Phoenix Suns 2014 NBA Free Agency Big Board: Ranking Top Targets Post-Draft

D.J. FosterContributor IJuly 2, 2014

Phoenix Suns 2014 NBA Free Agency Big Board: Ranking Top Targets Post-Draft

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    The Phoenix Suns are entering the 2014 free-agency period in a perfect position. With cap space for one max deal, the rights to match any offer on Eric Bledsoe and the flexibility to easily position themselves to be a superstar destination, the Suns are in great shape.

    Even if the top of Phoenix's big board is a little unrealistic just based on the fact they aren't a major-market team and didn't make the playoffs last season, it's still possible to chase after the best players. With a solid coach and general manager combo with Jeff Hornacek and Ryan McDonough, anything is possible.

    So who should be Phoenix's top targets now that the draft is completed and the roster is just about full? The first priority will be retaining Bledsoe, but if Phoenix plays it right, it'll sign free agents into its cap space before Bledsoe signs an offer sheet elsewhere. The Houston Rockets are doing something similar with Chandler Parsons as they gun for a top player.

    Aside from Bledsoe, let's take a look at who is else is on Phoenix's big board in the 2014 free-agency period. 

LeBron James

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    Why not start with the greatest player in the world? While LeBron James is at the top of everyone's list, only a handful of teams have a somewhat realistic shot at luring him away from the Miami Heat.

    The Suns are one of those teams, thanks in large part to all their multiple young players, future draft picks, cap space and flexibility. James would be pairing up with one of the most dynamic backcourts in the league with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, and Phoenix's fast-paced spread offense with shooting big men would be a great match with LeBron's skills.

    There's a connection here as well. Bledsoe, nicknamed "Mini LeBron," has a relationship with James and both players share the same agent, Rich Paul. 

    Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe reported the Suns have managed to set up a meeting with Paul, so the first step has been taken care of. 

    There are quite a few more steps to take in order to really convince James, but his addition would likely make the Suns more dangerous than the Heat could be. The supporting cast is better and there are more assets, although moving out of the Eastern Conference passes up the chance to cruise to the Finals every year.

    Regardless, there's nothing to lose by making a strong pitch to James.  

     

Carmelo Anthony

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    One of the main reasons Phoenix could be such an attractive destination for superstars like LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony is because Phoenix could create the cap space to sign them both.

    Here's Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports with more:

    Armed with an offer that no else in the NBA can make – a chance to partner with Carmelo Anthony on an instant championship contender – the Phoenix Suns are planning an aggressive pursuit of LeBron James on Tuesday, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

    Suns officials understand the bid will be something of a long shot, but are determined to get a meeting with James to convince him how the possibilities of two full max contracts, a roster stocked with talented, young players and the chance to pick the superstar free-agent partner of his choice ought to make Phoenix one of his most appealing suitors.

    If Anthony's top priorities are to get paid and to pair with a superstar for a chance at a ring, he can work in cahoots with another star free agent to come to Phoenix. Even if he couldn't convince LeBron to join him, Anthony could turn Phoenix into a dominant force offensively with Dragic and Bledsoe.

    To leave behind a bigger payday in New York, though, Anthony may need another big name to come with him now. One of the downsides about the situation with the Knicks is that they won't have cap space until 2015. To get Anthony to leave, a team would likely have to convince him that they're a title contender now.

    Phoenix was very good last year, but it missed the playoffs. That might make this a tough sell, unless Anthony can recruit someone to come with him that will make a major difference. Either way, Phoenix is an interesting location for Anthony to consider.

Gordon Hayward

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    It's a little dangerous to play the waiting game with offer sheets to restricted free agents when you have one sitting out there yourself, but Ryan McDonough is on the right track by targeting a talented wing in Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward.

    Here's Jody Genessy of the Deseret News with more:

    The Phoenix Suns are expected to make Gordon Hayward a significant offer, possibly a max deal, but Utah Jazz will match, per sources.

    With the Jazz incredibly unlikely to let Hayward go for nothing, Phoenix would have to hope for a sign-and-trade offer as the best-case scenario. That shouldn't necessarily be ruled out, though, and that's why it makes some sense to put in a huge offer on Hayward and make sure that a fellow Western Conference team is having to pay as much as possible to retain talent.

    Hayward could help provide some perimeter shooting and playmaking on the wing, and the Suns would be even more dangerous as a slash-and-kick team with him in the lineup. Hayward seems like he has plenty of room to grow as a scorer and defender, and given the youth of the rest of Phoenix's core, that's a good thing as they can all grow together.

    The timing could be an issue, but signing Hayward to a massive offer sheet is a risk worth taking if Phoenix is out on the bigger players.

Pau Gasol

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    If recruiting a star forward doesn't turn out so well, Phoenix should look to address its hole in the middle with a player that fits its system.

    With a lack of young big men on the market, turning to a veteran like Pau Gasol would make sense. Here's Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com:

    Add two teams to the expected Pau Gasol market: Phoenix and Atlanta. Lakers, Knicks, Bulls, Mavs, Rockets all expected to pursue.

    Gasol is a sort of basketball chameleon due to his incredibly high skill level and intelligence, so any concerns of fit could be put to bed rather easily. He'd do nicely next to all of Phoenix's athletes on the wing.

    There are injury issues to consider with Gasol, of course, but Phoenix has one of the best training staffs in basketball and has had success with veterans like Vince Carter and Grant Hill in the past. That could be a major selling point.

    While Gasol should by no means be the first target, he's a nice backup plan if Phoenix can't bring on any stars in free agency or acquire any via trade. It's hard to say if Gasol will still be around in free agency by the time the Suns decide that, but if so, he'd help make Phoenix a legitimate contender right away as a post presence and veteran leader. 

     

Channing Frye

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    In addition to looking for outside help, the Suns would be wise to hang on to one of their own in free agency. Channing Frye turned down his player option with Phoenix to become a free agent, but that very well could have been to secure a long-term deal for financial security purposes instead of looking to go elsewhere.

    Here's what Suns President of Basketall Operations Lon Babby told Paul Coro of azcentral sports:

    "He made the decision to become a free agent as of July 1, which is his contractual right, and we respect that," Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby said. "We'll see how the free agency process will unfold."

    Here's Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports with more on Frye and Phoenix being interested:

    Suns pushing to re-sign Channing Frye, sources tell Yahoo. After opting-out of deal, Frye's surveying market, including Cavs, Warriors.

    With the Warriors almost certainly out of the race after spending the mid-level exception on Shaun Livingston, Frye's projected market may have slimmed down a bit, but not much. Teams are always looking for big men that can shoot from distance, and Frye is one of the premier players in the league in that area.

    A big part of Phoenix's surprise success was based on spreading the floor, and given the internal improvements and perhaps a cleaner bill of health for Bledsoe, there's reason to believe that re-signing Frye in addition to another free-agency signing could help Phoenix make a big playoff run.

    While he's somewhat limited as a rebounder and a defender, Frye occupies an important role that Phoenix won't likely take for granted. Markieff and Marcus Morris could fill a lot of his minutes as a 4, but Frye is a great stretch 5 option that Phoenix just doesn't have without him.