The Phoenix Suns still lack a true go-to scorer heading into the 2012-2013 season, and James Harden's name has come up a lot recently as a free-agent option after he said he would consider playing in the desert.
Although the Suns should plan to target the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, Harden has developed a special bond with the organization in Oklahoma City and could very likely re-sign as long as he's offered the right amount of money. So, if that plan fails, there are still so many other SG free-agent options the Suns should consider, especially because they'll have plenty of cap space heading into next summer.
While nothing is really clear yet, it would be a safe assumption for now that Harden is going to re-sign. And if he does, the Suns are going to need a backup plan. Well, here are five free-agent shooting guards that could be wearing a Suns uniform next year if the team can't sign Harden.
This one might be a bit unlikely, but it is still always an option.
DeRozan had his breakout year during the 2010-2011 season and has been just about the best thing to happen to Toronto since then. Last season he averaged 16.7 points and 3.3 rebounds a game for the team.
The stats do seem kind of nice, but don't fall for the trap. Part of the reason he scores so much is simply because he's on a team that has no go-to scorers. In those situations, some players have to score even if the team is losing. Also, DeRozan doesn't have a particularly good jump shot, and he's a career 21-percent shooter from three-point range.
Last but not least, he's a restricted free agent. Even if the Suns were interested, DeRozan, he is one of the only bright spots on the Raptors' roster and will likely be retained by the team. But if he happens to be available, he could always be an option as a worst case scenario pickup.
At this point in his career, O.J. Mayo may not seem like someone who can be the go-to scorer and face of your franchise, but one can only hope he finally lives up to his potential as the third pick in the 2008 NBA draft.
Mayo did not start a single game last season and it was the first in his career where he wasn't at least a starter for part of the year. He played 27 minutes a game as a sixth man and put up averages of 12.6 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.1 steals a game.
He's currently on a two-year deal with the Mavs, but the second year is a player option and should he opt out, it wouldn't be a bad idea for Phoenix to pursue him. In fact, they did pursue him for a little while this past offseason after missing out on Eric Gordon.
Signing Mayo would be similar to the signing of Michael Beasley. It wouldn't take much money, but it would be a risky signing. Mayo could end up being even better than he was in his rookie season when he scored 18.5 points a game, or he could end up on the team's bench as a clubhouse cancer and play a similar role as Shannon Brown, which is being an underachiever who fails to really succeed in his one main goal which is scoring. It'd be risky alright, but he's at least worth a look.
Monta Ellis really seems like the type of player who could be a great fit for the Suns' run and gun system. If there's any team he might not be a good fit with, it's his current team, the Milwaukee Bucks.
Ellis was traded from the Warriors to Milwaukee at the deadline last season, and he struggled to find his role with the Bucks. In the 21 games he spent with the Bucks, Ellis scored just 17.6 points a game on 43-percent shooting from the field and 27-percent shooting from three-point range. Those numbers are really disappointing considering Ellis has averaged at least 20 points a game in four out of the past five seasons.
Ellis has an early termination option, and if he's tired of sharing shots with Brandon Jennings while the Bucks continue to lose, he could become a free agent and ultimately land with the Suns. He's small for a shooting guard, but at 26 years old he's still young, and he's extremely quick and great in the open court. Furthermore, not only can he take it to the rim but he's also a 33-percent three-point shooter for his career. He's the type of player who will occasionally explode for 40 points and could really be a spark for the team.
Whether he's the missing link that would make the Suns contenders is uncertain, but he'd definitely at least fulfill the role of a go-to scorer.
At 29 years old, Kevin Martin isn't exactly young, but he would still have a few good years he could contribute to the Suns. Plus, he'd be the easiest of these five players to get considering he's the only one who is an unrestricted free agent.
Among those draft picks is shooting guard Jeremy Lamb, who was picked 12th out of UConn. Lamb was absolutely amazing during the summer league and has earned himself some considerable playing time.
That's where Kevin Martin comes in.
With Jeremy Lamb breathing down his neck for a starting spot and cutting into his minutes anyway, Martin may be anxious to get out of Houston and find a new home next season. The Suns could be one of the teams that expresses interest.
Martin averaged just about 17 points a game last season, but before that he put up five straight seasons of 20 points per game or more. Though he's never really developed a great secondary skill like playing good defense or being a good play maker, he is a good scorer, and that's really all the Suns would need from him. Should the James Harden mission fail, there's a likely chance Martin could sign with another team and the Suns should at least give him a shot.
Tyreke Evans is a restricted free agent, but he has failed to bring the Kings a lot of success over the past few years so the team may not be reluctant to let him go.
After starting off his career on a great path and averaging 20.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists in his rookie season, Evans no longer seems like so much of a rising superstar. Last year the SG put up just 16.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists a game, all career lows.
Still, Evans still could rise once again and live up to his superstar potential, or at least repeat the same success he had in his rookie season. He is a fairly efficient shooter, he can be a playmaker if needed, he's a good rebounder for his position and he isn't a bad defender. Really, he's pretty much an all-around player. His biggest weakness probably comes with his three-point shooting, as he's connected on just 26 percent of his three-point shots over his career, an unsightly number for a shooting guard.
Evans would be a bit of a project, but he's still young and could be groomed into a great player. Saying he would lead the Suns to a title is extremely optimistic, especially because he never really helped the Kings succeed, but he could still be a key piece in turning the Phoenix Suns into contenders again.