Here is what the full preseason schedule will look like, according to Suns beat writer Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic.
Oct.10 at Sacramento, Oct. 12 vs. Portland, Oct. 17 at Dallas, Oct. 19 vs. Oklahoma City (at Tulsa, Okla.), Oct. 22 vs. Sacramento, Oct. 23 at Golden State and Oct. 26 vs. Denver. ESPN will carry the preseason finale against Denver.
The big name in next year's free agent class that every Suns fan on the planet wants is Oklahoma City Thunder shooting guard James Harden. Harden attended Arizona State for two years and has voiced being interested in playing in Phoenix, although he has taken those comments back a bit and said he would like to remain with a championship contender in OKC.
Even though will be some very good shooting guards, guys like Monta Ellis, Tyreke Evans, Kevin Martin and possibly Andre Iguodala, on the market next offseason, Harden should be the Suns number one priority next offseason.
Harden is everything that the Suns need at the moment. He plays at a position that isn't exactly loaded with talent on the Suns roster. Shannon Brown and Jared Dudley will both be under contract in 2013, but neither are in Harden's class and could be moved to make room for the former Sun Devil. Harden is also a lethal scorer and a go-to player, which is something Phoenix doesn't have at the moment.
Critics of the shooting guard will point to Harden's NBA Finals as an indication that he can't be a #1 option for a team. Yes, he did struggle in three of the five games, but was really good in the other two and played brillantly throughout the rest of the postseason. Going into his fourth season, it is pretty clear that he is becoming one of the best shooting guards in the league and he still has lots of room to grow at 22.
There are a couple of factors though that would make it difficult for the Suns to acquire Harden. First off, he is a restricted free agent, meaning that the Thundeer can match any offer the Suns give him. We all know the term restricted free agent all too well with the Eric Gordon situation during this offseason.
Harden also has a very comfortable situation in Oklahoma City. Even with the Lakers brilliant offseason, the Thunder should remain the favorites to win the Western Conference and make a return trip back to the Finals. That would be difficult for Harden to give up, even if it means earning max money and being "the man" so to speak in Phoenix.
Where Harden ends up could hinge on what the Thunder do with their other players. They already have Kevin Durant on a max deal and need to do the same with Russell Westbrook. Serge Ibaka along with Harden are both going to need new deals after this season. With playing in such a small market, it is hard to see OKC being able to afford all four guys on the same roster.
After acquiring several assets this offseason, the Suns might very well have the pieces to be able to acquire Harden in a sign-and-trade come next offseason. A slew of first round picks plus Markieff Morris and possibly another piece might be enough to entice OKC's interest and get a deal done between the two sides.
Of course, all of this discussion could be for naught and the Thunder could sign Harden to a long-term deal at some point before next offseason, which would send the Suns fan base in a deep depression that we haven't seen since it was announced that Steve Nash was dealt to the Lakers.
Lets hope that doesn't end up being the case and the Suns will at least have the opportunity to add the new face of their franchise for several seasons to come.]]>
There were whispers last week that Howard was set to join the Lakers in Los Angeles. Of course this wasn't a new development so I was included on the long list of those who were skeptical of a trade getting done, but this time around it came true and Howard joins up with Kobe Bryant in LA to form a dream team that might be the favorite to win the whole thing next season.
Immediately after I saw the breaking news on Twitter, I was upset for a number of different reasons.
I was upset for the Lakers for being so well ran as an organization, which is a far cry from how the Suns have been ran over the last several years. I was mad at David Stern for allowing this trade to go through and I was mad at Bryant because he is on the verge of getting his six championship, which would tie Michael Jordan. If that happens, we will have to hear how Kobe is the greatest ever from many Lakers fans.
The worst thing about Howard landing in LA is the move really hurts the Suns. Sure, the Suns had little chance of competing against the Lakers this season even if this move would have never went down, but with Phoenix getting LA's first rounder this year because of the Steve Nash deal, this all but guarantees that the pick will come very late in the first round.
At that stage of the draft, it is very difficult to get a quality player that will contribute to your team immediately. Of course there are exceptions to that rule and the Spurs have been an testament to that over the last several drafts, but the Suns are nowhere close to them as far as putting quality drafts together.
With the draft more than 10 months away, it is really hard to predict who exactly will be available at the end of the first round. We have no idea who will and won't be in the draft come next June. If they do end up holding onto that pick, they will more than likely have to make a choice between a European player who they can keep overseas for a couple years or a four-year college player with little upside.
For an organization that is in rebuilding mode and looking to improve the roster in any way possible, picking late in a draft that probably won't be as good as this past year's, won't excite a lot of Suns fans. It certainly doesn't send a tingle down my leg.
