Robert Sarver's Plan For Landing A Superstar

With all the talk about the Suns rebuilding options, I thought it was informative to go back and look at what Sarver said last summer. He was very clear on his thinking.

Of course, plans can change...

With hands on hips, Phoenix Suns head coach Alvin Gentry walks off the court after losing to the Sacarmento Kings 116-113 in a NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, March 29, 2011.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

One of the Phoenix Suns' biggest problems last year was scoring to close out a game. Sure, the Suns wanted more size and defense too. But winning teams have guys who can hit clutch shots in the closing minutes, be it a contested layup, a stagger-screened 15-footer or a spot-up 3-ball after PG penetration draws the defense into the paint.

Alvin Gentry had this to say when the Suns' cleaned out their lockers for a long summer (Paul Coro wrote this article on April 14, 2011):

The Suns' clear path for now is that they need to add a go-to scorer, more size and (to) improve defensively, in attention and scheme as well as personnel.

"We've got to be little better from the standpoint of being able to have a go-to guy where we don't count on Steve (Nash) to create every play at the end of the game and to make every shot in situations like that," coach Alvin Gentry said. "That's something that we have to look at."

The Suns appear to have checked off many other offseason goals:

  • keep Steve Nash and Grant Hill, preferably without committment past this season
  • add a new defensive scheme (Elston Turner)
  • add guys who give better effort and can play better defense than their incumbents (Sebastian Telfair > Aaron Brooks, Shannon Brown > Vince Carter, on defense at least)
  • get rid of Mikael Pietrus and Vince Carter's contracts (Carter is done, and Pietrus was ALMOST done but not yet)
  • add size and defense on the front line (Markieff Morris, plus maybe a resurgent Robin Lopez?)
  • preserve 2012 cap space

The Suns have already checked off those tasks (nominally, anyway) without sacrificing a dime of 2012 cap space.

But go-to scorer for the 2011-2012 season? So far, no good.

To be fair, finding a go-to scorer is not easy when you only have only $5 million to spend on pure free agents and want to limit any commitment to 1 year unless the player has huge long-term upside. A round-up of this offseason's best-scoring guards available in free agency:

  • Jamal Crawford - being offered more than $8-9 million x multiple years by non-playoff teams
  • Marcus Thornton - got $8+ mil/yr from Sacramento x 4 years
  • Jason Richardson - got $6+ mil/yr from Orlando x 4 years at 31 years old
  • Wilson Chandler - playing in China until March
  • J.R. Smith - playing in China until March
  • Arron Afflalo - RFA, but Denver HAS to match whatever might be offered given all of their other losses
  • Nick Young - RFA, no mention in any rumors yet, which likely means Washington will match any offer

The Phoenix Suns DO still have Amare's remaining trade exception, which I believe is about $5.7 million. But the only way they'd use this money in the next week is to (a) add a one-year rental or (b) add a young, long-term guy comparable to Steph Curry, James Harden and Eric Gordon, who are all RFAs either next summer or the summer after that.

As it stands, next summer will offer some really good, young go-to scorers in Wilson Chandler, JR Smith, Russell Westbrook (RFA) and Eric Gordon (RFA).

The summer after that makes go-to scorers James Harden and Steph Curry, among others, available as RFAs.

As of next summer, the Suns will have at least $30 million in cap space to spend on any free agents - RFAs (restricted) or UFAs (unrestricted). The acquisition of a long-term go-to scorer may be better served to wait until then.

For now, don't expect miracles. Those of you begging for Michael Redd? While I hope you're wrong, I do see him fitting the Suns' 2011-2012 free agent profile - a one-year veteran-minimum contract.

PHOENIX -– During a typical offseason Phoenix Suns players trickle back to town by Labor Day and scrimmage for as many as six weeks before training camp begins, bonding time that has catapulted the...

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Sebastian Telfair never lived up to expectations. Through seven NBA seasons, the Abraham Lincoln High School star and cousin of Stephon Marbury has yet to play like a lottery pick. He failed to...

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Kansas forward Markieff Morris dunks during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Colorado in Boulder, Colo., on Wednesday,  Feb. 3, 2010. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

With the 13th overall pick in this year's NBA draft, the Phoenix Suns selected standout Kansas forward Markieff Morris. Not the first, not the second, but the third NBA brother (and second NBA twin) to join the Suns, Morris was drafted to help bring depth to the position vacated by Amar'e Stoudemire a year earlier.

Morris has yet to set foot on the court, in practice or otherwise, as a Phoenix Sun, but that won't stop me from speculating about what his potential impact will be this season and beyond.

  • Finishing Ability: As a Jayhawk, Morris was known as an excellent pick-and-roll finisher, converting almost 70% of his touches at the rim last year. He's been working on improving his back-to-the-basket moves, but is known primarily as an attacker. The Suns like the pick and roll. Steve Nash likes the pick and roll. I like the pick and roll. It's all good.
  • Rebounding Skill: Steadily improving throughout his 3-year collegiate career, he averaged 8.3 rebounds last year and improved his rebounding rate in each year. Alvin Gentry can expect a guy willing and able to attack the boards when Markieff's name gets called. I don't think we're in for another Taylor Griffin experience in this category, but one thing Morris will need to do is stay in the weight room. He's not a huge body in the paint but he has good footwork.
Those two attributes aren't qualities that I would pin on Channing Frye, the current starter at the PF spot. Channing has a uniqueness among NBA forwards in that he has the silky smooth, reliable 3-pointer stroke that allows him to stretch the floor. Over the last year or so, Frye has been improving in areas such as post defense and rebounding, but his bread and butter is the pick-and-pop with Nash.

Join me after the jump for a little bit more....

Markieff Morris is just what the Phoenix Suns need to bring increased balance to the frontcourt. Channing Frye will continue to be a matchup nightmare for any team and I expect him to continue starting at the 4 as long as the shot remains silky smooth. The really cool part, though, comes when Morris is inserted into the lineup. Able to hold his own in the paint, Markieff will develop into a hard-nosed defender and aggressive slasher when that's what's needed.

So, what should we watch for this season with Markieff? Watch for aggressive weak-wide rebounding and good defense inside 15 feet. Watch for the pick-and-roll (hopefully a more controlled version of the Hakim Warrick p&r), with both Steve Nash and Sebastian Telfair running the point. Watch for a new mid-range jumpshot that he's been working on that he started to develop last year.

I would dare say that Morris will be perfect fit for the Phoenix Suns' second unit this year. It would take Channing Frye losing his edge for Morris to bust into the starting lineup, but I'll look for him to get 13-18 minutes out of the gate, complementing Channing's outside shooting with his own brand of mix-it-up-in-the-paint basketball.

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