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Bulk of the Phoenix Suns’ roster rebuild is complete

Phoenix Suns' Devin Booker (1) and Cameron Payne (15) look on during an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo via AP)

When Phoenix Suns general manager James Jones and vice president of basketball ops Jeff Bower began mashing the eject button last offseason, the goal was clear.

Resetting a roster around a core of Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and complementary players like Mikal Bridges came down to finding the right fits. In those terms, fit meant specific skillsets (shooting, passing and defense) and personality types (toughness, professionalism and selflessness) that aligned with new head coach Monty Williams.

That meant accepting sunk costs and trading young players like Josh Jackson and talented players like T.J. Warren, gaining little in return. It meant adding solid veteran contributors like Ricky Rubio and Aron Baynes just to settle things around Booker and Ayton.

Here we are a year-and-a-half later, and the roster-building phase is nearing completion with the reported agreement between the Suns and forward Dario Saric on a three-year, $27 million deal.

Saric’s place on the team — last year going from a hot-and-cold 51-game starter to efficient backup big in limited playing time at Disney World — epitomizes the team’s on-paper talent upgrades.

Now, not only have the Suns found a full, NBA-caliber starting lineup. They have spent money in a way that allows them to run out a two-deep rotation at every position. Other players outside a 10-man rotation give them the ability to match up in different ways against different teams.

The commitment to take on Chris Paul’s two remaining years on his contract and signings that followed give Phoenix a solidified team to chase the best in the conference for the next two seasons.

Below, let’s take a quick peek at what roster decisions remain this offseason, what the depth chart looks like and how the salary cap situation appears with only a smaller deal or two remaining.

What’s left for the Suns to do?

— With the Suns retaining Nader after waiving Elie Okobo, there is one spot left to fill with a minimum contract after adding Langston Galloway on Monday. Their salary cap after adding Galloway on a vet’s minimum puts the salary cap at about $125 million, giving Phoenix about $5 million before hitting the luxury tax threshold.

— After reportedly signing Ty-Shon Alexander to a two-way contract, do the Suns bring in another two-way player? By the way, while they sold their G League team to the Detroit Pistons, the team formerly known as the Northern Arizona Suns still expects to operate in the Phoenix area if the G League season happens. The Suns would be able to shuttle two-way players to that team, like in past seasons.

According to Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus, the Suns have until Dec. 29 to pick up the fourth and final year of Deandre Ayton’s and Mikal Bridges’ rookie contracts, something that they will do unless something unforeseen occurs.

Here’s what the roster and salary cap situation looks like as of Monday morning following the Saric signing.

Suns depth chart

Chris Paul Devin Booker Mikal Bridges Jae Crowder Deandre Ayton
Cam Payne Langston Galloway/E’Twaun Moore Cam Johnson Dario Saric Jalen Smith
Jevon Carter Abdel Nader Damian Jones
Ty-Shon Alexander

A few thoughts:

— While Cam Payne played very well in the bubble, E’Twaun Moore or Langston Galloway could be the primary third guard, giving the Suns the ability to stagger Paul and Booker as the primary ball-handlers. Williams during the coronavirus-caused lull last year suggested he could dabble in more Point Book lineups, and either player has enough ball handling ability to even initiate offense themselves.

— Moore’s and Galloway’s projected roles could resemble that of Carter’s from a year ago, which leads to questions about which one of them gets the playing time.

— We can spend time arguing over the semantics of what positions they play, but it appears Saric and rookie Jalen Smith could swing between power forward or center either together, with Ayton, or in smaller, wing-heavy lineups. Both appear best to cause mismatches at center thanks to their shooting, but Saric’s bully-ball ability and Smith’s shot-blocking gives Phoenix options depending on the other team.

— Smith’s ability to move against smaller power forwards is something he must improve upon to earn playing time in that spot, but regardless, he will be fighting for minutes with Saric. We assume the Suns are attempting to bottle their wingy lineups and will use Crowder, Bridges and Johnson together quite a bit.

— The addition of Damian Jones is likely a depth move, but the Suns are wise to have another big body in a Western Conference that boasts the still jumbo-sized Lakers and the Warriors’ No. 2 pick, center James Wiseman.

Suns salary cap update

Contracts in orange represent dollar amounts that are not confirmed as of Monday morning.

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