Seemingly out of nowhere, the Phoenix Suns tinkered with their frontline last weekend by adding power forward/center Shavlik Randolph and dropping Ukrainian big man Slava Kravtsov.
On the surface it was a puzzling move: Waiving the little-used Kravtsov in favor of a player who’s been near the end of the bench most of his NBA career and hadn’t played in the league since the end of the 2012-13 campaign.
However, Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby revealed Thursday on The Dan Bickley Show with Vince Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM that there were two major reasons why the Suns made the roster change.
The first reason had to do with injuries. Not only was starting center Miles Plumlee playing through pain at the time — eventually missing Tuesday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers — but Kravtsov wasn’t completely healthy either.
“Slava twisted his ankle and was going to be unavailable,” Babby said. “(Randolph) is a solid, veteran presence who’s always in the right spot, and that helps. And then when Miles got hurt, obviously it became that much more important.”
The other factor had to do with familiarity: Babby said numerous people in the organization had worked or played with Randolph over the years.
“(General manager) Ryan (McDonough) knew him from Boston [Randolph’s previous team], as did (assistant coach) Mike Longabardi,” the Suns exec said. “And we were very careful in the moves we didn’t take at the trade deadline. But in his case, he had a relationship with P.J. Tucker; they grew up together in Raleigh (N.C.). He played together with Channing Frye in Portland (in 2008-09), and knew (Leandro) Barbosa in Boston. So we felt comfortable that he would be welcomed here, and for sure he has been.”
Although he wasn’t with another NBA team, Randolph wasn’t completely out of basketball since he last played with the Celtics. Babby said the 6-foot-10 Duke alum was playing in China and that the Suns were waiting for his season to finish before beginning to discuss contract terms.
The 30-year-old big man has seen a solid amount of time on the court since joining the Suns, his fifth NBA team. He played 10 minutes and scored a bucket against Atlanta on Sunday, and Tuesday against the Clippers, he saw 14 minutes of action and had three rebounds and several dunks en route to nine points against Los Angeles’ big frontline.
Babby elaborated on what kind of asset Randolph can be for the team.
“He’s a terrific rebounder. He’s a veteran. I think we felt like we needed some veteran presence there,” Babby said. “So it was a very positive move, and I think he’s going to help us out down the stretch.”