Throughout their history, the Lakers have been a bully to the Suns. They have beaten them up numerous of times both on and off the basketball court over the years. Unfortunately, that continues to be the case this offseason with the Lakers acquisition of the game's best big man.]]>
Coming straight out of high school, O'Neal has had a very solid NBA career. Even with getting less playing time in recent seasons, JON career wise has averaged more than 13 points and seven rebounds per game. A six-time All-Star, O'Neal's best years came in Indiana where he was considered one of the best power forwards in the game at the time.
Injuries have overtaken his career in recent seasons though. Over the past eight years, O'Neal has only been able to appear in 61 percent of his team's games. In his last two seasons in Boston with the Celtics, JON played in only 49 of Boston's 148 games played over the last two seasons.
Of course, O'Neal will now have the Suns training staff to help him continue on with his NBA career. Many agree that Aaron Nelson and company are one of the best training staffs in all of sports with continuing the careers of Grant Hill, Shaquille O'Neal and Steve Nash well into their 30's.
Alvin Gentry won't be asking a ton of O'Neal coming off the bench. The big man will need to spell Gortat for about 10-15 minutes per game and that is about it. Once he returns from offseason shoulder injury, Channing Frye will be able to back up Gortat as well. When the Suns are on back to backs and have several games in a short stretch, Gentry can sit O'Neal to give him some rest because of Phoenix's quality depth.
Personally, I am not head over hills excited with this move. Ideally, I think the Suns should have taken a chance on Greg Oden, who is younger and has higher upside, but the Suns were in need of another veteran presence and a guy who can rebound and block shots off the bench.
What a difference a year can make. At right around this time last year, the Suns had an older roster highlighted by Grant Hill and Steve Nash in their late 30's and Michael Redd in his early 30's, but with his best days clearly behind him. Their average age was right around 28.5, one of the highest in the league and an extremely poor number to have for a borderline playoff team.
Less than a year later, the Suns are still considered by even the biggest homer to be a borderline playoff, but after the departures of Hill, Nash and Redd and the infusion of some youngsters like Goran Dragic, Kendall Marshall and Michael Beasley, Phoenix now has a much younger roster. If the current roster remains in tack heading into the season, the Suns average age is just over 26. Phoenix could get even younger if they decide to deal Channing Frye or maybe even Marcin Gortat before the trade deadline next year.
Going with a roster with less experience couldn't have been an easy decision for the Suns front office, especially with losing two guys like Hill and Nash. Despite both guys being in their late 30's, Hill and Nash are still playing at a very high level and were arguably the Suns two best players last season. Not to mention, there are no two better leaders in the league.
With going younger, there is a huge risk of course that the Suns will lose more games and less people will attend games at US Airways Center as a result of no Hill or Nash. It was a decision that needed to be made though. For too long the Suns have been pushing back their rebuilding project.
The nightmare began the offseason after the Suns lost to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. Amar'e Stoudemire left Phoenix to join the Knicks in the Big Apple and instead of beginning the rebuilding process by possibly trading Nash, an organization with no general manager led by owner Robert Sarver decided that they were still contenders in the Western Conference and went out to trade for Hedo Turkoglu and signed Josh Childress and Hakim Warrick to long term deals to replace the productivity left by STAT's departure.
The first month and a half of that season was a complete disaster. The Suns were struggling to win games and Turkoglu was one of the main reasons why. He was having issues shooting the basketball and was clearly overmatched defensively playing at the power forward position.
Luckily after just a few short months, they were able to get rid of Turk's contract by sending him and Jason Richardson to Orlando for Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat, Mickael Pietrus, a first round pick and $3 million. It was a trade that the Suns clearly have won. Phoenix was able to buy out the remaining years on Carter's and Pietrus' contracts at a discounted rate and Gortat has turned into one of the most underrated centers in the league.
However, the Suns were still stuck with Childress' and Warrick's bad deals up until this offseason. The Suns were able to get the seldom used Childress off the books due to the amnesty clause in the new CBA and for whatever reason, the Hornets wanted Warrick as part of the deal that sent Robin Lopez to New Orleans. The trade brought back youngster Wes Johnson and a future first round pick in return.
The three big goals heading into this offseason for the Suns front office was to add youth to the roster, acquire assets in order to be able to make possible moves down the line and create some long-term payroll flexibility. They have done all three by adding Dragic, Beasley, Marshall and Johnson to go along with a slew of draft picks. They also have enough money under the cap for next offseason to go out and sign a max contract guy.
James Harden, anyone?]]>
The only real remaining hole on the current roster is the backup center position after the trade of Robin Lopez to New Orleans a few weeks back. Channing Frye has experience playing the five, but there is no guarantee that he will be ready for the start of the season after having offseason shoulder surgery. Scola could spell Gortat as well, but he is best suited to play the four.
