Kwame Brown might be one of the best available options in the free agent back-up Center market. Ugh...

More photos » Wilfredo Lee - AP

Kwame Brown might be one of the best available options in the free agent back-up Center market. Ugh...

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I'm not going to lie: I am not all that excited about what I am about to write.

The Suns are still looking for a back-up big (so I've been told), so I suppose I owe it to you to go through these names and have a chat about it.

But seriously, when you see the names I am about to list, you will see why there's so little to be excited about.

Here's what's out there (in no particular order):

Shameless Plug for a couple of really good reads:

In Arizona, We Root For Balance Sheets - SB Nation Arizona - by Dennis Tarwood (aka Tuffy)
Arizona sports fans cheer for solvency, debt service, tax avoidance, and lockouts. Just like when we were kids!

A Letter To The D-backs Front Office - Desert Dirt - SB Nation Arizona by Justin Burning
Dear D-backs Front Office Guys, I liked watching Dan Haren pitch and now you've taken that from me, you jerks. And now you want to trade Edwin Jackson, whose no-hitter was about the only positive thing of note this season.

Yo Stat Geeks, Put Down The Calculator And Talk To People - Desert Dirt - SB Nation Arizona by Seth
I'm not against the advanced stats movement in sports. Win Shares. WAR. All that stuff has value and is what you get when you bring smart people and their slide rules to the sporting world.

 

Mark Blount. 7-0. 34 years old

Mark didn't play at all last season and only saw the court in 20 games the season before. There was a time when Blount was a pretty decent player. Take, for example, his best season (06-07), when he put up 12 points and six rebounds in 31 minutes as a starter for that memorable Minnesota Timberwolves team that won 32 games. On the other hand, he's big and he's made $44 million over his career, so he must be worth something to someone (family not included).

Didier Ilunga-Mbenga. 7-0. 29 years old.

You certainly remember DJ from the 12 (total) minutes he played as part of the LA Lakers 2009-10 championship run. One thing you can't take away from Didier, he's a two-time NBA champion and you are not. And he's big, too.

Oleksiy Pecherov. 7-0. 24 years old.

Oleksiy is probably most known by fans for his resemblance to the Family Guy cartoon character, Stewie. See for yourself. He is kind of skilled, too, and has decent range for a big man and allegedly rebounds the ball well. He also looks like a cartoon character according to the Washington Post, which none of the other guys can say.

Unfortunately for Pecherov's fan(s), he is rumored to be close to returning to Europe where his brand of 7 footer is coveted and not mocked mercilessly.

Rasho Nesterovic. 7-0. 34 years old.

Rasho (aka Radoslav to his mother) is another former NBA champion. He's not known for his shooting touch, or rebounding or defense, but he is known for being Slovenian, which has obvious advantages to the Phoenix Suns, who are well on their way to becoming the Former Yugoslavian Suns. He's also big.

Josh Boone. 6-10. 25 years old.

What does Josh Boone bring, aside from his experience playing 16 minutes per game for one of the worst teams in NBA history, the 2009-10 New Jersey Nets? Cool hair, and Suns fans know how valuable that is. He is more athletic than the other guys, but he's also shorter. That's all I can think to say about Boone.

Kwame Brown. 6-11. 27 years old.

He might have hands of stone, but he is a former number one overall draft pick and he's big.

Shaquille O'Neal. 7-1. 56 years old.

Just kidding. Shaq isn't coming back to Phoenix.

Trade?

There's not many better options out there. In fact, I am not sure there's any other options out there for a back-up center. Not unless the Suns were willing to give up some assets to try and get a guy like DeAndre Jordan from the Clippers, Nazr Mohammed from the Bobcats, or Hilton Armstrong from the Wizards.

The reality is, there aren't a lot of good options out there even if the Suns were willing to trade Jared Dudley, whose rookie contract and Twitter fame make him a prized asset. If you told me that Suns could trade Dudley for Marcin Gortat, I would say, "Yes, please".

But what else is there on the back-up center market? Not much is the answer. Not much.

Note: Anyone who suggests Eddy Curry will be immediately banned for life.


Wish Matt was still on the Suns? (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, file)

More photos » David Zalubowski - AP

Wish Matt was still on the Suns? (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, file)

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Remember Backcourt 2000? How about Googs? Was big Jake finally the answer to the Suns' hunt for a dominating big guy? There have been some serious disappointments via draft, FA signings, and trades.  Below is a nice list of guys that offhand seemed to be big time busts. Or maybe not.

Check out the Suns Player Register. Who else was a bust?

