This week's Phoenix Suns mailbag is chock full of interesting questions. We go from P.J. Tucker's shoes to Ryan McDonough's mind, but the best topic might be constructing a best-ever Suns team that fits within today's NBA salary cap.
Joseph Shook: What do I have to do to get a pair of signed P.J. Tucker shoes?
P.J. Tucker loves his shoes. He keeps them at the arena, at home, at his mom's home and even in storage. He's got more than 2,000 pairs to his name, though he never wears them more than once.
"I love shoes," Tucker said. "It drives my wife crazy."
My best guess is to recruit P.J.'s wife in the plan, to convince her husband to part with some shoes to adoring fans. You could start by hitting up P.J.'s twitter feed, as we all know our wives read our twitter feed as much as we do. P.J.'s mother is the next best place to go. Find her and make a plea to dump all those shoes in her house onto fans like you.
Good luck! Let me know how it turns out.
DarkPhoenixSaga: What are the chances we sit back, draft as best we can, and play it safe another season by taking on salary to help another team and taking some young assets or picks from them in the process?
The Suns are where Houston was in 2011, prior to acquiring James Harden in October. They have all the assets to acquire a star, and now just need to wait until a team is ready to part with one. You can't get a star unless he's available. Houston was ready to ride out the 2011-12 season without a star until Harden became available.
Arguably, LeBron James and Chris Bosh could be available this summer, but it's highly unlikely they are ready to jump to new teams yet. Those are the only two established stars you'd spend big cap space on.
Otherwise, you're waiting on Minnesota, for example, to decide it's time to trade Kevin Love. If you're waiting on a trade, then gobs of cap space is only marginally valuable, so I can see the Suns doing another Bledsoe-type deal to acquire an underused young talent. Maybe not Harrison Barnes as suggested (for example) in the article, but someone who has a high upside. If the Suns add more picks, they will be in future years (2016 and beyond). McDonough mentioned that in the end-of-season press conference.
Javier Pastore: What do you think the numbers of wins this team could get next year if everything stayed equal?
This is a great question for a full article. But the nutshell might be that if everyone comes back next year (and the rookies have little impact), the Suns will be hard-pressed to win 48 games again.
The Suns FO plans for continual improvement, but reality is that at least one guy will regress next season. Maybe not on the court, but in attitude and frame of mind. Gerald Green, Goran Dragic, Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris and maybe even Channing Frye (if he picks up his player option next month) will all be playing for contracts, which might add a little discontent to the locker room.
Sun-arc: How do I enter the mind of Ryan McDonough?
You don't necessarily have to enter his mind. You simply need to install a listening device in his office. This is apparently an easy task, as every crime show on TV uses that tactic one way or another. Just slip into the the Suns offices and plant bugs in McD and Babby's offices. Load up Asst GM Pat Connelly's office and Trevor Buckstein's offices while you're at it.
What you're likely to hear is a lot rosterbation, phone calls, cap maneuvering... basically everything fans do on BSotS except with the power to act. Babby and Buckstein do a ton of research on what is a good contract value, while everyone partakes in the talent valuations. You'll probably hear a thousand ideas, out of which might come three or four actual moves. Because one team's plan is another team's punchline, more often than not.
dshock88: Which Suns player would you trade lives with for a week and why?
This is a weird question, so I'll give a weird answer. My kids are older now and (pretty much) all grown up, so I admit to a bit of nostalgia when I read the recent Goran Dragic interview. If I could switch places for a week, it would be with Goran just to be around Mateo. I love babies. Goran's wife is pretty hot too, but I wouldn't be able to understand a word she said so the communication efforts might be a bit awkward.
While I'm there as Goran, I'd spend the week doing two things: (a) taking care of the kid and (b) contacting my Slovenian team to tell them I need the summer off. The real Goran would probably appreciate me taking care of that for him.
Beavis 25: (edited from a thousand-word question) Put together the best Suns team possible, but with no more than 3 stars to keep it realistic. So, 3 stars, 2 other starters and 3-4 bench players in their primes.
Helluva question, Beav. My first-hand experience as a Suns fan dates back to the 80s, so I can't really name anyone from the 70s with any real knowledge of their game. My guess is that Connie Hawkins was the best small forward in Suns history, that Alvan Adams might have been the best center, and Paul Westphal or Walter Davis the best shooting guard. But I didn't see any of those guys in their prime.
Going from 1988 forward, while staying within the salary cap rules, it's a really tough call. Your criteria was to put them on the Suns "in their prime" which also means at the peak of their salary worth. Even putting three of the Suns' best-ever players in the starting lineup kills the salary cap.
The late-80s Suns had the benefit of cheap rookie-scale contracts for Majerle, KJ and Hornacek for most of that time. The mid-2000s Suns had rookie contracts for JJ, Barbosa and then Diaw as well, until they had to be extended. For this exercise, though, it's a cop-out to use rookie-scale contracts.
Every contract has to be at market value. Kevin Johnson, Shawn Marion and Amare Stoudemire don't make the list because their prohibitive contracts (making assumptions on KJ's here) would limit what I can do with the rest of the roster. I'm picking guys who had great value contracts in their prime, and in the case of 90s players I'm bringing their cap number to modern-day values.
- Point guard: Steve Nash ($11 million, his contract during MVP seasons and high water mark)
- Shooting guard: Goran Dragic ($7.5 million, current contract)
- Small forward: Danny Manning ($7 million, took less to sign with Suns, today's midlevel average annual value)
- Power forward: Charles Barkley ($20 million, would have been max contract during best years)
- Center: Mark West ($5 million, serviceable part-time starter salary)
- 6th Man: Leandro Barbosa ($6 million, his contract during 6MOY days in mid-2000s)
- 7th Man: Clifford Robinson ($10 million, today's value on his contract in 1999)
- 8th Man: Eddie Johnson ($5 million, shooter off the bench, just under midlevel value)
- Coach: Cotton Fitzsimmons
That's $71.5 million committed to 8 players, just under this year's luxury tax line, so the rest of the roster would be journeymen and/or rookies. This combination of players gives us 3 league MVP awards surrounded by highly-talented role players who would have covered up for Nash and Barkey's defensive deficiencies on quality contracts.
Danny Manning was quite possibly the best value signing in the history of the franchise. He took a big discount to join the Suns, which today translates to a mid-level deal.
We couldn't afford Shawn Marion, but Danny Manning and Clifford Robinson would have been tremendous compliments to Sir Charles and MVSteve on both ends of the court. Dragic gets the nod at shooting guard as one of the best values in team history, with Barbosa and EJ providing spacing off the bench. Mark West anchors the middle.
This team would have been the league's best on offense, while providing quality defense in Robinson and West with support from Manning and Dragic. Clifford Robinson, in particular, was a tremendous defensive player in his prime.
My coach has to be Cotton. Jeff Hornacek doesn't have the track record yet, and Paul Westphal was a flameout as coach. Cotton was a better version of Mike D'Antoni because he schemed for better D than the mid-2000s Suns ever provided. The last 80s/early 90s Suns got top-10 finishes on D with regularity while playing an undersized team every year.
What's your all-time Suns team?
By the way, make sure you wish a Happy Mothers Day to all the moms in your life. Not just the one that spat you out, but anyone else who's been a great influence in your life deserves the accolades as well.