Will Ersan Ilyasova (7) don the orange and purple next season?

We are one week from free agency. At midnight June 30, all player contracts for the 2011-12 season expire and those players not under contract for the 2012-13 season become free agents. At that moment, and not a moment before, teams can officially begin courting those free agents to sign with their team.

The lucky ones get a call that night, and the truly fortunate get more than one. Often those calls are simply "hey, we love you and want you here. Give us a chance to top any competitor", rather than a solid contract offer, because you never want to outbid yourself. And you might want to call all of your Plan A, B and C candidates just to lodge interest.

Certainly, Deron Williams and Steve Nash's agents will get calls. Lots of them, even from teams unwilling or unable to offer competitive salaries.

The Suns are reportedly interested in four of the top 5 unrestricted free agents this summer, per this recent ranking of the Top 20 unrestricted free agents: PGs Deron Williams, Goran Dragic and Steve Nash, as well as PF Ersan Ilyasova. Of course, another 10-20 teams are interested in those same players to varying degrees, so their agents will be busy on the night of July 1.

Certainly, they don't want to sign all four of those players, who will likely be paid $45 million in 2012-13 between them. But the Suns will want all of them to know of their interest. Reportedly, Deron Williams' agent will say "thanks but no thanks", while the others will say "thanks, and we'll get back to you soon".

Interest in Ilyasova likely depends on the draft (picks and/or trades), while interest in the three point guards is hierarchical. But they will still make all of these players aware of their interest.

Most likely, the order of these players' commitments to new teams will be: Williams first, Nash second, Dragic third. And all three players know this, whether they like it or not. If the Mavericks lose out on Williams, they will likely turn to Nash. If the Suns lose out on Nash, they will likely turn to Dragic. (and then, if all else fails, reportedly to Raymond Felton via multiple outlets...ugh...).

Interest in shooting guards, like the Ilyasova situation, likely depends on the draft as well. If the Suns come away from the draft without a new SG, then Paul Coro mentions Nick Young and the possibility of interest in Eric Gordon, while John Gambodoro mentioned Randy Foye and OJ Mayo (restricted) as potential Suns targets. Shannon Brown is out there as well, loves the Suns and would love to come back. Signing any of these guys in the first week of July would be a mistake because the first week is seller's market (high salaries). Agreeing later in July could mean a significant savings.

Free agents NOT mentioned yet, that I'd hoped the Suns would be reportedly interested in: Nicolas Batum (restricted), Brandon Rush, George Hill.

Free agents NOT mentioned yet, and I'm really glad: Jamal Crawford (too old and one-dimensional), Ryan Andersen (no better than Frye), Michael Beasley (headcase), Jason Terry (old, but small), and Lou Williams (young, but small)

Reading Babby's comments leads me to the following conclusions:

  1. Suns will register their interest in a lot of free agents on July 1
  2. Suns will resolve the Nash situation first
  3. If the Suns want Ilyasova, they will have to commit right away. He will get lots of offers. I only see the Suns doing this if Lopez and/or Frye are no longer in the team's plans.
  4. All other free agents will come in a trickle. None are worth a bunch of money, no matter how the draft goes.

The draft starts it all off on Thursday, then whatever the Suns don't get on June 28 they will try to fill on July 1 and later.

As Babby says to Coro for the azcentral.com: "The overall goal is to begin the process of returning to elite status and add talent and add people to infuse youth into the team," Babby said. "There is no limitation in resources available to us to improve the team. There are no artificial restraints other than the rules and good judgment.

"We are prepared to be very active with the players who are our targets. I have complete confidence that we'll be an attractive destination for them."

Git er done!




Sully going to work in the post. That poor Michigan guy doesn't have a chance.


With the NBA Draft fast approaching on June 28th, we at Bright Side of the Sun want to cover all the bases regarding the possible players who the Phoenix Suns could draft with the #13th pick.

