to very good role players. It is apparent that we have no #1 or #2 option on this team.

Our best player is Goran Dragic [although I would say Dudley is outplaying him right now] and he really should be the third best player on a team. While I would love to see him become a #2 guy, realistically I have my doubts he will become that. Certainly I have no delusions that Goran will ever be a #1.

That said, the purpose of this exercise is to determine if free agency is a method that will yield players who can help turn this franchise around. I will look at the next three years of FA crop to see if it is possible to be a player in the FA market over multiple years in order to accomplish our goals - to find that #1 and/or #2 guy.

Granted, there are other methods you can use in combination with FA to accomplish this, but let's keep it simple and not complicate this thought process with too many variables. So, I will look only at FA that are #1 or #2 players [and are not at the ends of their careers], as anyone else only adds to the role players we already have, and more importantly those role players are replaceable parts that in the end only matter after you know who your main cogs are.

For example, Manu is nice, but not an answer. Neither is Kevin Martin, Al Jefferson, David West or Stephen Jackson. Sure, if we acquire a #1 and #2, and are able to get one of these guys I would do it, but let's focus on the task at hand.

2013 Unrestricted Free Agents

Chris Paul: I give it a 99.9999999% chance that he will die from a lightening strike before he signs in Phoenix. "So you are saying there is a chance!" Move along.

Dwight Howard: He is a weird guy, so it is possible he could decide to come here. I would give it a 5% chance, just because Dwight is a little off. Nevertheless, I believe Howard to be a very good #2, and an average #1 option [I might even be overvaluing his contributions]. Of course, looking at the Suns currently, Howard looks like a #1 with a bullet, but in reality, he has proven he cannot carry a team. In fact, he may be proving that he cannot even contribute to a talent laden roster enough to get them in the playoffs. What will it cost? Max money.

Josh Smith: I think he will sign were the money is, so I will give it a 50% chance, not knowing what his market might be and whether Sarver is going to play in that market. I know a lot of you love Smith, but truth be told, Josh Smith is what he is. The days of believing that he has huge upside are over. He has proven himself to be a 16/8 guy that will defend well part of the time. I see him as a great #3, an okay #2 and a crappy #1 guy. What would you pay for that?

Andrew Bynum: The obligatory "if" statement - if healthy, Bynum is a #1 guy in my view. He has a post game and demands doubles. Is he a #1 on the level of James, Durant, or other past greats? Probably not. But in today's game, he is a top 10 player [not talent, but player] when he is healthy. But there is your problem. Bynum is following in Greg Oden's footsteps. I am not sure he will be playing in a year or ever again. But, we do have the trainers to get him right. The question is, do we want to max this guy out when we wouldn't max out Amare? I give it a 20% likelihood he ever gets healthy for a long stretch, and a 30% likelihood he would be willing to sign here, but a 1% chance of Sarver actually doing this.

Paul Millsap: One thing I don't like is when a player who has been given plenty of opportunity, actually has downward trending production. Despite Millsap killing us and looking good doing it, he has not improved while in the league and is probably as good as he will ever be. I think he is a #3 guy at best, but really more a #4. Plus, he will command some change. I am not convinced to spend more than $6-8M on a guy like him.

J.J. Hickson: Going after a FA that is having close to a career year in a contract year is scary. Doing so for a guy that is not producing much more than Gortat is even more daunting. Hickson is an undersized whatever he is, or an oversized whatever he isn't. Regardless, JJ hasn't shown steady improvement, doesn't possess any great skill set and is probably a solid #4. Yes, he is probably slightly better than Scola [mostly because of age] or any of our other PF, but so what. He gets us nowhere if we focus on him first.

A look at the 2014 Crop

The big boys here are [in no real order] Dirk, Kobe, Pierce, Granger, Iggy, Pau, and to a lesser extent, Deng, Ellis, Mayo, Bogut and I will include Gortat.

So here we go: old, old jerk, old, injured but possible #2-3 guy, #2-3 but interesting, old, then the lesser players are guys I don't think, for one reason or another, are in the #2 category.

How About 2015?