Here's a small list we can use to blast off into trashing both players for their performance and FO for their acquisition. Let us not hold back:

PLAYER SEASONS W SUNS ACQUIRED BY MPG PPG RPG APG COMMENTS
Marcus Banks 2 FA SIGNING 12 5 N/A 1 Bad signing, bad contract, blame D'Antoni for this one.
Matt Barnes 1 FA SIGNING 27 13.6 5.5 2.8 Shot 42% and 34% from beyond the arc, while starting a brawl with the Rockets. Barnes had his moments for the Suns, but did he help the Suns more than he hurt them with ill-advised long range bricks and nearly 3 fouls pg?
Zarko
Caparkaba
1 DRAFT 1ST ROUND (17TH PICK) 11 4.1 1 N/A Zarko had just begun to seemingly find his groove with the suns when he was brutalized by Danny Fortson on a drive to the hoop. He never really got healthy again and was subsequently traded into obscurity  (Golden State)
Boris Diaw 3 Via Trade 24 10 4 3.6 Acquired in the Joe Johnson deal, Diaw had some wonderful moments (Game winner vs. Dallas in the playoffs) but too often turned into Doris when the Suns needed him to go beastly. "DUNK IT BORIS FOR GODS SAKES!"
Chris Dudley 1 FA 11.6 1.4 3.5 N/A Another effort to get a big man. But Dudley was 35, put up shotputs from the line, and perhaps focused too much on helping children. Come on Chris, get your priorities straight.
Brian Grant 1 FA 11.8 2.9 2.7 N/A 21 games 1.67 million dollars for a guy who needed to play on crutches.
Penny Hardaway 4 FA 30 14 5 5 Remember how stoked you were to hear about the ill fated Back Court 2000? Well, life's full of disappointment.
Sam Cassel 1 Trade 24.5 14.8 2 4.5 HA HA HA HA HA...Oh God. That Barkley trade didn't work out so hot for the Suns, no? Rule of thumb, don't pick up a guy(s) who really don't want to play for your team. Include Horry in this one.

 

3 Trade 40 21 3 8.2 Stephon put up some good numbers for the Suns. But would you rather have had Kidd? If only Jason would have had some anger management class before he became a Sun, who knows how history would have been changed.
Shaquille O'Neal 1.5 Trade 29 15 9.5 1.7 You tell me how this worked out.
Jake Tsakilidis 3 Draft-1st round (25th pick) 18 5 4 N/A The Suns finally found the big man they'd been searching for since missing out on Lew Alcinder. Er, maybe not
Hot Rod Williams 3 Trade (Dan Majerle) 22 6 6 1 Just a stupid trade. It made me ill to watch this slow footed sasquatch play
Tom Gugliotta 5 FA 20 9 6 2 Googs never once played 60 or more games for the Suns in a single season due to injuries.

 

*Editor's note: I rounded a lot of the numbers as I was doing the math in my small brain.

So, do you agree, disagree? If so, why? And what busts have I missed?


Gentry, Hedo and Babby.

More photos » Ross D. Franklin - AP

Gentry, Hedo and Babby.

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We talked about VALUE the other day, but I wanted to take a different spin by putting them in order of LEAST likely to be moved to MOST likely. The point of this exercise is to guess what a GM or President of Basketball Operations might be thinking when looking over the Suns roster.

The Suns current rotation boasts 10 quality players who deserve 20+ minutes per night. There are only 240 minutes in a game, so you can compute an equitable distribution of 24 minutes per player. But Richardson, Nash, Turkoglu and Childress all historically get 30+ per night, and for a good reason: they are so good, you don’t want to take them out of the game. Dragic, Lopez, Frye and Dudley all cut their teeth last season and come into 2010-2011 deserving even more time than they did a year ago. Only Warrick (20 mins) and Hill (24 mins) seem "just right" with the planned minutes.

That makes 8 of 10 rotation players who deserve more time per night than they are going to get.  I don’t anticipate any open complaining, but I do feel a little bad for some them who will get squeezed.

If there’s an overload, it’s at SG and SF.  If there’s an underload, it’s at PF. 

Poor Lou Amundson got squeezed by not only the roster swell, but also the youngsters – Clark, Lawal and D Collins – all being bigger than him and having more potential (though they won’t get any minutes this year, barring massive injury problems).

 

Biggest Weaknesses

The Suns’ biggest weaknesses are rebounding, high-post and short wing defense, and the at-the-rim shot-blocking. The latter three can be hidden by defensive schemes.

That leaves rebounding as a weakness that can't be hidden.  But not really, right? 

The better answer: reducing the other team’s second-chance points after a missed shot. The Suns were actually good at causing missed shots last season, ranking in the top 10 overall in opponent FG%. But they were terrible in forcing a change-in-possession on those misses, and allowing a high number of second-chance points.

Change-of-possession can be accomplished in several ways: blocks, steals, shot-clock violations and rebounding missed shots. 

Blocks are misleading, since they usually don’t result in change of possession. Shot-clock violations are rare, and usually more the fault of the offense than the defense.

So really it’s steals and defensive rebounding that need the Suns' attention.

The Suns were actually one of the league's worst teams in steals last season.  This figures to improve in 2010-11 with the addition of Childress and Turkoglu (both averaged 1+ per game), and more minutes for Dragic and Dudley.

But the defensive rebounding figures to be a sore spot. Any deficit in defensive rebounding can be hidden during the regular season, but would be exposed in the deeper rounds of the playoffs.

Ideally, the Suns would acquire some more muscle for the PF spot. And since the Suns already have 10 rotation players, they would need to move at least as many players as they acquire or the new player wouldn't get much time anyway.

