Phoenix Suns 2021 NBA Free Agency Grades For Every Signing
The Phoenix Suns are coming off one of their best seasons in franchise history. Unfortunately, they came just two wins short of taking home the Larry O’Brien trophy to Phoenix. The Suns are undoubtedly motivated to make another run at the title next season by bringing back their own key free agents and signing additional reinforcements.
Obviously, their top priority became Chris Paul, the veteran star leader of the squad, after the 36-year old declined his player option to become an unrestricted free agent. After re-signing CP3, there was really not much they could do considering their salary cap situation. Nonetheless, they were still able to retain the services of Cameron Payne, who revived his career with the Suns and became a key piece in their run to the Finals. They also re-signed Frank Kaminsky and Abdel Nader, both of whom saw minimal playing time for them in the postseason.
In terms of outright free agents, they brought in 3-time NBA champion JaVale McGee and brought back a former Suns guard in Elfrid Payton. With that, let’s take a look at how Phoenix fared this offseason with their signings in free agency.
Phoenix Suns 2021 NBA Free Agency Grades
Chris Paul: B+
Following another disappointing playoff finish, especially since he came so close to winning the one, rumors floated around on whether Chris Paul would link up with his good buddy LeBron James in Los Angeles to get the best chance of winning a championship. Ultimately, CP3 decided to run it back with the Suns after making the NBA Finals for the first time in his career.
No doubt, the Phoenix Suns needed to bring the 11-time All-Star back if they wanted to remain legitimate championship contenders next season. Some may scoff at the hefty 4-year, $120 million price tag the Suns needed to pay to the 10-time All-NBA guard to retain his services. It’s understandable since it’s hard to ignore Paul’s age at this point, which is why it didn’t receive a higher grade. But he’ll probably still be worth the deal through the first couple of years since he’s shown that he can still lead a squad deep in the postseason.
Nonetheless, the structure of the deal doesn’t make it too big of a pill to swallow for Phoenix, which is why the mark is still a solid B+. Per Spotrac, only $75 million of the contract is guaranteed. Only $15.8 million is guaranteed for the 2023-24 season, and will only become fully guaranteed if the Phoenix Suns don’t cut ties with him at the end of the 2022-23 campaign. The $30 million at the 2024-25 season is non-guaranteed. These somehow make the deal justifiable, considering Paul will be nearly 40 years old in the latter half of this contract.
More importantly, Paul’s smaller per-year earnings will allow the Suns to re-sign Deandre Ayton and Mikael Bridges to their own big paydays. The two youngsters are up for extensions when their rookie scale deals expire after the 2021-22 season.
Cameron Payne: A
Bringing back Cameron Payne was probably Phoenix’s 2nd priority after Chris Paul. Arguably, however, this was perhaps their most valuable signing of the offseason. There 27-year old revived his NBA career with the Phoenix Suns and just “had to run it back” with the team that gave him a second chance in the NBA. Definitely, several teams were interested in prying away Payne from Phoenix. Ultimately, he stuck around for a bargain 3-year, $19 million deal.
Payne became Phoenix’s spark plug off the bench for the most part of last season. But he stepped up in a tremendous way after Chris Paul came down with COVID-19 just prior to the Western Conference Finals. In Game 2 against the Los Angeles Clippers, Payne played the game of his life, dropping 29 points on 12-of-24 shooting to go along with nine assists.
The 6-foot-1 lefty has certainly established himself as a reliable 6th man in the NBA. Payne should continue to be the first guard off the bench for Phoenix next season as he provides much needed energy and hustle for them with his feisty play.
JaVale McGee: B+
When Dario Saric went down with a torn ACL during the NBA Finals, the Phoenix Suns needed to found another big body to spell Deandre Ayton some minutes. Frank Kaminsky, though they did bring him back, couldn’t be that guy for Phoenix in those pressure-packed moments. This is why they looked to veteran center JaVale McGee to provide serviceable back-up minutes for the 2018 no. 1 overall pick.
McGee has a ton of postseason experience, having won three NBA championships, two with the Golden State Warriors and one with the Los Angeles Lakers. He also just won a gold medal with Team USA in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
On the court, he will obviously bring his elite shot blocking and ability to finish lobs at the basket. As much as people clown him for his constant appearances on Shaqtin’ a Fool, McGee is one of the smartest and well-spoken individuals in the league. McGee should become a great locker room guy for them and a valuable veteran mentor for Deandre Ayton and the rest of the Suns’ young studs.
Elfrid Payton: B
The Phoenix Suns brought back former point guard Elfrid Payton, who last played in Phoenix in the 2018-19 season. While Payton isn’t exactly a household name that would make Suns fans go wild, he is certainly still a solid addition to their guard rotation. In case you didn’t know, Payton actually started all of his 63 appearances with a New York Knicks team that finished 4th in the Eastern Conference last season.
With that said, the Suns aren’t just bringing in a reclamation project like Payne was a couple of years ago. While his tenure in New York did not end on the highest of notes, Payton is very much still capable of providing valuable minutes and could be able to do more with a lesser role off the bench.
The 27-year old’s limitations on offense has been well-documented, especially with his lack of a reliable 3-point shot. Nonetheless, he has averaged over 10 points in every season of his career, save for his debut campaign. He is a solid playmaker and his defensive intensity and hustle is why Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau rolled with him as their starter throughout the 2020-21 regular season.
Frank Kaminsky and Abdel Nader: C+
Not a lot of people are really jumping for joy with this one. Frank Kaminsky and Abdel Nader could play rotation minutes for them in the regular year, but shouldn’t see much floor time during the postseason. Sure, Kaminsky did have his moments in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. But for the most part, he wasn’t considered a reliable contributor as he didn’t even see an increased role with Dario Saric going down.
Nonetheless, bringing back two veterans already familiar with the team should be beneficial to keep the locker room chemistry in tact. But in terms of what Kaminsky and Nader could bring to the floor come playoff time, there really isn’t much to be excited about with this if you’re a Phoenix Suns fan.