Which free agents should the Phoenix Suns re-sign for 2023-24?

Welcome to the Phoenix Suns’ offseason. It looks like there are no more shaky moves on the horizon as Chris Paul has been dealt for Bradley Beal and all indications are that center Deandre Ayton will stay with the Suns — for now.

Four max contracts are on the list: Beal, Ayton, Devin Booker, Kevin Durant.

Four more contracts brings us to eight players for sure: Cam Payne (now fully guaranteed, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks), Ish Wainright (club option exercised, per Mark), Jordan Goodwin (partially guaranteed until Sept. 1) and Isaiah Todd. We’re at nine including second round draft pick Toumani Camara.

That leaves six roster spots and a pair of two-way deals to dish out.

The Suns project to land above the new second tax bracket at an expected $182 million, meaning they can only sign outside free agents to veteran minimum exceptions.

According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the Suns will also try to re-sign free agents Torrey Craig, Josh Okogie, Damion Lee, Jock Landale, Bismack Biyombo and Terrence Ross. TJ Warren and Wainright could also be retained, as could point guard Saben Lee.

Phoenix has a $5 million trade exception that will also be used in February.

Before we get into free agents to be signed starting Friday, let’s take a look at all of the Suns’ own free agents, their situations and the likelihood of their resurgence with Phoenix.

Phoenix Suns own free agents

F Torrey Craig

Craig, 32, put together perhaps his best NBA season with 7.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game. He earned the trust of former head coach Monty Williams to play 24.7 minutes per game with 60 starts in 79 regular-season games last year. Sure the guard shuffles and injuries and Jae Crowder’s absence made that the case. It was a big year for Craig nonetheless.

While some reckless decision-making reared its head at times, it was of course always the product of great effort and energy.

Craig thrived, especially playing off the Suns’ stars, shooting a career-best 40% from three-point range on top of his usual solid defense.

Phoenix has early bird rights on him, meaning the team can sign him for at least two years and up to about $12 million per year (105% of the league average). While paying Craig more adds a massive tax figure, looking for 3-and-D wings on veteran-minimum deals will be worth it.

Adding low eight-figure deals also gives the Suns contract flexibility to make the math work on trades (see the inclusion of Landry Shamet’s contract in the Beal trade involving Chris Paul).

Likelihood of return: 8/10

– Kevin Zimmerman

C Jock Landale

(AP Photo/Darryl Webb)

A quick way to explain the value of Landale is that he benched Ayton for a short period of time against the two-time MVP and eventual Finals MVP during the playoffs. Then he damn well defended Ayton to reporters!

Like Craig, the Suns have early bird rights to the 27-year-old big man, who despite his three-point shot never gained traction, brought value from the traditional routes of hard screens, rim-rolling and knowing where to be on defense. Unlike Craig, Landale is a restricted free agent with a qualifying offer of $2.2 million.

He averaged 6.6 points and 4.1 rebounds per game, can function as a ball mover and quickly found a rhythm as a roller man with Durant. The latter speaks volumes for his smarts and reliability, and new head coach Frank Vogel will likely find him a fine, physical option.

Likelihood of return: 7/10

– Kevin Zimmerman

C Bismack Biyombo

The only reason not to pursue Biyombo would be if the Suns want to get younger at center. And sometimes you have to remind yourself that while Biyombo has been in the league since 2011, he doesn’t turn 31 until late August.

Biyombo was one of the NBA’s best shot blockers last season. Among players with at least 500 minutes, Biyombo’s 9.0% block percentage was second only to Defensive Player of the Year Jaren Jackson Jr., per Stathead.

Biyombo is a great communicator defensively and has an innate understanding of where to be. He’s not much of a finisher and his free throw percentage took a big dip last year, but the defense is really worth a roster spot. In just two seasons, he has established himself as one of the best shot blockers in franchise history.

His banter is also a welcome dynamic in the dressing room. His teammates love him. It’s just a question of whether the Suns have a spot left for him.

Likelihood of return: 6/10

— Kellan Olson

G Damion Lee

Damion Lee, Phoenix Suns (Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Last year was the biggest season of Lee’s career. He had his share of idiotic critics from his time in Golden State, claiming Lee was only on the Warriors because of his brother-in-law Stephen Curry. Lee was candid during exit interviews about how much this past year meant to him because he absolutely cemented himself as an NBA player that should be around for the next half-decade-plus.

At 30 years old, Lee shot 44.5% from 3-point range, third in the league for players with at least 200 3s attempted. He was a knockdown shooter all year, especially in the fourth quarter. Lee was also a winning player, making timely defensive efforts or key ball rotations in big moments.