The Suns front office will more than likely look to address that situation with the start of training camp not too far away. Here is a list of my top five options who I believe the Suns should look at for the backup center spot.
Mehmet Okur: This Turkey native has always been a guy who I thought would fit perfectly for the Suns. A former Western Conference All-star, Okur has length, can rebound and has great range on his jumper for a seven-footer. He is a career 46 percent shooter from the field, including 37.5 percent shooter from behind the arc. Only problem with the big man is he has had to deal with injuries for two straight seasons now. He ruptured his Achilles tendon during a game in April 2010 and really hasn't been the same since. He has only played in 30 games over the course of the past two seasons with the Jazz and Nets. At 33 years old, Okur's best seasons are behind him, but he can still be a quality guy to have coming off your bench at this stage of his career.
Greg Oden: Some of you reading this probably think I am crazy, but hear me out for just a second. It is well documented how many games that Oden has missed since entering the league out of Ohio State in 2007. The former first overall pick has missed every game over the past two seasons and only played 21 games with Portland during the 2009-2010 season. If any training staff can turn around Oden's career though, it is definitely that of the Suns. Long known as the best training staff in basketball and possibily in all of sports, Aaron Nelson and company kept guys like Grant Hill and Steve Nash at the top of their games well into their late 30's and helped give Shaquille O'Neal some life at the end of his career. An incentive based deal to Oden would be a low risk, high reward situation for the Suns in my view.
Jermaine O'Neal: Yet another guy on this list who has had to deal with injury issues over the course of his career. For a stretch, there weren't too many big men better than JON, but knee injuries have taken over his career and have turned him into a reserve player. O'Neal only played 49 games the last two seasons with Boston and set career lows in pretty much every category due to a big decline in minutes. Despite being 34 heading into next season, the former first round pick can still help you on the glass and blocking shots. Averaging just under 23 minutes per game last season with the Celtics, O'Neal still managed to average 1.7 blocks per contest. He might be leaning towards retirement right now though.
Kyrylo Fesenko: He is definitely the least known name on this list, but he might have the most upside. From Ukraine, the 25-year-old has never averaged more than nine minutes a game over his five-year career since coming into the league back in 2007. Despite his limited playing time, this quote from John Hollinger got me pretty excited for the possibility of Fesenko being a Sun. "The best-kept secret in the NBA right now is Fesenko’s monstrous defensive stats. It’s not that one or two metrics point out his defensive value; it’s that all of them do, without any pointing to the contrary." A defensive presence is something that the Suns desperately need on their roster, so adding Fesenko would make a lot of sense.
Chris Andersen: Once a huge fan favorite and one of the better defensive big men coming off the bench in the league, Andersen has fallen out of favor in George Karl's rotation as Denver has added lots of younger options over the last couple seasons. That doesn't mean Andersen can't play anymore though. He can be a good defender where he can rebound and block shots. Even in limited action, Birdman as fans call him still averaged 4.6 boards and 1.4 blocks while averaging only 15 minutes per contest last season with the Nuggets. At the very least, he would bring an interesting personality to the fold for the Suns with all his tattoos and crazy hair]]>
Here are some comments by Casper, who plans to seek other business ventures.
“I enjoyed my time with the Suns,” said Casper in the release. “It was a wonderful opportunity for me, but ultimately serving the Suns while continuing to juggle a portfolio of other business interests became too much. I’m grateful to have worked with so many gifted professionals and I look forward to cheering on the team next season.”
Center Robin Lopez, forward Hakim Warrick and cash will be headed to New Orleans. In return, the Suns will receive guard/forward Wes Johnson from Minnesota and a first round pick from the T'Wolves that will more than likely be lottery protected. The Timberwolves will get the contract of Brad Miller, who is set to retire, guard Jerome Dyson and two second round picks from New Orleans.
When so many players are involved in a deal, things are usually complicated, but this trade seems pretty straight forward for all parties involved. The Bees get their starting center in Lopez to put alongside their young star in Anthony Davis and a veteran presence in Warrick. The T'Wolves get much neeeded payroll flexibility and they aren't wasting any time as they are reportedly on the verge of signing Andrei Kirilenko on a two-year, $20 million deal.
For the Suns, this move was done for a number of reasons.
First off, they get a talented former fourth overall pick in Johnson. Coming of Syracuse, Johnson had a very solid rookie season in Minnesota, but his playing time declined last year due to the Timberwolves having a lot of options at the shooting guard and small forward positions. One of his biggest weaknesses has been his ability to shoot the ball effectively, so don't be surprised if Dan Majerle doesn't help him with that part of his game heading into the season.
