The Suns will enter this summer with plenty of cap space, and that should give them more than enough options in free agency. On one hand, the Suns could pursue a potential All-Star such as Josh Smith, Monta Ellis, Andrew Bynum or Al Jefferson in hopes of returning to the playoffs sometime within the next few years.
On the other hand, they could choose to conserve their cap space for now and only sign younger, cheaper players or older veterans to short-term contracts while they add more young assets through the draft.
Either way, expect to see new GM Ryan McDonough make at least a couple of signings this summer in the midst of the team's rebuilding process.
Here are a few players that the Suns should definitely consider.
Greg Oden has not played in the NBA since the 2009-10 season; in fact, he only ever played 82 NBA games because his career was plagued by injuries.
However, perhaps that makes Phoenix the perfect destination for Oden. After all, how many injury-prone players have Aaron Nelson and the team's medical staff magically "cured" over the past several years. Shaquille O'Neal, Grant Hill, Jermaine O'Neal and Michael Redd are all examples of washed-up veterans who found success in the desert and were able to stay healthy throughout most of their tenure in Phoenix.
So, why not give Oden a chance? Marcin Gortat may be traded this offseason after all, and Jermaine O'Neal and Hamed Haddadi could both sign elsewhere next season.
Additionally, Oden actually played very well for the Portland Trail Blazers when he was healthy. Oden has career averages of 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in just 22.1 minutes per game, and he also has shot an astounding 5 percent from the field.
When we examine Oden's rookie year, we actually find that he had one of the more promising rookie seasons among all active centers. Oden's 4.6 win shares in the 2008-09 season is sixth among all active centers and is better than players such as Joakim Noah, Tyson Chandler, Roy Hibbert, Emeka Okafor and JaVale McGee.
Also keep in mind that Oden only played 61 games in his rookie season, whereas the other players on that list all played at least 80. When the statistics are adjusted to win shares per 82 games, Oden actually jumps to third on that list behind just Marc Gasol and Dwight Howard.
Now, is this to say that Greg Oden is superstar material? Definitely not, as he would likely return to the NBA in worse shape after stepping away from the constant training, playing and practice for a few years.
However, he could still be a quality center at a fairly cheap cost. The Suns could lure Oden to Phoenix on a reasonable, one-year deal by using the training staff as a bargaining chip, and give him the chance to be a starter.
If he gets injured or just doesn't meet expectations, there isn't much harm done, and the team could still look at other young prospects down low to build around in the future. But if all goes well, perhaps Oden could even find a more permanent home in the NBA.
First of all, allow me to explain why the Suns probably shouldn't pursue an All-Star like Andre Iguodala, who just recently decided to opt out of the final year of his contract and become a free agent.
Iguodala is a great talent. However, he is plainly not a superstar. While Iguodala has made an All-Star appearance, he is not capable of being a franchise player, and at 29 years old he does not appear to have any room left for growth. Signing Iguodala now may just be a guarantee of three or four years of mediocrity, with the Suns suffering a first-round exit again and again.
Also, Iguodala relies heavily on his fantastic athleticism to be so successful in the NBA. Many athletic players do start their decline slightly earlier than those who rely on skill, and Iguodala is already at the peak of his career. This doesn't necessarily mean that Iguodala will suddenly be useless as soon as he turns 30, but you can bet that by the end of his next contract he will not be the same player he is today.
And yet, at the same time, Iguodala could be a fantastic signing for the Suns.
Originally, I wouldn't have thought that Phoenix would even have an opportunity to pursue Iggy. After all, why would an All-Star choose to leave a championship contender like Denver and then sign with one of the worst teams in the NBA in Phoenix?
But now that he has opted out, the Suns should at least give it a shot. Of course, if Iguodala demands a max contract, or if he is offered one by another team, the Suns should stop negotiations immediately. The last thing they need at this point is to take on an unwieldy contract that significantly worsens the future cap situation.
But for a reasonable price, Iguodala could be a great signing. In fact, he is perhaps everything Suns fans are hoping to see in a draft prospect like Victor Oladipo.
While Iguodala will not be a go-to scorer, he can occasionally light up opposing defenses up for 20 or 25 points. He also has the ability to score in a number of different ways, whether it be driving or cutting to the basket or on the wing from three-point range.
Also, Iguodala is one of the most versatile players in the NBA. He has great size and will grab more rebounds than almost any other guard/forward, yet at the same time he is also a fantastic passer. He is a career 33 percent shooter from deep, and he is also one of the greatest dunkers in the league. And of course, you can't forget about his spectacular defense.
Pairing Iguodala with Goran Dragic would create one of the most explosive backcourts in the NBA. Would it bring Phoenix to a championship? Most likely not.
But it could definitely bring playoff basketball back to the U.S Airways Center and help reverse the dwindling attendance numbers from the past couple of seasons.
7'1" French center Alexis Ajinca last played in the NBA with the Toronto Raptors in 2011. He just had a fantastic season overseas in France, but could potentially return to the NBA.
"But wait. Don't we already have one obscure foreign center in Hamed Haddadi? Why do we need another one?"
Ajinca brings some interesting qualities that the Suns would not get from Haddadi. It's true, Haddadi is the better shot-blocker. In the 2010-11 season, Ajinca did block two shots per 36 minutes, but he is not quite as intimidating a presence on defense.
Still, he is a more well-rounded player than Haddadi. Ajinca has greatly benefited from playing a larger role in France, and he can play in the post, rebound or block shots.
Also, Ajinca has much better range than Haddadi ever will. He has the ability to knock down a mid-range jump shot or even a three-pointer, a skill which he also displayed in the NBA. Ajinca shot 12-of-34 (35 percent) from deep with the Raptors and Mavericks a couple of years ago.
Further, Ajinca is 25 while Haddadi is now 28. The hope would be that the foreign center still has room to grow as an NBA player and develop with Phoenix.
For a better taste of Ajinca's game, check out some of his highlights from the French playoffs in the video below.
It should not take more than $1 or $2 million to bring him back to the NBA. The Suns could draft a prospect such as Alex Len, Cody Zeller or Steven Adams, re-sign a veteran like Jermaine O'Neal or sign Greg Oden and still have room for Ajinca as a third-string center. Or, they could just bring him in to be the main backup.
In the best-case scenario, the Suns could find a diamond in the rough that would be a key piece in their rebuilding process.
And if the plan backfires? Well, perhaps he could still help the Suns tank and lose games for a better pick in the 2014 draft.
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