With the new CBA all but agreed upon and the lockout finally ending, the discussions can finally leave the courthouse and return back to the arena! The shortened 66 game 2011-2012 season is now rapidly approaching with the beginning of training camp and free agency slated to begin on Dec 9th. This is only about two weeks away from now, and about two weeks after that will be the start of the regular season on Christmas Day...So expect a flurry of activity as soon as the flood gates open and teams look to shore up their rosters quickly. The Phoenix Suns will also undoubtedly be participants in the forthcoming feeding frenzy that is rapidly approaching, so where exactly do they stand right now and what are their options?
One of the more popular notions is that the Suns will seek a trade by using their most valuable asset of all, Steve Nash. However, with Nash being just about the only draw left to generate revenue through merchandising and ticket sales, it's hard to believe that Sarver would entertain the idea of allowing Steve to leave before his contract is up. So assuming that Steve Nash remains in Phoenix this season, who are some of the players the Suns could be looking at to either trade for or sign using their available exceptions to help make them better?
As our own prolific writer Mr. Alex Laugan pointed out earlier, the new CBA classifies the Phoenix suns as a Cap Team because we currently have a payroll between $58-70 million with the eight players who are currently under contract (Nash, Dudley, Childress, Warrick, Frye, Gortat, Lopez, Pietrus) plus Carter's $4mill buyout, as well as cap holds of an additional $18 million for free agents and rookies we have yet to sign (Grant Hill, Aaron Brooks, Markieff Morris, etc...). This means that the only way we can add players to our roster is through trades, one Mid-Level Exception, one Bi-Annual Exception, Bird-rights Exceptions, and Minimum Salary Exceptions.
This means the Suns can throw any top-tier free agent signings out of the window. Free agents like Nene, Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan, and Samuel Dalembert are all likely to command substantial salaries or look to play with possible contenders...So they probably aren't realistic options for the Suns and they will not be mentioned below. Instead, if the Suns want to acquire a nice complementary piece to help out their aging superstar, they will have to get creative using the above options. There are still plenty of ways to bring in talented players that could help the Suns return to their winning ways...Here are a few of the names the Suns could realistically be interested in and why:
Free Agents (Unrestricted and Restricted):
**Sign-and-trades could also be used on free agents in order to bypass using the exceptions
Aaron Brooks (PG, RFA) - the Suns have made a qualifying offer on Brooks and will retain his rights if he comes back from China. This is a very weak free agency for point guards, so Brooks is likely their best bet to back up Nash this season.
Sebastian Telfair (PG, UFA) - If Aaron Brooks stays in China or is offered more money elsewhere than the Suns are comfortable paying, he could be the next best option. He would also come relatively cheap and could be signed using either a Bi-Annual Exception or part of the MLE.
Arron Afflalo (SG, RFA) - Signing Arron Afflalo would probably be the best move the Suns could make this year, realistically, other than re-signing Grant Hill. Afflalo possesses the perfect skill set for Phoenix's offense, and the Suns are in need of another SG to help fill the void of Jason Richardson. Denver may not let him get away though.
Shannon Brown (SG, UFA) - Brown offers something that the Suns were desperately in need of last year, a spark to their offense. His athleticism and explosiveness would help bring back some life to a team that is still searching for a replacement for Marion and now J-Rich. It's hard to say if he would fill the role of a starter fort the Suns or if he would be better suited to come off the bench like he did in L.A., but he can be a difference maker that the Suns so desperately need.
Grant Hill (SF, UFA) - This is a no-brainer. The Suns could use the Bird-Rights exception and both parties seem interested in continuing the relationship...That is if Boston or Miami doesn't try to steal him away.
Josh McRoberts (PF, UFA) - McRoberts is a player who could be on the verge of a breakout year. He's only 23 years old and since being drafted in 2007 he has continually improved each season in nearly every category. Last year with the Pacers he averaged just over 20min per game for the first time in his career, and put up some respectable numbers: 7.4pts & 5.3rbs while averaging a .547 FG% and shooting a respectable .383% from beyond the arc as well. He has a skill set that would be very complementary to the Suns' style of offense, and could be had for less than the MLE.