Phoenix also gets payroll flexibility and an extra pick in this deal. They won't have to pay the remaining $9.5 million on Warrick's contract and won't have to overpay Lopez to keep him in a Suns uniform. With the extra pick, the Suns could have three first round picks during the 2013 draft depending on whether the Minnesota pick is lottery protected, which more than likely will be the case. Either way, the Suns will get a first round pick out of this deal.
Both Lopez and Warrick were more than expendable. Marcin Gortat will take up most of the minutes as the team's starter at center and Lopez's minutes off the bench can replaced by Channing Frye, who played the five spot during the Suns run to the Western Conference Finals a few years back. Warrick was buried deep on the depth chart behind Luis Scola and Markieff Morris.
In my view, this is a home run trade for the Suns. Even if Johnson ends up having a bad season in Phoenix, there is a very low risk involved with acquiring him. He is signed through next season and has a team option for the following one with the money being reasonable. I think his upside is well worth taking a one-year flier on him.
Come next season, Johnson will be the backup to Michael Beasley at small forward. He will also be able to slide to the two guard if Alvin Gentry decides to go with a bigger lineup.]]>
Heading into the offseason, the Suns front office made it clear that it was a priority to bring back Lopez. Suns president Lon Babby even came out and said that they would match any offer from another team, but Portland has been the only other team that has showed interest in Lopez up until this report came out.
For the Hornets, this move would make a ton of sense for a team that has had a very busy offseason so far. At the moment, New Orleans only true center on the roster is veteran Brad Miller. Rookie Anthony Davis has the length to play there, but heading into his first season in the league, the youngster is best suited to play power forward. Lopez's age, length and upside intrigues the Bees front office.
Moving Lopez makes sense for the Suns at this time. Marcin Gortat is a lock to get at least 30 minutes a game next season, which leaves very little playing time for Lopez off the bench. After signing Luis Scola, Phoenix is suddenly deep at the power forward/center positions as well. If Lopez is dealt, Channing Frye can slide to backing up Gortat at center like he did during the Suns playoff run a couple years back with Scola capable of playing at the five spot as well.
The front office's patience with Lopez appears to have run out as well. The 24-year-old did have a nice second half to his season, but there were too many times where he didn't show up to play and showed a lack of maturity on the floor. With the Steve Kerr regime having drafted him, it is becoming more clear that this front office isn't very high on a big man who doesn't block shots and isn't a very good rebounder.
Babby's comments earlier in the offseason of wanting to match any offer that was presented to them by another team was an obvious ploy on the front office's part. There is no way the Suns would match an expensive long-term deal if Lopez was indeed given one.
There has been no word on who would want to be involved in a potential deal. There are reports that the Suns want a first round pick for Lopez while the Hornets are only offering a second round pick. Hornets247.com offered a deal of shooting guard Xavier Henry and a second round pick for Lopez, which I think the Suns would be really stupid to pass up if that ever becomes an offer.
If the two sides can't come to an agreement on a deal, Lopez will more than likely sign his qualifying offer of just over $4 million for next season and remain in a Suns uniform due to a lack of interest from other teams. Lopez will then become an unrestricted free agent next season and will be free to sign anywhere of his choosing.
In my view, that day can't come soon enough.]]>
Tucker played on the Suns summer-league team where he averaged 5.8 points and 6.2 rebounds in 21.2 minutes per game in five contests in Vegas. Tucker became a favorite of Suns summer coach Dan Majerle as "Thunder Dan" said he loved P.J. for his hard play and doing everything you ask of him.
In his time at Texas, the small forward had a very solid career. He was placed on the Big 12's All Freshmen team and was a All-Big 12 honorable mention in his first year under Rick Barnes. During his final year as a Longhorn, Tucker was one of the better players in the country. He was the Big 12 Player of the Year and was the AP's Second Team All-American.
With his collegiate accolades, Tucker was selected 35th overall in the second round by the Toronto Raptors during the 2006 draft. He didn't receive a lot of playing time with the Raptors appearing in only 17 games where he averaged 1.8 points and 1.4 rebounds. Tucker saw the majority of his time in the D-League with the Colorado 14ers and was eventually waived by Toronto.
Since being waived, Tucker has played on a number of different teams overseas including Italy, Puerto Rico and Greece. He has also been a MVP in Israel, a scoring champ in Ukraine and was the MVP of this year's German League finals.
It remains to be seen what Tucker's role will be with the Suns. Phoenix still has plenty of money they can spend and they have been rumored to be talking to Carlos Delfino and possibly even Terrence Williams to add depth at small forward position behind starter and newcomer Michael Beasley.
If the current roster remains unchanged, Tucker would more than likely compete with Hakim Warrick, who can play both forward positions, in training camp for playing time to back up Beasley. Not known for his scoring, Tucker will provide the Suns at the very least with a good locker room presence as well as much needed defense coming off the bench.]]>