Will Suns make moves as NBA transaction window opens?
The Phoenix Suns and the rest of the NBA have a chance to set their roster up for at least an eight-game stay in Orlando starting Tuesday and running through the end of June.
Barring coronavirus-related changes to the roster, a week-long transaction window opens with the team looking fairly ready aside from the significant loss of Kelly Oubre Jr. According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Oubre will sit out the games but travel with his team to Disney World for a late-July restart amid the coronavirus pandemic.
There is not an additional roster opening due to Oubre’s absence, but Phoenix did already have one spot left to fill.
The Suns can carry two two-way contracts and up to 15 regular contracts into the resumed season for a total of a 17-man roster.
Remember, Phoenix released two-way point guard Jared Harper on March 12, just as coronavirus shut down the season. So because the team only has one two-way player, Tariq Owens, that means they can add another in addition to signing a player on an NBA minimum prorated deal, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks.
They cannot add the two-way player until a window from June 27 through June 30.
Will the Suns go after anyone on the free agent market? Though general manager James Jones has pursued internal growth over roster-churning, it makes sense for Phoenix to fill out a full roster of 15 players for practices and what’s to come.
Whether the Suns find themselves still in the hunt for a play-in spot midway through the eight-game run or if they are out of it quickly and want to go deep into the bench to protect players like Devin Booker with next season in mind, there are reasons to make moves during the next week.
Without Oubre, wing and forward depth becomes more important. Any positive coronavirus tests — the Arizona Republic reported two players had tested positive at some point — would of course change needs.
With the help from Kevin Pelton’s list of veterans eligible to be signed, here is a short list of what type of players are available both as free agents or in-house.
The 28-year-old wing was released after struggling mightily with the Timberwolves and Hawks this season. He shot a lowly 30.3% from three-point range but is a career 38.7% sniper from deep. As it would be for any outside signing, it doesn’t make sense for Crabbe to see playing time over the likes of rookie Cam Johnson, but if an injury or illness struck Mikal Bridges, Booker or Johnson, then he’s the most NBA-caliber insurance option out there.
The 33-year-old veteran was waived by the Washington Wizards in December to have surgery on his left wrist. Being a lefty, that might be a red flag. Miles is a wing shooter who knocked down 36% of his threes for his career and is used to being a role player on winning organizations such as the Utah Jazz (2005-2012), Indiana Pacers (2014-17) and Toronto Raptors (2017-19).
Hat-tip to Pelton for pointing out this guy: Akoon-Purcell is a wiry, bouncy wing who can take it off the dribble or spot up in catch-and-shoot situations similarly to Oubre. He was a 49.3% shooting with 39.2% accuracy from three-point land for the Oklahoma City Blue this year and played in seven games on a two-way deal with the Denver Nuggets.
Crawford certainly doesn’t fill a need as Phoenix enters the bubble, and his isolation style doesn’t fit coach Monty Williams’ 0.5 offense. But hey, we’re including him here because there’s familiarity between Crawford, Jones and several of his ex-Suns teammates. If Booker gets shut down because the team is out of the playoff running, Crawford could keep Phoenix a little more competitive. After all, Crawford scored 51 points in his last game with the Suns last April.
In-house two-way options
The most logical choice out of the Suns’ G League team in Prescott Valley, Epps knows the system and played often alongside fellow big man Owens. At 6-foot-10, he’s a stretch power forward with a quick trigger and 39.7% accuracy from range. Epps averaged 10.2 points and 6.5 rebounds per game as well.
Hill signed a two-way deal with the Charlotte Hornets after going undrafted out of Virginia Tech last offseason but was waived in October. The 6-foot-5 wing led the Northern Arizona Suns with 1,042 minutes played this season and averaged 9.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. Hill shot 42.9% from the field and 34.7% from three.
Palmer has the best plus-minus on the Northern Arizona Suns and was a regular starter alongside a frontcourt of Owens and Epps. A 6-foot-6 wing, Palmer shot 48.4% from the field and 38% from three. He averaged 8.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.