With the end of a very exciting and successful season, the Phoenix Suns now enter a very important offseason.There are expiring contracts, player options, the salary cap, and the draft to consider. Let us look at some of the key questions that must be answered if the Suns' success is to continue next year.
Kerr's contract is up at the end of this month. It is all but a forgone conclusion that he will be signed to a new deal, but the question is for how long. It was not long ago that he was almost run out of town with his trade for Shaquille O'Neal and the hiring of Terry Porter.
Then, the trade for Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley panned out and draft picks Robin Lopez and Goran Dragic made significant contributions. After a one year hiatus from the playoffs, the Suns looked like a Cinderella threat to make it to the NBA Finals.
Signing him for several years would provide the type of continuity that successful teams need. It likely will happen.
This is the big question. Stoudemire can opt out of the last year of his contract and most believe that this is what will happen. If he does, then he will be the one of the highly sought free agents.
There is some question as to whether he will be offered as much money as he wants by Phoenix. He himself has said that it is 50-50 whether he will be back or not.
If he leaves, he will leave a large hole to be filled, which leads to the next question...
This is where the fun begins. Here are some possibilities:
Dirk Nowitski: He is the option that people dream of. Unfortunately, a lot has to happen to make this possible. He would be a good fit offensively and really nothing is lost if he replaces Amare.
David Lee: Not as sexy a choice, but it would improve the rebounding. Defensively, there is no real change and he is an offensive downgrade (although he would still be productive, but not dominating). He could not be the alpha dog, so Jason Richardson would have to take that role.
Carlos Boozer: A good option, but with looming questions. He, like Amare, has had injury issues. He is an upgrade in rebounding, but there is less versatility because he would not play center well like Stoudemire could at times. He has not played in an offensive system like Phoenix plays. He would cost less and would need Richardson to be alpha dog.
Channing Frye: What? Is this even an option? It could be. Frye could start at power forward. The rebounding takes a hit, but he spreads the floor. He obviously would not be the alpha dog, but it could be a productive lineup, especially if Robin Lopez makes strides in his post game. Of course, this even assumes that he is back, considering he is expected to opt out of his contract to become a free agent and sign a long term deal.
Earl Clark: this would be the worst case scenario, but only because it would be a year or so too early. I personally believe that this will eventually happen, playing power forward if Amare leaves or small forward alongside him. He has the tools to be a more complete player. He has shown defensive prowess and rebounding ability. He has great length, and is explosive. He may never be the offensive force, but I think he will be a great player.
Channing Frye had the best season of his career and is looking to cash in. Even though he went from starter to bench player, he was, in the words of Alvin Gentry, his most important player off the bench.
The Suns want him back, and Frye would be wise to come back because his skill set suits this team best, but what will be the price?
Owner Robert Sarver is not a fan of the luxury tax, but wants to be competitive. As it stands, if Amare leaves, the team will only be about $5 million under the cap. Resign him and Frye, and you are many millions over the cap. Leandro Barbosa seema to be the most likely to go, but there may be few takers. Jason Richardson's expiring contract could find suitors, but he may need to be the best player on the team next year. Since it isn't my money, pay them all, but if it were mine, I wouldn't.
As it stands, because of some questionable trades (namely, giving away two picks to Oklahoma City to take Kurt Thomas' contract away), Phoenix has no first round pick in the draft this year. In a year where many feel that the talent level is fairly deep, not having that pick may hurt the team down the road.