Change is inevitable to the Phoenix Suns roster this summer, even if the team didn't have an abysmal season-ending loss for the second straight year.
Even before the dismissal of coach Monty Williams on Saturday, more than half of the team's 15-man roster was set to enter free agency which begins on June 30.
Lee said at the team's final media availability on Friday, the day after Phoenix's West semifinals series-closing home loss in Game 6, that he wants to stay in the Valley.
“Yeah, I love it here. I love the guys on the team, but whatever happens happens. The good thing is we got some time for that, whatever happens let it all marinate and let the dust settle. But really just reflecting on the memories that we had as a team this past year is really where my mind is right now.”
Lee and Landale came to Phoenix last July under different circumstances by choice and via trade, respectively.
Lee spent four consecutive previous seasons in the Golden State Warriors organization, which began as a two-way deal player on the team's G-League team Santa Cruz Warriors from 2018 to 2020. Then he helped Golden State win last season's title as a reserve on a 7.4-point, 3.2-rebounds per game average, and had shooting percentage splits (field goal, 3-point, free throw) of 44.1/33.7/88.1 before he signed a one-year deal with Phoenix.
After Landale's rookie season with the San Antonio Spurs, he was traded in a package with their former All-Star Dejounte Murray to the Atlanta Hawks for Danilo Gallinari and multiple future first-round picks on the first day of free agency last year. One week later, Landale was traded to Phoenix for cash considerations.
This season, Lee was a major contributor from beyond the arc through two-thirds of the season in Phoenix's second unit before the playoffs. In 74 appearances, including five starts, he produced 8.2 points in 20.4 minutes per game, had Phoenix's and the league's best shooting percentage from deep through the All-Star Break, and finished third at 44.5%.
Landale averaged 6.6 points on 52.8% FG and 4.1 rebounds in 14.2 minutes per game in 69 appearances and four starts. He had similar statistics in the series against Denver. In Game 6, Landale started to replace the injured Deandre Ayton (rib) and scored 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting, had five rebounds, one block and an assist.
He said he loves it in Phoenix, wants to finish his career as a Sun, and believes he's proven his worth for another shot here.
Landale was a more versatile backup big for Ayton than the veteran Bismack Biyombo, who's on an expiring one-year deal alongside Lee, on both ends of the floor. Landale can occasionally step out and hit 3s, runs the floor well as a finisher on the break, is decent in the pocket to hit spot-up jumpshots and floaters from midrange and in the paint from catching pick-and-roll pocket passes. Biyombo was the team's best shot-blocker (1.4 per game), but Landale is good at altering shots as well.
“I’m never gonna be complacent and feel as though that I’m a proven product and I can take my foot off the gas," Landale said. "I think it was a step in the right direction from where I was at last year with San Antonio, being a player that didn’t play, no games in the public eye, so I was relatively unknown, and this year I go to play on the world’s biggest stage and kind of go up against a two-time MVP (Denver's Nikola Jokic) and gave it my best crack. …
“I think that I’ve done what I have to do to get a deal that I like and hopefully I can just continue to build on that going forward."
Lee expressed his résumé from this season in how he's fulfilled his personal goals and team goals, and quelled chatter among his haters after leaving Golden State.
"You guys know the numbers: essentially top five all year in NBA 3-point percentage, that’s huge on a team that finished top four in the West; and the number one 3-point percentage in the fourth quarter all year. That stuff matters," Lee said.
"That’s not something I’m saying to toot my own horn, but that stuff to me matters because it put away all doubt that he’s here for a favor, stepped out by the grace of God. A lot of people counted me out that ‘he’ll go to Phoenix, he won’t do anything, he’ll fizzle out.’ But it’s like you go there, you take a chance, you have a coaching staff and front office that believes in you, teammates that encourage you night in and night out, whether you’re in the rotation and things happen the way they do.”
Lee precipitously fell out of Phoenix's rotation after the Kevin Durant trade in February. After signed Terrence Ross following his contract buyout in Orlando that month, and Phoenix got T.J. Warren back on its roster from Brooklyn in the Durant deal, Lee averaged just two points and shot 33.3% from the 3 in 8.8 minutes during the playoffs.
"I just know that it’s the game. What goes around comes around. You can start for 20 games, come off the bench for 20 games, and not play for 20 games," Lee said. "It’s just the flow of the season and understanding the landscape of where our team was at around that time: just made a trade, arguably one of the biggest trades in NBA history, and it was in season.
"Bringing on new guys, gonna have to learn, gonna have to adjust as it goes. For me, I was just always making sure I got my reps in, whether it was before practice and out on the floor, getting my work in, whether it was when everyone’s off the work. My main thing was just staying ready.”
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Phoenix Suns have free agency decisions to make