General Manager Lance Blanks has expressed his high opinion of this year's wing crop, and the Suns certainly do need help on the perimeter. However, there might also be spot opening in the frontcourt as reserve center Robin Lopez is a restricted free agent and is not guaranteed to return. With the recently reported lottery promises to shooting guards Dion Waiters and Austin Rivers, there is a very good chance a top ten caliber big men will be available for the Suns at 13.

Today's draft coverage focuses on one of those big men that could slide to the Suns: power forward Jared Sullinger of the Ohio State University Buckeyes.

Sullinger was a top-flight recruit coming out of high school who lived up to the hype as a freshman at Ohio State, posting a double-double and leading the Buckeyes to a 34-3 record and an appearance in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament. If Sullinger had decided to enter the NBA Draft after that one year, he likely would have been taken in the top 5.

Instead, Sullinger returned to the Buckeyes, put up similar stats and led the team on another Sweet Sixteen run. Sullinger showcased the same toughness and strength that made him a force on the block, but he also showed expanded range on his jump shot.

So then why could Sullinger be available for the Suns at 13? Make the jump to find out.

So who is Jared Sullinger?

  • Measurables: 6-foot-9 in shoes, 268 lbs., 7-foot-1.25 wingspan
  • Position: Power Forward/Center
  • Age: 20 years old (two years of college)
  • College: Ohio State University
  • Accolades: 2011 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, 2011 Big Ten Tournament MVP, 2011 and 2012 Consensus First Team All-American
  • NBA Comparisons: Best case - Luis Scola, Kevin Love, Carlos Boozer; Worst case - Glen Davis, DeJuan Blair

Per Game Stats:

Season School Conf G MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
2010-11 Ohio State Big Ten 37 31.7 6.0 11.1 .541 0.1 0.3 .250 5.1 7.2 .704 10.2 1.2 1.0 0.5 1.6 2.4 17.2
2011-12 Ohio State Big Ten 37 30.4 6.2 11.9 .519 0.4 1.1 .400 4.7 6.2 .768 9.2 1.2 1.2 1.1 1.9 2.9 17.5
Career Ohio State 74 31.0 6.1 11.5 .530 0.3 0.7 .365 4.9 6.7 .733 9.7 1.2 1.1 0.8 1.8 2.7 17.3
Provided by Sports-Reference.com/CBB: View Original Table
Generated 6/18/2012.

Advanced Stats:

Season School Conf G MP PER TS% eFG% ORB% DRB% TRB% AST% STL% BLK% TOV% USG% ORtg DRtg OWS DWS WS
2010-11 Ohio State Big Ten 37 1172 30.3 .591 .545 14.1 26.0 20.1 7.4 2.0 2.0 9.9 27.0 126.0 89.6 3.9 4.2 8.2
2011-12 Ohio State Big Ten 37 1123 30.2 .591 .538 12.4 23.9 18.2 8.6 2.3 4.0 11.5 27.9 121.8 85.8 4.1 5.2 9.3
Career Ohio State 74 2295 30.3 .591 .541 13.3 25.0 19.2 8.0 2.1 3.0 10.7 27.4 123.9 87.7 8.1 9.4 17.5
Provided by Sports-Reference.com/CBB: View Original Table
Generated 6/18/2012.

Strengths

Sullinger is a beast on the block and a monster on the boards. At 6-foot-9, Sullinger has a wide, strong base and the knowledge to use it to his advantage. His entire game is based on positioning. He has a Kevin Love-like knack for being in the right place at the right time when a shot goes up, and uses his body very well to secure the rebound.

Sullinger is more polished in the post than most college big men, which is what makes him so tough to defend. He has excellent footwork and a soft touch around the basket. He's a bruiser who loves contact and has the strength to finish through it. He has the ability to establish deep post position, and is tough to stop when he gets that close to the basket. If he can continue to refine his game and add another move or two to his arsenal he'll be an excellent offensive option.