This crop has some gems [I said some]: Rondo, Melo, Aldridge, Amare, Marc Gasol, Chandler, Deandre Jordan, Gay, Parsons, Asik. However, being three years away, I am not sure how relevant they are to a plan that would be seeking a #1 or #2 guy for a turnaround now. Certainly if we drafted well, traded well, or got lucky and signed a guy like Bynum and he stayed healthy, this crop might yield a real gem as our #2 or #3 guy. Do we have that kind of patience? Also, most of these younger guys, if still viable #1 or #2 options, will re-sign with their current clubs by then.

Conclusion:

In looking at the crop of free agents, it is clear to me that hinging our success on finding a franchise or even a go-to player through these means is a long shot at best. The only guy that seems worth going after is Andrew Bynum, and by worth I mean not worth it. If he was healthy, it is a no-brainer. But how many of you believe that will happen? Exactly!

The rest of the crop are either players that are not going to significantly impact the team if they are all we acquire, or are guys that are too unlikely to sign here. Looking down the road, the picture doesn't get any better. While a Granger or Iggy might be a nice grab, it still really depends upon our ability to acquire a #1 option and how much Granger or Iggy command.

The bottom line here is that we are one step closer to figuring out the correct path to success, and it isn't going to be through free agency. While FA might play a role [via acquiring other role players or upgrading our current roster], it certainly is not going to be the main catalyst for transformation.

Next, we will look at solving our problems through trades...

159214838

Michael Beasley: F

Beasley was the first guy the Suns met with and signed this past summer. He was given a 3-year, $18 million deal to be the Suns new starter at small forward, replacing the departed veteran Grant Hill.

Now, 27 games into his Suns career, the Beasley experiment has been a total and abject failure. He's averaging 9.6 points on 10.1 field goal attempts. He's accomplished such a feat (more shots than points) by shooting 37.2 percent from the field. He's putting up career lows in almost every single category.

Beasley is playing the worst basketball of his career, and it's not even close. Beasley's O-Rating is a putrid 86 and he's at a -1.2 offensive win shares. And he was supposed to be one of the Suns' go-to scorers. Defensively, he hasn't been much better, with a 110 D-Rating and 0.3 defensive win shares. By any statistical measure you look at, Beasley has been on of the worst players in the league.

Beasley spent a couple games riding the bench before rejoining the rotation against Boston, and as soon as he stepped on the court Boston went on a run and took control of the game with Beasley's man Jeff Green going off for 10 points.

I really have no idea why Beasley has been this horrendous, but the fact is he has been and I see no reason to expect much improvement. It's time to pull the plug on the Beasley experiment already. If the Suns can't find a way to move him in a trade, then they need to bite the bullet and waive him at the end of the year using the stretch provision. This would allow them to spread the remaining money due to Beasley over the next five years for cap purposes, minimizing the damage done.


Goran Dragic: B

Goran Dragic was the Suns' other big free agent acquisition this summer. The Suns brought Dragic back to the Valley of the Sun to replace another departed veteran in Steve Nash, and thus far Dragic has don a solid if unspectacular job of running the point.

Dragic is putting up 14.5 points and 6.3 assists in 32.7 minutes per game. Those are above-average number for a point guard. However, Sun fan thought they were getting a little more in Dragic after seeing him put up 18 points and eight assists per game as a starter for Houston.

Dragic got off to a great start in November, but has struggled with inconsistency since then, and the Suns have struggled to win. However, while Dragic does need to step up and be more assertive, he has been placed in a very difficult situation (the Suns' roster is a mess, and their play on the court reflects that). I'm giving Dragic a bit of a pass right now.

Overall, Dragic was a good signing and is a solid, above-average starting point guard moving forward.

Shannon Brown: C-

The Suns brought Shannon Brown back on a cheap two-year contract after the shooting guard market dried up, and they've got pretty much what they expected out of him. He wasn't good last year, and he hasn't been good this year. Occasionally he gets hot and makes some shots, but his shot selection is almost always poor and he really doesn't do much to help the Suns win, especially considering his efforts on the defensive end.

