COMMENTARY | The Phoenix Suns are in an advantageous situation, with approximately $10 million in cap room with which to fill out their remaining three open roster spots. The Suns aren't going to be in the running for the elite free agents like Dwight Howard or Chris Paul, but they will be able to dramatically improve their team. That is, as long as they avoid the following five players.
Before we get to the list, let's take a look at the mistakes made before the 2012-13 season, which still resonate today:
The bombs of all bombs dropped on July 20, 2012. The Suns took a chance on Michael Beasley by signing him to a three-year, $18 million contract. This was a guy who couldn't crack the Minnesota Timberwolves' rotation in 2011-12 that brought more baggage than a US Airways 747.
Then on July 25, 2012, the Suns signed Shannon Brown to a two-year, $7 million contract. Brown isn't a bad player, but consider the fact that he was so far at the end of the bench that they had to put out an APB to find him during timeouts.
1. Monta Ellis (2012-13 Salary: $11 million)
Ellis is at the top of the salary scale for the Suns and would require more of an investment than he's worth. He is an electric scorer who can also handle the ball, but he would take the ball out of Goran Dragic's hands much too often.
Averages of 19.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 2.1 steals are impressive, but Ellis is moody and uninterested on the defensive end. He's not a good fit at the salary he'll command.
2. Tyreke Evans - Restricted (2012-13 Salary: $5.25 million)
As a restricted free agent, the Sacramento Kings retain the rights to match any offer given to Evans. Similar to how the Minnesota Timberwolves offered a just-enough-to-consider $46 million to Nicolas Batum that Portland matched, someone will offer Evans a large contract.
It better not be the Suns. Evans represents what the Suns are trying to get away from. He's a one-way player that could thrive with veteran leadership surrounding him, but that's not who the Suns are at this point. If they could snag him at $5-6 million annually, it might be worth a shot, but any more than that is lighting it on fire.
3. O.J. Mayo (2012-13 Salary: $4.2 million)
Before we get to the negative, let's look at a couple of positives for Mayo. He's durable (missed only 11 games in five years), he isn't afraid to shoot and is solid from the 3-point line. Sounds like a winner, right?
Again, we're looking at another one-way player without a lot of discipline. The Suns weren't an efficient team in 2012-13, with only Dragic (17.5) posting a PER above 16.7. Mayo has never even broken an efficiency of 15. As a sixth man, he would be a big help. But, the Suns need to fill the starting roles before they can consider bolstering the bench.
4. J.R. Smith (2012-13 Salary: $2.8 million)
Fearless? Check. Can take over a game? Check. Sixth Man of the Year candidate? Check. But, when Smith doesn't have "it", he becomes J.R. Smh.
Smith just doesn't seem to be able to provide consistent production. New Suns coach Jeff Hornacek was known for his dependability and consistency. Having to reign in a player like Smith would make Hornacek sick. When the spotlight was brightest (2012-13 NBA playoffs), Smith was horrid. After posting an efficiency rating of 5.4 during the 2011-12 playoffs, he "improved" to 10.7 in 2012-13.
5. Wesley Johnson (2012-13 Salary: $4.28 million)
The easy choice to start at shooting guard would be the previous starter. Johnson did make a case for himself by shooting much better from the 3-point line and taking a more aggressive role offensively late in the 2012-13 season.
That doesn't change the fact that he's known to be (and expected to be) a defensive player -- that can't seem to stop anybody. Johnson could be had cheap and could provide some value in spots, but he's not a starter as he's shown in his 148 tries.
Michael Dunlap is an NBA credentialed writer who covers Phoenix Suns practices and games for the site he founded , HoopsHabit.com. Follow @iambabyd13.
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