October 3, 2022

In a few weeks, we should know what the Phoenix Suns think.

Are they re-signing center Deandre Ayton to keep their core together? Will they cancel expiring agreements? Can improvements be made by mixing the roles of actors around the core group?

To prepare for all the changes that free agency will bring, let’s take a look at the player pool to highlight some goals for Phoenix while considering its current cap situation, as well as who fits in functionally and in terms of team culture.

The financial picture, briefly, is this: The Suns are already past the salary cap with $128.8 million in guaranteed money going to nine players under contract for next year.

If Ayton re-signs, the Suns will be a luxury tax team for the first time in more than a decade. They’ll have a $6.4 million fiscal mid-tier exception to consider upgrading to rotational level, but it’s possible they could operate at the $10.3 million mid-tier standard exception. dollars with a major roster shake-up like Ayton not returning.

We have already looked at the centers. Now, let’s take a look at the wing spots, where there could be changes – if the Suns shake things up – or additions. Because you can never have enough wings.

Suns Free Agents

(Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

Ish Wainright (restricted)

Statistics 2021-22: 2.4 PPG, 1.2 RPG, 39 FG%, 32 3FG%

Wainright will be restricted if Phoenix makes a qualifying bid of $1.8 million.

Exterior dedications too good to be true

Nicolas Batum (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Nic Batum, 33 years old

Statistics 2021-22: 8.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.7 APG, 46 FG%, 40 3FG% in 24.8 MPG

Age has taken Batum’s games a little too much in recent years, but when healthy he’s been a 25-minute contributor a night. The way he contributed has changed since he was one of the most gifted players early on with the Portland Trail Blazers.

Batum has become a high-volume three-point specialist who has knocked them down 40% each of the past two years for the Clippers. He’s also quietly one of the most switchable power forwards thanks to his length and smarts.

Thaddeus Young, 34

Statistics 2021-22: 6.2 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.0 APG, 52 FG%, 35 3FG% in 16.3 MPG

Young’s full-season per-game stats were pretty similar splitting his year with San Antonio and Toronto last season, though his shooting percentages went from 58% to 47% between those two teams.

The veteran was a Phoenix-linked trade target for the past year or so due to his ability to move the ball and create some off the dribble. There’s a nuance to his game that would add something alongside Jae Crowder and Cam Johnson, assuming the Suns don’t need to replace those guys with Crowder and Johnson’s deal expiring a trade chip. attractive.

It’s just a matter of whether it has enough pop to play more than 20 minutes a night.

Realistic options in Suns wheelhouse

Danuel House Jr. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Daniel House Jr., 29

Statistics 2021-22: 6.8 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 1.0 APG, 45 FG%, 42 3FG% in 19.6 MPG (25 games with Jazz)

House played 23 full games for Phoenix in 2017-18 and would be familiar to Devin Booker as a teammate. He hung on as a legitimate rotation player the following year with the Houston Rockets while playing alongside James Harden and point guard Chris Paul, who is another current Sun who knows the 3-and-wing wing well. D. This 2018-19 season says House hit 42% from three-pointers, a career high he nearly matched in 25 games last season with the Utah Jazz.

Damion Lee, 29

Statistics 2021-22: 7.4 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.0 APG, 44 FG%, 34 3FG%

Developed on a championship team, Lee has more juice off the rebound than most on this list. He’s not the greatest athlete but can attack the fences with the dribble to make basic passes or get to the edge. Even though he’s an avid shooter, his energy would be invaluable should any injuries occur and are welcome in the Suns’ lab.

Prince Taurus, 28 years old

Statistics 2021-22: 7.3 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.0 APG, 45 FG%, 38 3FG% in 17.1 MPG

He has a little more offensive refinement than, say, Torrey Craig. Prince has been a double-digit goalscorer in his career and has little playmaking value too.

Nemanja Bjelica, 34 years old

Statistics 2021-22: 6.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.2 APG, 47 FG% in 16.1 MPG

I would have included him in the middle part of this exercise if I had considered where he played last year for the Golden State Warriors, but he would need a little more big man stuff for me to consider him. as a real center. It bounces and passes and shoots a pretty decent clip. Bjelica isn’t a guy you want to rely on, but he would be a nice end-of-the-bench play up front – or I guess down the middle.

Defensively there are questions, but Bjelica is a smart, team-oriented shooter who would at least make sense at the other end of the pitch.

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