Let's take a look at the roster, from point of view of a GM, or President of BBall Ops.

 

Won’t move under any but the most extreme circumstances:

1)       Steve Nash – you just don’t move your 2-time MVP who, by all tangible and intangible measurement, is the key to any winning environment until he retires.  Plus, his contract is a great value at 10 million per year.

2)       Grant Hill – similar to Nash, though not as talented, Grant is an assistant coach on the floor with a high BBall IQ.  And, he only makes 3 million this year. No way he goes anywhere.

3)      Robin Lopez – young, agile 7-foot C who can block shots, play defense and finish on the pick-n-roll are too valuable to be moved in a trade.  Let alone those who only make 2 million. No way he gets moved.

4)      Goran Dragic – young, athletic, tall PGs who can still dramatically improve beyond an impressive second season (including 26 points in the final 14 minutes of a close second-round playoff game against a hated rival) don’t get traded either.

Suns you don’t move because they were just acquired, and offer exciting skills/options:

5)      Josh Childress – the Suns just signed him to a reasonable contract (5 yrs, 6 million a year). He is tall for an SG (6’8"), plays defense, has a high BBall IQ, and scores efficiently. No way Childress is moved before playing a single game, and only then if he fails miserably.

6)      Hidayet Turkoglu – much like Childress, Hedo is very unlikely to be moved before playing a single game and even then only if he fails to perform or mesh with the team.  But he is older (31) and his contract is more onerous (4 yrs, 40 million), so he’s a bit less valuable than those higher on this list.

Holdovers you don’t move because they fit your team perfectly, but if the right deal came along

7)       Jared Dudley – I’ll bet you’re itching to blast me right now for ranking Duds so low. Hold on a sec. Three guys above him play the same basic game (versatile enough to play the 2 or 3, defend, high BBall IQ, efficient scoring).  While Dudley is younger than them (25) and lower-paid (2 million) and makes game-winning plays, he is also less athletic and shorter (6’7") with a lower ceiling. Plus, there’s no guarantee Duds re-signs with the Suns once free agency hits.

8)       Channing Frye – This is another guy very likely to stay, since the Suns just gave him 5 yrs/30 million to do so. That’s a lot of money for guy who really only fits in the Suns’ scheme as opposed to a traditional one. If he can improve his consistency and continue to make 45% of his 3ptrs, then it’s worth it. He’s a perfect complement to Robin Lopez – a yin-yang pairing to fluster opponent big-man rotations at the 5 spot.

 

So who is left?  Who would the Suns actually move?

Most likely to be moved, if a high-quality Power Forward became available

9)       Amare’s 6.5 million TPE – this slot is just dangling there, waiting to be filled. But don’t hold your breath. The Suns will likely enter the 2010-2011 season with a payroll at 65 million, after signing rookies Lawal and D Collins and maybe Reynolds and a veteran backup C who won’t deserve any playing time unless there’s an injury (like Jarron Collins last year).  This TPE can be used to bring in another player without giving anything up, though it cannot be combined with anything else in a trade except future draft picks.  Take into account the Suns already have 11 guys worthy of nightly minutes, and it makes no sense to use this TPE right now for another deserving rotation player.  The Suns’ smartest move would be to hold onto this TPE in case of injury/emergency.

10)    Earl Clark – Earl has a great deal of talent, and when the light comes on he will be an important player on a good team. It just hasn’t clicked for him yet. And on this squad, he won’t get the minutes he needs to come alive. I can see the Suns including him in a bigger deal to net a high-caliber PF, or even in a prospect/prospect trade with another team disappointed in their young player (Jason Thompson, Sacramento?)

11)    Hakim Warrick – the Suns JUST signed the guy, so they can’t trade him in combination with anyone else for 60 days. And he would be good in this system. But his ceiling on a 50+ win team is backup PF. If the Suns can get a high-quality PF from another team, then Warrick’s 20 minutes are the most likely to be reduced if he’s not included in the trade. Plus, the other team might want someone back who can take some of the PF minutes their traded player was using, and Warrick can do that as a stopgap.

12)    Jason Richardson – Here’s another place you might want to blast me.  I do NOT want to trade J-Rich.  He was HUGE in the playoffs.  But if you subscribe to the belief that the Suns need more rebounding to compete deep in the playoffs, and that an ideal rotation would include 1 less wing player and 1 more PF, then J-Rich is our most tradeable asset.  He is older than Dudley and Childress and Clark, makes "great player" money (14.4 million), and is a free agent at the end of the season. 

 

Of course, the Suns could just stay with the lineup they have and see what happens.  Likely, the team will be exciting, win 50+ games and get into the second round or maybe the Conference Finals.  And if a SG or SF goes down to injury, they can throw another one in there without missing a beat.

But what if Lopez misses time again next year?  Or what if the Suns are good enough to get a high seed, and really want that one last chance to get Nash a ring?  To win a championship, you really need more height and beef on the front line.  Turkoglu and Warrick will probably not provide enough resistance against Gasol and Odom (assuming Lopez takes on Bynum).

Do you agree with this ranking?  What would you change?


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