Glen "Big Baby" Davis (PF/C, UFA) - One thing Big Baby doesn't lack is passion and energy, two qualities that both the Suns and the fanbase greatly admire and covet. Davis was a very effective bench player for the Celtics during his time there. He is an able scorer and rebounder and he can also provide some much needed defense in the post as well. Phoenix may be interested in Davis if they plan on trading Robin Lopez.
* Possible Amnesty Clause casualties who could be on the Suns radar, for the right price, if they are released: Mehmet Okur (C), Marvin Williams (PF), Beno Udrih (PG)
Possible Trades for players currently under contract:
(Disclaimer...This is pure speculation/rosterbation. These are not actual rumors, but rather guesses at possible moves based on needs of this team and players who are rumored to be tradable by other teams.) p.s. The trade machine works but pay no attention to the Hollinger's Analysis portion which appears to be on the fritz.
Robin Lopez, Mickael Pietrus, and a 2nd round pick for Michael Beasley - The Suns are looking to move Pietrus who has not been a good fit, and Lopez after his less than stellar season post back injury and the addition of Gortat. Minnesota already has Kevin Love and now Derek Williams so Beasley will likely be the odd man out. Lopez still has trade value as a young 7-foot plus player with untapped potential, and Pietrus could add scoring and perimeter defense for Minnesota. Beasley gives the Suns a dynamic scoring threat to pair with Nash and added rebounding that Phoenix needs from the forward position. This trade works for both teams.
Robin Lopez & Hakim Warrick for OJ Mayo - Memphis has been looking to trade OJ Mayo who has been a poor fit, and Phoenix would like to trade Lopez who is still young and semi-valuable and Warrick who has not found a niche with the Suns but who could fit with the Grizzlies for a team looking to add more size and scoring. Memphis would get a young, defensive 7-footer with potential and highlight-reel dunker, and Phoenix gets a young and talented starter at the SG position who can create his own shot and play efficient defense. This trade could help both teams.
...and last but not least
Robin Lopez, Jared Dudley, and Mickael Pietrus for Monta Ellis - Ok, this is a bit of a stretch but let's look at it. It's no secret that Ellis and Curry haven't been a good fit on the floor together, and when they are the two best players on the team, that creates a problem. Rumors have surrounded Golden State in regard to the possibility of shopping Ellis, and although new head coach Mark Jackson claims to want to keep him, doing so wouldn't make a lot of sense. Many other teams are reportedly interested in Ellis, but Phoenix may have the right mix of players to get a deal done.
- Why does it help Phoenix? Because Ellis is one of the most prolific scorers in the league and can create his own shot. This is important to help take some of the pressure off Nash in the coming season as well as give the Suns a star player after Nash retires. Phoenix appears ready to move on from Lopez after acquiring Gortat last season, and Pietrus has not been a good fit. Losing Dudley would certainly hurt, but the addition of an elite scorer like Ellis would be a move that the Suns couldn't pass up.
- Why does this help the Warriors? Other than Biedrins the Warriors don't have a legit big man, and Robin Lopez fills this void. This would let them move David Lee back to PF which is his natural position, and if Lopez returns to pre-back injury form they could have a top WC big man who is perfect for their style of play. The addition of Jared Dudley would be another huge benefit for them, giving them scoring and 3-point shooting as well as energy and defense. Mickael Pietrus was successful during his time in Golden State and his return would likely be welcomed and could help them with scoring and defense from the wing position.
These are just a few of the possibilities that the Suns could consider, and there are many other options that will be looked at as well. Like the free agent signings above, none of the most highly sought after trades were considered, because the Suns are not a realistic destination at this point for players like Josh Smith, Chris Paul, or Deron Williams. Instead, the Suns are much more likely to trade for complementary pieces like the ones mentioned above...but they can still make marked improvements with the right deal. If these trades don't appeal to you, then feel free to propose your own in the comment section below. Let the rosterbation begin!!!
[Note by Wil Cantrell, 11/29/11 8:49 AM MST ]
Sorry to pop in here and pollute 7-footer's pristine post, , but I thought this nice list of both restricted and unrestricted free agents could assist the "rosterbation" process: