What’s next for Suns in free agency after striking out on Griffin, Millsap?
After its first weekend, the 2017 NBA free agency period has been about two things: the Western Conference getting much better and teams afraid to commit long-term money.
The Phoenix Suns are linked to both of these things. Blake Griffin canceled his meeting with the team and Phoenix was reportedly out on Paul Millsap. Both of which were likely connected to the fact that Griffin will be making nearly $35 million a year for the next five seasons and Millsap will be making $30 million a year for the next two, possibly three seasons.
As for not committing long-term money, the team has only declined the option on Leandro Barbosa’s contract so far in free agency, and that may be because the Suns are in the West, where it’s looking like 12 teams will compete for a playoff spot.
What does this mean for them? Empire of the Suns breaks it all down.
Kellan Olson: It’s been a slow free agency period, especially for the Suns. Despite the blockbuster moves, players like George Hill, Otto Porter, Gordon Hayward and Nerlens Noel all remain on the market at the time of this posting after the first weekend. Teams are either running out of cap space or afraid to have some of that space locked up for three-to-four years.
Kevin, where do the Suns fit into all of this?
Kevin Zimmerman: I think we can start with discussing why “The Timeline” is gaining traction as the Suns’ version of “The Process.” Every team in the Western Conference is loading up to make a run at the Warriors, and there aren’t any moves I can see — even signing Griffin! — that would have soundly put the Suns in the playoffs.
We’re talking about competing with this roughly-sketched out set of top teams:
1. Warriors — They re-signed all of the very good players that make them very good.
2. Spurs — They’re the Spurs.
3. Rockets — Houston added Chris Paul, P.J. Tucker and brought back NeNe
4. Jazz — Even if they lose Hayward, they replaced George Hill with Ricky Rubio
5. Timberwolves — Acquiring Jimmy Butler for nada makes them a playoff team. Jeff Teague isn’t a bad addition at point guard
6. Nuggets — Millsap joins rising star Nikola Jokic. Fun!
7. Pelicans — Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins can’t be too bad
8. Thunder — Russell Westbrook and Paul George is a thing
9. Blazers — Their backcourt is still good and so is coach Terry Stotts
10. Grizzlies — Never count out the Grizzlies
Are Suns even better than the Kings or Lakers? Anyhow, there’s going to be a bit of losing for Phoenix next year, and no matter the direction, building around any combination of the Suns’ young players is a long-term thing. Hence, “The Timeline.”
Here are a few more bad thoughts: With teams so sluggish to sign players and worried about spending following the spending spree of 2016, how will the Suns shed contracts of players like Brandon Knight or Tyson Chandler? The only good news out of this is they might have a choice about whether they can or want to re-sign Alan Williams or Alex Len.
KO: They need to spend quite a bit of money to get to the salary cap floor, let alone running out of room. I think there’s no way they lose “Big Sauce” now unless his offer is too unreasonable to match. As for Len, I’d personally rather have the space you could use on him as an asset itself instead of keeping him. The only way I’m bringing him back is on the qualifying offer, which checks in at a one-year deal at just under $6.5 million.
The reason I say that is we are already seeing reports of teams attempting to create more space and get rid of some undesirable contracts.
This would be the right way for the Suns to use their cap space. As we talked about for months leading up to the offseason, most of their depth chart is filled with young pieces that need playing time. While that rings true for them not necessarily needing to continue compiling assets, there are worse ideas, like paying your former top-5 pick eight figures a year when he struggled his last two years.
As we wait to see how the restricted business works itself out at center, anyone in particular you are keeping an eye on as a potential signing these next few days?
KZ: Honestly, the core of the roster is set, and to me, it’s hard to find a hole on the team even if the Suns bring back one of Williams or Len. That said, all this makes you wonder if Tyson Chandler might be ready to move on and ask for a trade, a possibility he mentioned at exit interviews if Phoenix didn’t add a few more veteran pieces.
There is no obvious fit for him and the teams who might have interest probably don’t have much cap space to work with. No matter what happens with Chandler, adding a shooting big man would still probably be the best to fill out the roster.
You’ve mentioned Kelly Olynyk and Mike Muscala, and I think Muscala would be a less expensive of the two who could act as a third center if need be.
At the end of the day, there’s no pressing need and little reason to spend money just to spend it.
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