After a renaissance in which he returned triumphantly to the NBA from a year-long issue with his heart, now Channing Frye has a big decision to make with regard to his future.
This is a big, big summer for the Phoenix Suns, and potential free agent Channing Frye is right smack dab in the middle of that uncertainty. The Suns want to acquire a star, preferably on the front line, to accompany rising All-Star talents Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe.
Frye has a player option for the 2014-15 of $6.8 million that he must pick up by June 23 - three days before the 2014 NBA Draft - or become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Frye has said that he wants to remain in Phoenix. He grew up in the valley, won a state title with St. Mary's in high school and then won big at UofA in Tucson and went 8th overall in the NBA Draft. After a fitful start, playing for the Suns has been the highlight of his professional career. The Suns supported Frye throughout his bout this heart issues, and welcomed his back with open arms when he got healthy.
Frye is certainly a fan favorite and one of the most recognizable Suns of the past half decade. But at 30 years old, this summer or next will be Frye's last chance at a long-term contract. He certainly wants some stability and might opt out to get that stability right now instead of waiting until next summer. As he learned two years ago, the future is unknown.
If Frye leaves, the Suns will need to replace his unique talents in order to be as successful next season. Luckily, he has to make that decision before the draft. If Frye opts out, the Suns could decide to take Adreian Payne at the 14th or 18th pick to ensure that they have the stretch-four skills on the roster in 2014-15 no matter what happens.
Frye has the perfect game for the two slashing guards - nicknamed here the Slash Brothers last December - as a stretch four who can open up the driving lanes by being a major threat behind the three-point line. The Suns offense hummed last year when Frye, Dragic and Bledsoe were healthy together. Defensively, Frye is not fleet of foot but he is an effective low post defender and nearly always makes the smart play as a team defender.
If Frye opts in by June 23, he becomes trade eligible immediately. Frye and his $6.8 million salary, second highest on the team at the moment, can be traded for salary matching purposes if the Suns acquire a high-salaried player in the draft. Prior to July 1, the Suns have a mere $5 million in cap space to absorb salaries without trading players on the roster.
Frye's talents are relatively unique and in high demand in today's NBA. The stretch four is difficult to defend for any team, even the best defenses the league has to offer. He would be solid trade bait.
The Phoenix Suns have a very young roster, with 9 current players tied up to guaranteed contracts for the 2014-15 season, including Frye, plus three first round draft picks. Only Eric Bledsoe and P.J. Tucker are restricted free agents.
That's 14 players under the Suns' control for the 2014-15 before free agency actually starts.
With Frye under contract for 2014-15, and factoring in all the cap holds, the Suns will have $19.7 million to spend on July 1 when the free agency period opens. That's a lot of dough to spend on an underwhelming free agent class, though it all depends on LeBron James' comfort with Miami's future.
Once the Suns match offers to Tucker and Bledsoe, that cap space could drop in half. But before that, it's certainly possible that the Suns could convince a big-name free agent to sign a contract first, and then Bledsoe/Tucker's contracts could exceed the cap thanks to Bird Rights.
However, the Suns will most likely use that cap space to absorb higher salaried players through trade, since there's little room for free agent bodies on the roster anyway. And again, Frye and his salary will be good trade bait in any trade for a star.
If Frye opts out, he cannot be traded. And, his salary remains on the books until June 30, so there's no benefit to the Suns prior to July 1.
Frye's cap hold as of July 1, if he opts out, would be $9.6 million (150% of his last salary).
That would drop the Suns' available free agency money to $16.8 million on July 1. Still a huge chunk of change, and not likely enough of an impact to affect the Suns decision-making.
But if the Suns do see an opening to spend big on a free agent, they could renounce Frye's Bird Rights and free up the whole $9.6 million as cap space.
For example, let's say the Suns made no trades during the draft and took all their picks (including Payne) after Frye opts out. The Suns renounce their Bird Rights to Frye and free up $26.5 million in cap space while still having 13 players under their control.
That's enough money to slide a LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony right onto the team without giving up any talent at all. Or, they could sign a pair of free agents to $10+ million deals before matching any offers to Bledsoe and Tucker. In each case, Frye would be expendable anyway.
The Suns might renounce Frye's Bird Rights no matter what their free agency plans. There's no way Frye will get a contract in excess of $9.6 million, and there's no way the Suns would offer a fifth year or a bigger raise than any other team could offer. Frankly, in Frye's case, in this summer of cap space, the Bird Rights don't matter.
You could make the case that the team needs Bird Rights to do a sign-and-trade with Frye if he wants to sign with someone else, but I see that as unlikely. Still, it's one thing to consider if a playoff team over the cap wants Frye. The Suns might be able to snag a future asset in exchange for tying up their cap space for a few weeks.
The timing of Frye's decision is very advantageous to the Suns. As you can see there's a lot of possibilities out there and he is the lynchpin on many of them.
Opt in, and he's trade bait for a superstar. Opt out, and the Suns are swimming in cap space big enough to sign a superstar if they want.