Sullinger complements his blossoming post game with an improving outside shot. He has a nice stroke from mid-range and shoots free throws at a good rate for a big man. This season Sullinger even extended his range to the college 3-point arc, hitting 40 percent of his attempts from deep on the year. He also shows a little bit of a face-up game, which allows him to be effective both from the low and high post.

While he's not a point-forward by any stretch of the imagination, he is a willing passer who will kick it out of double-teams, which often results in hockey assists and open shots for other teammates. He also improved as a defender in his second year and is a solid positional post defender.

Weaknesses

Sullinger's biggest problem heading into the NBA is that he's not overly athletic, nor is he very tall for an NBA big. Short, earth-bound and slow-footed is not a good combination. The results of his athletic test were very poor at the combine. He was the slowest of all the power forwards that participated, and his max vertical leap was fourth to last at just 31 inches. He also did poorly in the bench press with only 9 reps, tied for second worst. His conditioning is not the greatest either, as even though he lost about ten pounds between his freshman and sophomore year his body fat percentage is still high at 10.7%.

We saw a glimpse of what might happen to him in the NBA when he played against college teams with more length in the froncourt. For example, he went just 5-19 with 13 points against Kansas and their 7-footer Jeff Withey. He gets his shot blocked far too often around the basket. And there are times where he just throws himself into the defense hoping for a foul call or that the shot would go in. He needs to play under control more and make smart decisions around the basket. Sullinger will have to prove he can still be effective when he's not playing against guys his size or smaller. His lack of athleticism also hurts him on defense, as he's not going to be much of a rim protector.

But even more troubling is that his back was medically red-flagged by doctors at the combine. Sullinger missed some time as a sophomore due to back problems, and this latest development could scare some teams off.

Conclusion

Sullinger isn't the prototypical big man that we have seen succeed in Phoenix's system. While his jumper is improving, he's much more of an inside threat than a stretch four. Plus, with the drafting of Markieff Morris last season and the wholes in other areas, a power forward may not hold as much value for the Suns in this draft.

However, he's a darn good player and based on talent alone should be gone long before the Suns pick. Should the Suns' trainers sign off on Sullinger's back, the Suns should take a long look at drafting him at 13 if he falls.

Poll
Should the Suns take Sullinger if he's still available at 13?

  350 votes | Results


Nash would never turn his back on Phoenix, would he?

Want to check out Steve starring in his own parodies of popular movie trailers? Watch him in The Amazing Spider-Man and Paranormal Activity 4 by clicking on the preceding links from NOC and YouTube.

How about a story involving an overzealous NBA writer, Steve Nash, and a "near death" experience? Here are the grisly details....

Maybe this Q & A session with Slam Online is your preferred fare, we have quite the extensive menu to satisfy the most discriminating palates... Check it out for more on soccer, Amare's engagement, and the 2010 Western Conference Finals.

Still need more Nash news? How about this juicy rumor:

An SI.com report suggests Nash may have pared down his list of potential destinations and lists them as follows:

"I heard from national-media types from around the U.S., and at least one prominent agent as well, that believe that Steve Nash has a short list," Smith said. "From what I have heard from these people, and they could be wrong, but these are coming from some pretty legitimate sources, it is a three-team race for Steve Nash in free agency: Portland, Phoenix and Toronto."

Still looking to fill your daily allowance of Nash related topics?

We asked Kristofer Habbas of SB Nation and NBA Draft Insider to share his thoughts on Nash's pending free agency and he was benevolent enough to "assist" with the following:

Look at all the contenders in each conference... They have a primetime All-Star caliber PG already. I said before the season that other than Portland, Atlanta, and Indiana there are no "playoff" teams that need Nash. Two years ago it was different.

If he wants to come off the bench as a secondary ball-handler and spot-up shooter, then the Bulls, Thunder, Celtics, and etc could use him.

That is my two cents.

Habbas also offered this relative to Toronto's situation:

They can let Bayless go and bring in Nash, their No. 8 pick, and Jonas (Valanciunas) next year.

