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Phoenix Suns Early NBA Free Agency Outlook

The NBA lockout is over with a tentative agreement announced in the early hours on Saturday morning. There are many details to still be worked out and the agreement could still fall apart at many points before there's a formalized CBA. All signs, however, point to a saved season which will likely be a challenge for the Phoenix Suns who have nine players under contract, little room under the salary cap and no projected All-Stars.

We still don't know how all of the rules will play out under the new CBA, but it seems likely it will be very similar to the previous proposal. The salary cap and luxury tax are expected to be about where they were last year: $58m and $70m respectively with increased luxury penalties for the big-spending teams like Dallas and the Los Angeles Lakers.

According to NBA commissioner David Stern, both training camps and free agency will start on December 9 with a 66-game season starting on Christmas Day. The Phoenix Suns will hold their training camp in Phoenix on the campus of Grand Canyon University. 

The team has nine players under contracts totaling about $52 million. That doesn't include free agent Grant Hill or restricted free agent Aaron Brooks. Those two will likely be the team's top priorities. Here's a detailed recap of where the team was in terms of salary and free agency prior to the lockout.

Brooks recently signed a deal to play in China that doesn't contain an "NBA out" provision meaning he's contractually obligated to finish his season. However, don't rule out him finding some way out of that deal so he can return to the NBA before February when the Chinese season ends. 

Foward Gani Lawal has been playing (very well) in Poland and proving he's fully recovered from January's ACL tear. The Suns have him on a non-guaranteed contract for this season for just under $800k. Lawal has an NBA out on his contract so there's no reason to think he won't be in camp on time. Center Marcin Gortat was close to signing a deal to play in Turkey but never did. 

We expect to hear a lot of speculation and discussion about trading Steve Nash who's in the final year of his contract. It will be interesting to see how that plays out and what the market for him will be at this point of his career.

With increased luxury tax penalties coming, there could be a few teams desperate to shed some contracts but it's too soon to say how that will play out and the Suns don't have a ton of room under the salary cap to take on contracts.

Overall, the Suns' current roster is heavy on role players but lacking the star power needed to compete in the NBA. The biggest need moving forward is a long-term solution at point guard with the end of the Nash-era coming one way or another. But on a roster with no likely All-Stars, there's plenty of holes to go around. 

Here's a quick look at the current projected depth chart:

Center: Gortat / Lopez  / Frye / Siler*

Power Forward: Frye / Morris / Warrick / Lawal*

Small Forward: Hill* / Childress / Pietrus

Shooting Guard: Dudley / Childress / Pietrus

Point Guard: Nash / Brooks* / Dowdell*

* free agent or non-guaranteed contract

It's very possible the Suns will struggle this season and position themselves with cap space for the summer of 2012 when there are several big stars expected 

For more on the Phoenix Suns, visit Bright Side of the Suns.