If you ask me, I hope Frye stays with the Phoenix Suns for the rest of his playing career, just at a lower cost. My ideal scenario has Frye opting out, which he needs to do to get a long-term contract, and re-signing with the Suns in mid to late July to a smaller three-year deal (say, three years, $15 million) in which the guaranteed money declines in year three.
The Suns will still have plenty of room to sign or trade for whoever they want. Frye can be a starter or backup at PF or C and will be happy with any of those roles. He will continue to provide about 10 points, 5 rebounds on 25-28 minutes a night with 40% three-point shooting. He will continue to be a great locker room presence, a great stabilizing influence on and off the court. You want players to emulate him. He's like Udonis Haslem in Miami. Like Nick Collison in OKC.
Channing Frye IS a Phoenix Sun, through and through.
Opt out and re-sign for less money over more years, Channing. Please. That's my perfect solution.
You just won't look right on your Harley without this jacket.
Truly some Phoenix Suns (stuff, gear, crap, memorabilia?) that I've never come across before. There's a buyer out there for everything I suppose. If you've got a 10 dollar bill in your pocket, there's something you can add to your collection. Your Suns Swag for June 13th:
"It is mint condition. It is legal tender." It is....a sticker. Show your appreciation of offensive rebounding and consumerism with a $25 purchase of "Barkley Bucks." This 1993 offering went to benefit the Auburn University Foundation and the Charles Barkley Minority Scholarship Fund. Obviously this holds no actual monetary value, but there's no better way to show the drive-thru attendant at In-And-Out that you're not there to mess around. Hustle up with that double-double. Just like Sir Charles.
A very cool piece of Suns memorabilia here. This is a genuine piece of the floor from the original Phoenix Suns practice facility at the Salvation Army Kroc Corps Community Center in South Mountain. These were presented at the dedication for the new facility on May 18th, 2012. The item has never been removed from the plastic package, and it's the bargain of the week. It's available as a "buy it now" purchase for just ten dollars, after shipping.
Further evidence that you can take any seemingly worthless item, slap an NBA logo on it, and it's instantly sellable. This can be the strangest part of your Suns collection for just 45 Barkley Bucks. This decanter was at one time filled with Avon cologne. A little research shows that Avon cologne is relatively inexpensive if you're so inclined. We know what you won't fill it with though. You won't fill it with Michael Jordan cologne.
Game used, signed jersey from the current head coach of your Phoenix Suns, Jeff Hornacek. At $744 this piece checks in considerably cheaper than many of the other game used Phoenix jerseys, and if you click the link, you'll notice the last listing has expired. Expect this to be reposted at a little bit of a discount. The '88-'89 Suns won 55 games, and knocked off Denver and Golden State before being swept by the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. The 25 year old Hornacek appeared in 78 games, starting 73, and averaged 13.5 points and 6.0 assists. The Suns were the highest scoring team in the league that season, averaging north of 118 points a game.
This is the sort of hideous memorabilia truly only sought after by the crazed collector. If there is in fact a motorcycle enthusiast who is as passionate about his Suns as his Harley Davidson, he has to make an appearance on BSOTS. $175 bucks and it's yours. I'd be unqualified to tell you if that is a good price or not for something like this. I can tell you it's a XXL and "Jeff Hamilton" makes many similar items. No doubt this was one of their best sellers. Right? No? Maybe not? Maybe not.
Position: Point Guard
Tyler Ennis is the purest pure point guard to cross the Suns' draft board since Kendall Marshall. At age 20, he is already regarded as a cerebral and unflappable floor general with a killer instinct. While not a potent scorer, he has shown he is willing to step up and take the big shot if the right distribution opportunity doesn't present itself. In Syracuse's zone scheme, he was a disruptive ball hawk, averaging over 2 steals per game. Could Tyler Ennis be the next Hall of Fame Phoenix Suns' point guard?
Tyler Ennis runs the game. He is a confident and mature leader who dictates the pace from the point position. Excellent court vision and a top-notch handle allowed Ennis to average 5.5 assists per game versus 1.7 turnovers in 35.7 minutes of play per game. That's an average of one turnover every 21 minutes. That's mad ball control. There is little doubt that as a game manager and passer, Ennis has the skills to succeed at the next level. In addition to his gifts as a passer, Ennis will come into the NBA with lots of pick and roll experience under his belt, thanks to Syracuse's P and R heavy offense.
Ennis is confident if inconsistent shooter. He showed some range in college, but averaged a middling 35.3% from beyond the arc and an even less encouraging 42.9% inside it. That low shooting percentage has as much to do with his inability to finish inside the paint as it does with any issues with his jumper. Lacking elite speed or strength, Ennis struggles to get to the rim. While that's a problem that might resolve itself with training and conditioning, it will also certainly be exploited by taller and faster NBA defenders.
In Syracuse's zone defense, Ennis was a terror. His lengthy reach allowed him to force turnovers at the rate of 2.1 steals per game. What's encouraging is that those long arms will follow him to the NBA. What's less encouraging is that no one can be sure how that propensity to wreak havoc will translate to the man-on-man world of the NBA. Again, his lack of upper echelon speed and strength will cast into sharp relief among the world class athletes of the NBA.
