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Unique Free-Agency Approach Apparent for Phoenix

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What an incredible season the Phoenix Suns just had.

Would it have been better had they won the championship? Absolutely. But in the days after the Finals ended, Suns fans can appreciate this season more and more as a truly special season, ring or not.

Their first postseason appearance in 10 years and their first Finals appearance in 28 years?! You don’t see that after missing the playoffs for so long unless you have a LeBron James on your team.

This was an incredible year of success, growth and development for this Suns team, which will hopefully pay off soon when the Suns win their first championship.

We are used to offseasons being so important for making the right draft pick. This offseason still has the same high level of importance, but with a whole new approach.

No draft pick? No problem.

For the first time in forever, the Phoenix Suns did not have a draft pick this year. Instead of using the 29th pick, GM James Jones went with experience over potential and traded the pick — along with Jevon Carter — to the Nets for Landry Shamet. Shamet is a proven shooter in this league, who can help Phoenix greatly when their offense is stalling.

Defensively he is not nearly as skilled as Jevon is, but the Suns have enough perimeter defenders to compensate. Adding another offensive threat gives the Suns even greater depth than what they had before. With Shamet also coming over in a contract year, he’ll be playing at a big-time level to earn a big pay day.

With the draft now out of the way, here is what the Suns face in free agency.

Run it back with CP3 and Torrey Craig

First and foremost, re-sign Chris Paul.

It’s just the right thing to do. I’ve thought a little too much about getting Damian Lillard and how much of a legit backcourt that the Suns would have. But Paul proved he can still be that leader and produce at a high level. Get the man what he wants and run that same starting five back.

From the sounds of things, that deal may already be in place.

The best that can work for both sides is CP3 getting a three-year deal, with more of the money coming in the first year. It would benefit both sides as Paul would get his due and the Suns get financial flexibility in the future. It’ll especially be handy when the Suns sign Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges to their max/near-max extensions.

Torrey Craig provided a spark and toughness off the bench for Phoenix. Acquired from the Milwaukee Bucks for cash, Craig was instrumental in the Suns’ playoff run. His ability to guard bigger wing players, provide hustle plays and occasionally shoot from outside helped the Suns succeed. There will be teams calling for Craig this off-season to help with their wing depth, but at the right price, the Suns should absolutely retain him.

What happens with Cam Payne?

https://twitter.com/campayne/status/1421642376326664195

The starting point guard is the biggest storyline, followed by the backup point guard. Ever since the bubble run, Cam Payne has been a revelation for the Suns. The playoff run showcased him as one of the best backups in the league, putting him on notice for other contending teams in free agency.

Good news is it seems to be quiet with other teams looking at him, but don’t count out contending teams taking a serious look at Payne.

Payne’s time in Phoenix has been memorable. His play and energy have made him one of the key players and one of the fellas. The Suns should make it a focus to pay him enough to keep him on the roster. If they get back to the finals, they need the PG spot to remain a position of strength.

Get a backup big

In the Finals, the Bucks exposed the Suns’ glaring weakness which was lacking size. DA had that, but there’s a significant lack of an interior defensive presence after him. Dario Saric did the best he could, but tearing his ACL in Game 1 was a blow. Frank Kaminsky did all he could in Game 6, but you can’t rely on him for consistent bench minutes as a big.

So who do the Suns get? Here are a few options.

Nerlens Noel: Maybe the best defensive big in free agency, he would be the perfect backup to Ayton. Noel was a key anchor for the Knicks’ defense — one of the best in the league — with his toughness and shot-blocking ability. Noel has had a wild NBA journey but has seemed to have found his niche as a defensive rim protector.

A possible nugget along with Noel is that he has experience playing with CP3 (OKC, 2019). Having that chemistry already could entice Noel to really think about Phoenix. Again he is limited offensively, but here’s how efficient he was in the one season with CP3 in OKC:

There will be other teams bidding for Noel, so the Suns could be outbid for his services. But with the chance to compete for a title, Noel may favor the Suns over others.

JaVale McGee: From the face of Shaqtin’ A Fool to winning multiple championships and now the seasoned vet on the US Olympic team, JaVale McGee has had a career unlike any other. He is another backup big who can provide an interior presence. A guy who can keep the defensive pressure up, force tough shots at the rim, and get some lobs in here and there. At 33 years old, McGee is at the back end of his career. He should command a lower price tag than Noel in free agency, thus making him a good price backup option.

Who knows, Book may already be recruiting in Tokyo as we speak.

Daniel Theis: Living in Maine, I’ve watched a lot of Celtics games. When Daniel Theis was on that team the past few seasons, he was a solid defensive player. Before he was traded to the Bulls, Theis’ offensive game was improving as a passer and an outside shooter. Still limited offensively, he could be a key pickup for the Suns.

Theis is also in the prime of his career at 29 years old. More than likely he’ll be looking for a bigger contract outside of what the Suns could pay him. The Suns could intrigue him to play on a shorter, cheaper deal with the chance to play for a championship. If he helps them win it all, it could pay off with an even bigger payday for Theis down the line.

Other free agents to lookout for

Paul Millsap: A name tied to the Suns in the past, Millsap is nearing the end of his very successful career. Defensively he isn’t as skilled as the aforementioned names, but he can still be a big body off the bench and provide some spacing with his three-point shooting.

Richaun Holmes: If the Suns can find a way to bring back Holmes, it would be incredible! He was an impact player — especially on defense — a couple years back for Phoenix, and has improved in Sacramento. He’s another young big in his prime though who will most likely get paid. If he wants to contend for a championship and take less money, however, Phoenix would welcome him back with open arms.

Cody Zeller: Zeller has quietly had a productive career with the Charlotte Hornets. In Kellan Olson’s rundown of top free agent Centers, he mentions Zeller as an option for Phoenix. He also mentions about the time Monty praised Zeller’s skills before a game against the Hornets. It sounds like Zeller may already be on the Suns’ radar. Not the biggest name, but maybe the right one for the Suns.

Andre Iguodala: Not a big, but if the Suns lose Torrey Craig, Iguodala could replace him. The Heat declined his team option, making him a free agent. Iggy can still produce — especially with his perimeter defense — and would be a savvy championship vet for the Suns. At least one Suns player would be in favor of that:

 

If the Phoenix Suns can accomplish at least three of the four topics — or even all four — the Finals are absolutely a possibility. Even with a re-loaded Western Conference, the Suns would have continuity and have added even more depth to a loaded roster. No matter what, the Suns will have a more difficult task getting back to the Finals.

This offseason is solely focused on how they handle free agency. If they make the right moves, they can make it to the other side of hard.

Follow us on Twitter @SunsLead for the latest Suns news and insight. 

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