Brown has been what the Suns should have expected him to be so far, although he's really been struggling over the last several games and we haven't seen any of those games where he's got it going (thus the minus).

Brown's second year is not fully guaranteed, so the Suns can move on without him next year if they so choose. I'm hoping they do. Jared Dudley and P.J. Tucker are a solid pair of wings. Now the Suns need to focus on upgrading at the other two wing spots (Beasley, Brown). Either draft or sign someone. Just don't bring Brown back for another year.

Jermaine O'Neal: B+

When the Suns brought in O'Neal, I thought he was done. He looked really old in Boston, and couldn't stay healthy. But we've seen a completely different O'Neal in Phoenix. Jared Dudley tweeted this summer that O'Neal looked five years younger, and he wasn't kidding.

However, at times O'Neal has played as if he really were five -- or maybe 10 -- years younger offensively, and it's led to some very poor shots. However, poor shot selection is not an uncommon trait on this Suns roster, and O'Neal has provided a solid interior defensive presence.

The fact that O'Neal has played in 28 games this year in itself is a small miracle, and more than good enough for a B grade. But this should be a one-year thing, for both parties. In fact, the Suns might be well-served to scope out the trade market and see what contender may be in need of another big.

P.J. Tucker: A

From Summer League, to a guaranteed contract, to a rotation spot and now a starting spot, P.J. Tucker's path is a testament to where hard work and a little defensive intensity can take you. Tucker was the the Suns best pick-up, value-wise, an he continues to impress.

Tucker is a hard-nosed player who doesn't back down from anyone. He's easily the Suns best perimeter defender, and probably one of their better rebounders as well. And now he's even begun to show some signs of an offensive game.

Tucker isn't a gamechanger by any means, but he is a solid find and should be a keeper moving forward.

159214838

Michael Beasley: F

Beasley was the first guy the Suns met with and signed this past summer. He was given a 3-year, $18 million deal to be the Suns new starter at small forward, replacing the departed veteran Grant Hill.

Now, 37 games into his Suns career, the Beasley experiment has been a total and abject failure. He's averaging 9.6 points on 10.1 field goal attempts. He's accomplished such a feat (more shots than points) by shooting 37.2 percent from the field. He's putting up career lows in almost every single category.

Beasley is playing the worst basketball of his career, and it's not even close. Beasley's O-Rating is a putrid 86 and he's at a -1.2 offensive win shares. And he was supposed to be one of the Suns' go-to scorers. Defensively, he hasn't been much better, with a 110 D-Rating and 0.3 defensive win shares. By any statistical measure you look at, Beasley has been one of the worst players in the league.

Beasley spent a couple games riding the bench before rejoining the rotation against Boston, and as soon as he stepped on the court Boston went on a run and took control of the game with Beasley's man Jeff Green going off for 10 points.

I really have no idea why Beasley has been this horrendous, but the fact is he has been and I see no reason to expect much improvement. It's time to pull the plug on the Beasley experiment already. If the Suns can't find a way to move him in a trade, then they need to bite the bullet and waive him at the end of the year using the stretch provision. This would allow them to spread the remaining money due to Beasley over the next five years for cap purposes, minimizing the damage done.


Goran Dragic: B

Goran Dragic was the Suns' other big free agent acquisition this summer. The Suns brought Dragic back to the Valley of the Sun to replace another departed veteran in Steve Nash, and thus far Dragic has done a solid, if unspectacular, job of running the point.

Dragic is putting up 14.5 points and 6.3 assists in 32.7 minutes per game. Those are above-average number for a point guard. However, Suns fans thought they were getting a little more in Dragic after seeing him put up 18 points and eight assists per game as a starter for Houston.

Dragic got off to a great start in November, but has struggled with inconsistency since then, and the Suns have struggled to win. However, while Dragic does need to step up and be more assertive, he has been placed in a very difficult situation (the Suns' roster is a mess, and their play on the court reflects that). I'm giving Dragic a bit of a pass right now.

Overall, Dragic was a good signing and is a solid, above-average starting point guard moving forward.