Lee’s off-the-dribble game won’t impress anyone and he gets caught defensively, but he works his tail out to make up for the latter. Being smart and knowing where to be helps a lot in these two areas as well. I was surprised how little former head coach Monty Williams approached Lee in the postseason considering how well he played in parts of the Los Angeles Clippers series and especially in Game 2 versus the Denver Nuggets, a contest Lee was 0-for -5 in, but was still a net positive thanks to his hustle.

The Suns’ roster to this point is expected to have a lot of defense and not enough shooting, making Lee a seemingly no-brainer to return. The question is whether he gets an offer elsewhere for more than the veteran’s minimum, a good offer given his shooting and how respected he is as a player who is always ready, and whether anyone wants him in a bigger role. Every bench group needs a “third unit” guy like him.

Likelihood of return: 6/10

— Kellan Olson

F/G Josh Okogie

At the end of the season, we talked about Okogie as a player who could command north of $10 million a year in free agency. After injuries and the Durant trade opened up playing time, Okogie averaged 11.5 points per game. game after the trade deadline, also making a huge impact defensively and on the glass.

But his 3-point shooting in January and February was 44.6% before dropping to 33.3% in the final five weeks of the regular season. The inconsistency of his shot and how exactly he could fit into the playoffs came to a head and he lost his starting position. He played under 18 minutes in six of the Suns’ 10 games, including a DNP in Phoenix’s elimination contest.

With all that said, like Lee, it was a huge year for Okogie. His rookie contract was up in Minnesota, and he took the minimum before he even turned 25. His long-term NBA future was certainly in doubt, but last year’s game has to have it as a good chance for another team besides the Suns to see a rotation spot for him.

Would Okogie take the minimum again? Phoenix does not have its bird rights. It’s a tough call. I’m inclined to believe Okogie has done enough to earn a decent salary elsewhere.

Likelihood of return: 4/10

— Kellan Olson

F/G Terrence Ross

Ross’ well-documented struggles defensively really rose to the surface in Phoenix. However, the Suns were so desperate to shoot that Ross found a way into the playoif rotation.

But the issues on that end were troubling enough to where a team like the Suns with such a top-heavy, ball-dominant trio of scorers doesn’t seem like a matchup. Yes, distance will be a premium for the Big 3, but the guy in Ross’ spot will must be at least an adequate defender.

There was no reason to believe Ross could be after last year despite his clear offensive talent and the elite shooting he brings. It’s a place someone like Lee makes far more sense.

Likelihood of return: 2/10

— Kellan Olson

F TJ Warren

TJ Warren and Kevin Durant in Game 3 of Suns-Nuggets (Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

I don’t know about Warren. There were glimpses of the player we once knew, a guy who could produce a bucket out of any situation and make blistering plays elsewhere. Warren also defended better than expected. Having a guy on the floor with the Big 3 who can provide a pinch of scoring while not being a negative in any other area will prove valuable.

If the Suns believe in Warren’s 3-point shooting, I think he’s earned a roster spot. He was 7-of-26 (26.9%) in 26 regular season and playoff games. While second-round pick Toumani Camara has a lot more to prove in the NBA, the back end of the wing rotation as a bigger forward is where he belongs. Is there room for another?

Likelihood of return: 4/10

— Kellan Olson

F Darius Bazley

The Suns are unlikely to find a longer wing on the free-agent market. Bazley, 23, showed a few good moments over just seven games played for the team.

He has 228 games under his belt after the Oklahoma City Thunder traded him to Phoenix for Dario Saric. Last year was his most efficient season — and fewest minutes played — and his jumper showed signs of turning a corner (40% from three), albeit with low volume of about one per shot. match.

A restricted free agent, his qualifying offer sits at $6.2 million, a high price for a player who likely wouldn’t make the rotation. The Suns can cancel that to save money. It would be pretty surprising if other teams went after him if it was extended. This is basically a question of whether Vogel thinks he can turn Bazley into a plus defender right off the bat.

Likelihood of return: 3/10

– Kevin Zimmerman

PG Know Lee

Lee’s future will ultimately come down to how the Suns envision Cam Payne’s role. If Payne is the third-string point guard, there is no room for Lee. But if Payne’s role is elsewhere, Lee earned that mark on that depth chart with how he filled out last year.

Through a significant stretch of injuries in mid-January, Lee played a rotation role for a month and was incredibly solid for a young point guard doing it for the first time. The rim pressure he generated was a welcome addition, his decision making was solid and his defense was good.

Lee just turned 24 years old, was only the 38th pick three drafts ago, and the Suns, who have some youth on the roster who could improve, shouldn’t be overlooked. Adding him along with Camara and Wainright as developmental pieces on the end of the bench makes sense.

Likelihood of returning: 5/10

— Kellan Olson

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