One New and One Ex-Guards Phoenix Suns Should Sign as Free Agents
Three weeks removed from the opening of NBA free agency and a bevy of talented players remain unsigned. To put things in summertime terms, the big ones have been caught, but the fishing trip is not over for anyone—including the Phoenix Suns.
To this point, Phoenix’s mid-level and bi-annual exceptions remain unused with the team instead filling out the backend of its roster with veteran minimums. Eventually, the Suns will want to use either option to address both backup guard spots.
With Cameron Payne’s well documented regression and Landry Shamet’s underwhelming season, the Suns cannot afford to remain idle.
For my money, Dennis Schröder is clearly the best unrestricted free agent guard still on the market. Schröder has extensive minutes both as a starter and a sixth man under his belt, but he strikes as more lethal when off the bench.
In fact, just two years ago Schröder finished second in the Sixth Man of the Year voting while playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder, backing up our very own Chris Paul. He then looked far less dynamic the following two seasons as a full time starter—playing for three teams in two years.
Even still, he averaged 13.5 points and 4.6 assists per game on decent efficiency last year. That is exactly what the Phoenix Suns need.
As mentioned, Schröder and Paul need no introduction to each other. Although he did come off the bench in OKC, he often played in two or even three guard lineups with Paul. Said lineups showcased Schröder’s underrated off-ball ability—a trait which makes him an even better fit with the Suns since he can spell both CP3 or Devin Booker if needed, while also potentially sharing the floor with Payne.
Instead of outright replacing Payne, Schroeder might actually rejuvenate him. Their shifty styles would continually have the defense on their heels and Schröder handling the rock at times promises to alleviate pressure from Payne.
But even with all those on-court attributes, Schröder’s price tag might be more beneficial to Phoenix than anything else. Only two teams currently carry the cap space to offer more than what the Suns could with their mid-level exception. Those two teams are both non-contenders as well, making them likely to pass on a Schröder signing opportunity.
Adding onto that, Schröder might not even command more than a veteran’s minimum. The nine year pro got rumor mill churning after he asked LeBron James on Instagram if they “should run it back” with the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lake Show can only offer Schröder the vet minimum, so his comment seemed to hint that he’d be happy to sign such a deal.
Either way, Schröder is a bargain for whatever amount the Suns could acquire him for.
This next name will surely ruffle some feathers, but I do believe he’s a good fit for the Suns. The last time we saw Eric Bledsoe, the Suns were getting blown out by 40, prompting him to deliver his infamous “I don’t wanna be here” tweet.
Since then, he’s bounced around the league as a productive player, though not the same near-All-Star he resembled with the Suns. In his most recent stops Bledsoe even transitioned into a bench player. He currently remains without an offer sheet after an injury plagued season last year.
While Bledsoe’s scoring prowess dropped significantly in recent years, his defense and playmaking remain sharp. The spacing already built into Phoenix’s second unit and will mitigate weaknesses hises on offense and allow him to do what he does best: drive and create off the bounce.
Like Schröder, Bledsoe is a combo guard experienced in sharing the floor with other point guards. Fans undoubtedly have fond memories of him and Goran Dragić putting together one of the better Suns seasons in recent memory. Also, just like Schröder, Bledsoe promises to help out Payne, who’s play style is not dissimilar to Dragić’s.
As for the type of contract Bledsoe would command, a veteran’s minimum feels proper, therefore making this a fairly low risk, medium reward move. Bledsoe is on the wrong side of thirty and possesses an injury-riddled past, but when healthy, he’s a solid player. If up for a reunion, he could be an extremely valuable bench piece.
Right now, the Suns have no shortage of options on the table to bolster their guard position. They do not need to necessarily replace Payne, but instead pick up players at least like Schröder or Bledsoe to work in tandem with him. Payne can still be a good player, but it’s time to install some insurance behind him.