July 6, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Team USA guard Eric Gordon during practice at the UNLV Mendenhall Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE
The Phoenix Suns may have to wait until 2013 to make their big free agency splash.
Since the new front office came into power in Phoenix, they have had a concrete plan. The idea was that instead of tearing the team down to total scraps, they would build through free agency. That is what they have been setting themselves up for since the beginning of last season by signing multiple players to one-year contracts.
But what happens when the well dries up? The club is planning on signing restricted free agent guard Eric Gordon to a max offer sheet come July 11, but the Hornets have indicated that they plan on matching that 4 year, $58 million contract offer. After all, Gordon was the centerpiece of the trade that saw Chris Paul head to Los Angeles.
So if Gordon is stuck in New Orleans, what do the Suns do? They could spend their remaining cap space on mid-to-low tier free agents. Guys like Raymond Felton, Shannon Brown, O.J. Mayo, Carl Landry and others are all still on the market. The problem is, none of them have superstar potential. None of those plays are the type of guys that a team looks to build their identity around. That is what the Suns need.
The Suns do need someone, but that guy just doesn't seem to be on the market. No longer can they afford to burden themselves with mediocre players only to find that there is no glue to piece them all together. So if they have to, they should wait until 2013 to make their big free agency splash.
By the time next summer rolls around, the team's fans will be very leery of what the Suns plan on doing, but the avenues they can go down will seem never-ending. Headlining next year's class are guys like Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Monta Ellis and Andre Iguodala. After that, there are still solid players such as Josh Smith, James Harden, Serge Ibaka, DeMar Derozan and Paul Millsap.
Sure, some of them are restricted free agents, meaning their respective teams can match any offer, but will they do it? If the Suns throw out a large enough offer, a team like the Thunder might not be able to keep both Ibaka and Harden.
And no, guys like Howard and Paul are not going to want to come to a rebuilding Phoenix team. The money will be there for them no matter where they go, so why choose a team that will take years to be back in contention? It just doesn't add up.
But some of the other players do make sense. Harden played his college ball locally at Arizona State University. Iguodala played his just a little further south in Tucson for the Wildcats. Monta Ellis and Josh Smith are both young and looking to be focal points on any team that they go to.
Are these the type of players the Suns would want to build around? Maybe, maybe not. But they all have talent and some of them could be looking for a new home without requiring max level deals. If Phoenix could acquire 2-3 of them, they could be looking at a pretty decent, playoff bound team. How does a team of Dragic, Harden, Smith, Beasley and Gortat sound? Not too bad if you ask me.
So, yes, Suns fans would be forced to watch a team go through complete rebuilding mode in 2012. The losses will be abundant. You may want to consider taking an Ibuprofen before the game to avoid the headaches that will come with watching it. But that is part of the gig. They have already avoided that stage for far too long. If that isn't proof enough, think of the last time the Suns had a decent pick in the NBA draft.
Steve Nash joined the Suns in 2004, which was coincidentally the last time the Suns had a top 10 pick. Sure, they have been lottery-bound a few times since then, but they have never been able to secure a player with big star potential.
By having a letdown year in 2012, the Suns would also be gaining (in what we would hope) a top five or six draft selection. Finally, the team could select a player that is worthy of being built around. Do the names Nerlens Noel, Cody Zeller, James McAdoo and Shabazz Muhammad sound appealing? All of them are the type of players that can be a foundation for a franchise, including the Phoenix Suns.
On top of that, the Suns have a couple more draft selections next year that they received from the Lakers in the Steve Nash sign and trade. They will likely fall towards the end of each round, but when a team is in rebuilding mode, young bodies are always welcome, regardless of where they are drafted.
So let's recap: The Suns need to nab a couple star free agents, draft in the top five and make all the pieces they have collected fit together. Then they will be back in the playoffs before you know it.
Sounds easy enough, right?
For more on the Suns, head over to Bright Side of the Sun.