We interrupt "Deandre Ayton Week" to bring you some free agent talk for the Phoenix Suns.
While all eyes have been on the future of the Suns big man, the Suns can actually go out and add players to their roster in hopes of improving from last year's disappointing finish. What a concept!
Below, I've identified five realistic free agent fits that I believe not only improve the Suns but actually get them closer to an NBA title.
Last year, after finishing as NBA runner up the Suns responded by mostly adding on the fringes of the roster. Landry Shamet and JaVale McGee were brought in and while both served a role on last year's team, neither got them closer to the promised land. The Suns had opportunities to trade Deandre Ayton last offseason and/or upgrade from Jae Crowder and Cam Payne last year and declined to do so.
They can't afford to make the same mistake twice with a rapidly improving Western Conference landscape.
Here are my top 5 players the Suns should pursue during this offseason's NBA Free Agency:
- Gary Payton II
- The Warriors want to run it all the way back but that would cost over $400 million. Even GM Bob Meyers has admitted that his budget is not unlimited. Based on the reporting of Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer, Payton could be pried away from the Warriors to a team offering the full mid level exception of just over $10 million a year. It just so happens that Phoenix has the full mid level exception available and this would be money well spent. Payton would give the Suns some real juice. His defensive tenacity would inject some much needed life into the Suns and with the Suns expected to manage Chris Paul's workload, Payton could be sold as a de facto starter before moving into a full time starting role when Paul's career is over, likely after next year.
- Bruce Brown
- If the Warriors open the vault to retain everyone, the Suns should immediately offer the same full mid level offer to Bruce Brown. Brown brings many of the same on court tangibles and intangibles that Payton does, he just doesn't have a ring to show for it. Brown is a capable scorer but is mostly a physical combo guard who can take on some of the tougher defensive assignments. Brown would've been incredibly useful against CJ McCollum or Jalen Brunson, allowing Mikal Bridges to operate more as a free safety defender. Brown averaged nearly 15 points per game over the final two months of the season making him more than just a defensive stopper. Brown could replace Cam Payne and beef up the perimeter defense. Sounds like a win-win to me.
- Otto Porter Jr.
- The Suns dip back into a familiar well here for Porter Jr. At 6'8, he's the bigger wing the Suns need. A starter in name only with the Warriors, Porter Jr. has played the utility role for most of his career (even after signing a max deal with Chicago) and would do so again with the Suns. Is he a defensive stopper? No. But he's big and a capable three point shooter. Porter Jr. is an upgrade over Torrey Craig and if need be, a size and shooting upgrade over Jae Crowder.
- Mo Bamba
- Bamba is the kind of player the Suns would've drafted in years past, let get away after a disappointing start to his career and then watch him flourish elsewhere. This is a big swing for the Suns if Ayton is gone in a sign and trade. Bamba brings shot blocking and outside shooting, two skills Ayton doesn't quite have. Ayton averaged less than a block per game last season and made only 7 three point attempts all year. By comparison, Bamba drilled over 100 3's and averaged nearly two blocks per game. Dealing Ayton for wing and/or guard help and then upgrading at Center in free agency would be a dream scenario for James Jones and Co.
- Thaddeus Young
- The Suns have a habit of waiting a year too long to make a move. Last year, JaVale McGee was added after the Suns failed to land him at the trade deadline. This year, Eric Gordon is reportedly a Suns trade target after the team passed on dealing for him at this year's trade deadline. Thad Young has been rumored to be on James Jones wish list for at least the last two seasons. He brings size, toughness, some shooting and an upgrade to the Suns eight man rotation.