One thing that everyone gushes about when it comes to Tyler Ennis is his intelligence. The words "coachable", "cerebral", and even "sponge" come up over and over again. So do words like "mature" and "confident." Those are all words I like to hear. It's possible that paired with the right coach or system, Ennis could improve his jump-shooting, defense and strength to the point where he is a complete player as well as passer. It's also possible he's Kendall Marshall 2.0.
That's not really as big a knock on him as it might seem. Thanks to his passing, Kendall Marshall will probably have a fair and potentially long NBA career ('Sup, Penny?). And I think that's Tyler Ennis' floor. If he develops into a reliable perimeter shooter or crafty penetrator (Steve Nash, anyone?), his ceiling is much much higher. Ennis could end up being a steal in the middle of the first round.
Of course, anyone with upside is a potential steal at that point in the draft. It's what makes the draft so enticing. I could seen Ennis as a change of pace guard backing up Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe and would almost certainly be a better facilitator than Ish Smith. As a point guard prospect though, I'd rather see the Suns make a run at Elfrid Payton, despite Ennis' considerable intangibles.
What do you think? Is Tyler Ennis worth a pick ahead of Payton? Should the Suns even use one of their 3 first round picks to draft a point guard?
Tucker wants to remain in Phoenix. The Suns want to retain P.J. Tucker. But Tucker will first listen to other teams in free agency before making a decision on his future.
"I'm nervous but excited at the same time," Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker said in April as the season ended. "This is the most important time in my career. I kind of took a pay cut to come so this is my one chance."
After flaming out of the NBA his first time around, Tucker spent six years in Europe leading two different teams to league titles and winning the MVP. In Europe, they not only pay your salary but generally also your living expenses and a car.
editor's note: If you're into 2012 nostalgia, read the comments on that Tucker story linked here. Wow.
Since coming to the Suns as an unheralded summer league participant in 2012 and then invited as an extra body to training camp, Tucker started most of the games in 2012-13 and all 81 he played in 2013-14. Tucker is not an offensive machine (9.5 points per game). He'd rather to do everything else to help his team win - defend, hustle, rebound, grab steals and generally piss off the opponent's best offensive wing player. And now he can make the corner three-point shot, which is key to stay in a lineup.
Tucker is now a restricted free agent after playing for two years on less than $1 million a year. The average NBA contract, overall, is nearly $6 million while the average salary for a starter is much higher than that.
He has said that he wants to stay in Phoenix, but that all depends on who offers what.
"I love Phoenix, and I hope to be back in Phoenix," he said to Burns and Gambo on KTAR yesterday. "I love everybody in the organization -- top to bottom. But it's a business and different things can happen, so we'll see what happens in the next couple weeks."
Does any other team covet P.J. Tucker more than Suns fans? Or should I say, most Suns fans. Some Suns fans can't wait to get rid of P.J. because they want a better player in there. To be sure, there are at least 20 small forwards in the NBA right now who can put up better overall numbers than P.J. Tucker and more coming.
So maybe Tucker won't get any offers?
Tucker has already heard, through the grapevine, that Memphis will come calling. He said as much to KTAR yesterday.
Fans of the New Orleans Pelicans covet P.J. as well.
PJ Tucker (3 Years and $16 million)
PJ Tucker is the dream acquisition for the Pelicans this summer. Start putting up boxes for what attributes this team needs from its small forward and he checks them all off. Defense - check. Rebounding - check. Corner three-point shooting - check. Toughness, leadership, and determination - check, check, and check. Quite honestly, if you were to try to create the perfect player to put next to this core, he would look a lot like PJ Tucker.
No two players are alike, but if there is one guy in this league that can be what Bowen was for the Spurs, it is PJ Tucker. He makes his living on the defensive end and has now added a corner three to his repetoire so that he doesn't hurt his team on the other end.
If the Wizards were to lose Ariza in free agency...they'd be smart to put on a full-court press to lure Tucker who would come cheaper but expects a hefty raise. The ceiling for him appears to be much higher than what he has shown up to this point.
But ultimately, Tucker wants to remain a Phoenix Sun. It might take an offer sheet to get that big raise, as the Suns would prefer not to outbid themselves for Tucker's services.
"I'm restricted, so regardless of what happens, Phoenix gets a chance to match," Tucker said to KTAR. "So the more suitors, the more chances you have to make more money, maybe."
Tucker knows the dangers - that the Suns won't match after all, and he's got to move on. But no one is counting on that. The Suns have said numerous times in the past few months that they want to keep Tucker.
Tucker himself has said he wants to stay. He loves the valley. He stayed in Phoenix all last summer, even modeling the new unis and saying he loved the orange ones before anyone else did.
And yesterday, Tucker donated $9,000 and hosted a basketball clinic for 50 Valley youth during a visit to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix, IG Homes branch.
Tucker wants to be at summer league as long as the contract is worked out by then. But summer league starts on July 10, the day before the moratorium lifts and Tucker can sign that RFA offer, which the Suns will have three days to match.
This could get messy, but in the end I think Tucker stays in orange and purple.
"Of course, I want to retire a Sun."
--Tucker to Coro in April