Not only could the Raptors do that, but with their auspicious cap situation they might even have enough left to bring in another free agent. Maybe that doesn't sound so bad compared to Phoenix after all....

Hopefully this will help take the edge off, Nash withdrawals are no laughing matter.


The Phoenix Suns need a point guard. Kendall Marshall is as true a point guard as the 2012 Draft has to offer. It could be a match made in heaven. If Marshall lasts until the 13th pick the Suns have...

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He can jump, anyway.

Last year about this time, we started hearing more and more about two prospects in relation to the Suns that hadn't previously been linked to the Suns at all (Markieff Morris and Iman Shumpert). We were all "Who?" But in retrospect, the Suns had fallen in love with both players and both turned out to be solid values at #13 despite little buzz around them.

This year, the loved ones appear to be PG Kendall Marshall and PF/C Arnette Moultrie. Both are talented enough to be picked at #13, but neither has been linked to the Suns until recently. Marshall has a pass-first game and mentality similar to the Suns' incumbent PG while being compared to Andre Miller and Jose Calderon, while Moultrie's game has been compared to Kris Humphries and Jason Thompson. (Interesting that 3 of those 4 are free agents this summer.)

Will the Suns eschew their shot-creating shooting guard need in favor of a new PG or PF/C? What if Jeremy Lamb is still on the board, or Terrence Ross? If Marshall is drafted, is that a goodbye signal from Nash? If Moultrie is drafted, is that a goodbye signal to Channing Frye or Robin Lopez?

I sure hope Paul Coro of azcentral.com doesn't hate me for using his tweets for story ideas so often, but Paul is the only guy reporting new information about the Suns these days and I just don't have the connections like he does. We love you, Paul! And I will ALWAYS give you full credit for breaking news.

Marshall-moultrie_medium

Since we'd previously reported that Marshall had posted a local channel's pic of Phoenix weather on Wednesday night, can we guess that Marshall was in Phoenix for at least two more days this week? Sounds like a budding love affair to me.

And who's this Arnette Moultrie character? BSotS hasn't even done a prospect preview on him, which probably guarantees he will be the ultimate pick. I'd better get working on that sucker. Draftexpress.com compares Moultrie favorably to Kris Humphries and Jason Thompson, meaning he's got length and rebounding ability and little in the way of offensive skills.

However, Moultrie has shown some shooting ability and fancies himself a PF rather than a C. In fact, he is so sure he's a PF that he declined to work out at the Chicago pre-draft combine when he learned he was slotted with the centers. Impetulant? Maybe.

So, with Moultrie and Marshall coming back in for their second visits in a week, what does that say about the shooting guards that have been linked to the Suns since the end of the season? Not one of the top 5 SGs (Beal, Waiters, Rivers, Lamb, Ross) have even stepped off a plane into the 100+ degree heat yet and it's only 5 days till the draft!

In fact, Waiters is now firmly ensconced in the top 11, being linked to every team from 6-11. Rivers also believes he's top 10 material, refusing to work out with any team who's top pick is outside #10.

Hmph. BSotS certainly spent a lot of writer's cramping on SGs prospects the last few weeks. And for nothing?

Well, at least Lamb is coming to Phoenix for a visit. He rolled his ankle a week ago and hasn't worked out for anyone since. According to our beloved Suns reporter, he's here today.

Lamb-coming-in_medium

Lamb can play some solid defense (what the Suns want, bigtime) but has no leadership qualities of his own, and rarely creates his own offense from scratch (kinda like the rest of the Suns already on the roster).

The same can be said of Terrence Ross, who is clearly projected to be picked at or below the Suns #13, yet has not even touched down in Phoenix yet. Either the Suns have no interest in Ross, or they were waiting for pair him with Lamb. Is Ross here with Lamb today? Will he come to town in the next 3-4 days? Who knows.

What we do know is this: the Suns are considering a PG and a PF/C if they don't like what they see from Lamb and Ross in the next few days.

Poll
Who should the Suns take?

  472 votes | Results


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