Shannon Brown: C-

The Suns brought Shannon Brown back on a cheap two-year contract after the shooting guard market dried up, and they've got pretty much what they expected out of him. He wasn't good last year, and he hasn't been good this year. Occasionally he gets hot and makes some shots, but his shot selection is almost always poor and he really doesn't do much to help the Suns win, especially considering his efforts on the defensive end.

Brown has been what the Suns should have expected him to be so far, although he's really been struggling over the last several games and we haven't seen any of those games where he's got it going (thus the minus).

Brown's second year is not fully guaranteed, so the Suns can move on without him next year if they so choose. I'm hoping they do. Jared Dudley and P.J. Tucker are a solid pair of wings. Now the Suns need to focus on upgrading at the other two wing spots (Beasley, Brown). Either draft or sign someone. Just don't bring Brown back for another year.

Jermaine O'Neal: B+

When the Suns brought in O'Neal, I thought he was done. He looked really old in Boston, and couldn't stay healthy. But we've seen a completely different O'Neal in Phoenix. Jared Dudley tweeted this summer that O'Neal looked five years younger, and he wasn't kidding.

However, at times O'Neal has played as if he really were five -- or maybe 10 -- years younger offensively, and it's led to some very poor shots. However, poor shot selection is not an uncommon trait on this Suns roster, and O'Neal has provided a solid interior defensive presence.

The fact that O'Neal has played in 28 games this year in itself is a small miracle, and more than good enough for a B grade. But this should be a one-year thing, for both parties. In fact, the Suns might be well-served to scope out the trade market and see what contender may be in need of another big.

P.J. Tucker: A

From Summer League, to a guaranteed contract, to a rotation spot and now a starting spot, P.J. Tucker's path is a testament to where hard work and a little defensive intensity can take you. Tucker was the the Suns best pick-up, value-wise, an he continues to impress.

Tucker is a hard-nosed player who doesn't back down from anyone. He's easily the Suns best perimeter defender, and probably one of their better rebounders as well. And now he's even begun to show some signs of an offensive game.

Tucker isn't a gamechanger by any means, but he is a solid find and should be a keeper moving forward.

The Phoenix Suns switched up the script a bit, yet the ending remained the same. As has been the case in nearly every game this season, the Suns played some quality stretches of basketball but enough...

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]
20130109_gav_aa6_319

It's like watching the same movie over and over and over. The plot has changed a bit since early in the season when the Suns struggled to start the game and out of the half. Now they are starting the first and third quarters well but getting torched when the bench unit comes in and simply can't close out in the end.

Rinse. Lather. Repeat.

Are there any answers? Are there any more possible ways Alvin Gentry can tweak his rotations? Probably not. We might as well start giving some of those minutes to Kendall Marshall and Luke Zeller if for no other reason than to give us poor fools who watch this team something different to look at.

There are times, especially when the other team is lulled into laziness, when the Suns starters do a decent job running the offense. The ball can zip around a bit with Dudley and Scola providing nice interior passing that leads to some open shots.

Tucker, of course, works his tail off on both ends. But that's about all I got.

The second unit is a complete disaster.

Gentry gave Beasley some burn just because I guess he felt like he had to or why not. Beasley rewarded Gentry with statuesque defense and black hole offense that even all the neighborhood black holes were ashamed of. Did I forget to mention Shannon Brown? No.

The Suns did manage a 17-0 run to start the third but it felt like the Celtics were coasting more than the Suns were cruising. At some point around half way through the period they remembered they had to actually try a little bit and Boston quickly stemmed the tide and retook the lead before the Suns could separate.

The fourth quarter? Well, you've seen that before. Fill in the blanks. The only difference was Gentry's benching of his bench but the starters getting more minutes didn't change the outcome.

Next up, Brooklyn Nets on Friday. In Brookyln. What could go wrong?

Visit CelticsBlog to hear how horrible their team is playing and remind them what horrible really looks like.


Final - 1.9.2013 1 2 3 4 Total
Phoenix Suns 24 17 23 15 79
Boston Celtics 23 30 14 20 87

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