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3 Suns buyout targets who could actually make a difference

Gerald Bourguet Avatar
February 17, 2024
Cedi Osman, Otto Porter Jr. and Danuel House lead the list of potential Phoenix Suns buyout targets

The NBA All-Star break is here, but the search for roster upgrades isn’t over for the Phoenix Suns yet. With one open roster spot remaining, there are several Suns buyout targets for the front office to consider.

Following the trade deadline move that shipped out Keita Bates-Diop, Yuta Watanabe, Chimezie Metu and Jordan Goodwin in a three-team deal for Royce O’Neale and David Roddy, Phoenix had two open roster spots. They reportedly filled one of those by agreeing to a deal with Thaddeus Young, which is expected to be finalized early next week.

As we broke down already, Young should bring small-ball versatility, underrated passing and additional size to a roster that needs all of those attributes. When asked earlier in the week what he was looking for on the buyout market, general manager James Jones summed it up as vaguely as possible.

“More shooting, more defense, more passing, more rebounding,” Jones said. “When we look at our team, we like where we are, but we always feel like we can get better.”

The question is, which players on the buyout market could check the most boxes and actually have a chance of cracking Phoenix’s playoff rotation? We’ll take a look at the options, but first, we need to start by ruling out some names that are already off the table.

Suns buyout targets that are off the board

As a team in the second tax apron, the Suns are unable to sign any players from the buyout market if their contract prior to being bought out was worth more than $12.4 million. In other words, Phoenix can only add a player whose contract was worth $12.4 million or less before their buyout.

That rules out several potential buyout candidates that have been brought up, including names like Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry, Joe Harris, Marcus Morris, Davis Bertans and Evan Fournier. Due to the NBA’s reacquisition rule, the Suns also wouldn’t be able to bring back any player they recently traded, like Chimezie Metu.

Several other targets that the Suns could have added are also off the board. The biggest one was Delon Wright, who was bought out by the Washington Wizards and will reportedly join the Miami Heat.

On Friday, HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto reported the Suns were one of several playoff contenders interested in Wright. It made sense, since Wright was the best backup point guard who realistically could’ve become available. He would’ve been an ideal fit on both ends of the court for those non-Devin Booker minutes at the start of second and fourth quarters.

The Suns could have used a playmaker to stabilize the offense for those stretches, and according to The BBall Index, Wright ranks in the 90th percentile in assist points created per 75 possessions and the 96th percentile in passing efficiency. But they also needed someone who could play off the ball to allow Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal to cook, which is where Wright’s 44 percent shooting on catch-and-shoot 3s would’ve come in handy. Ditto for Wright’s rim pressure, as he placed in the 86th percentile in rim shot creation.

Defensively, how about a 6-foot-5 guard who ranked in the 99th percentile in steals per 75 possessions, 97th percentile in deflections per 75 possessions and 97th percentile in passing lane defense? Losing out on Delon Wright deprives the Suns of one of the only viable backup point guard options to hit the buyout market.

A few other noteworthy candidates are off the board now too. The Suns reportedly had interest in Danilo Gallinari, who’s on good terms with both Devin Booker and Jusuf Nurkic, but once they added Thad Young, Gallo was no longer an option. He wound up agreeing to a deal with the Milwaukee Bucks.

A source told PHNX Sports that there was mutual interest in bringing back Bismack Biyombo, but he signed a deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Phoenix reportedly had interest in trading for Andre Drummond, but he’ll most likely stick with the Chicago Bulls for the rest of the season. The same could be said for Torrey Craig, and despite the turmoil between P.J. Tucker and the LA Clippers, no buyout is in sight, and it appears he’ll re-enter their rotation after the break.

So who does that actually leave the Suns with? Let’s start with some honorable mentions that probably wouldn’t crack the playoff rotation.

Suns buyout targets: Honorable mentions

Cory JosephWaived by the Indiana Pacers after being traded there from the Golden State Warriors, the 32-year-old Joseph wouldn’t be a bad pickup. He shot 38 percent or better from 3 in the two seasons prior to this one, and he’s a reliable floor general. But he struggled with the Dubs this season, shooting 31 percent from deep and failing to make an impact in spot minutes — exactly what the Suns would need if he were to have any chance of being in their rotation.

Killian Hayes — Hayes would be a David Roddy type of acquisition: a project who won’t help much this season, but could potentially be groomed into a rotation piece down the road. Maybe a change of scenery is what he needs after being waived by the Detroit Pistons. Unfortunately, unlike Roddy, Hayes wouldn’t be under team control for the next few seasons if he signed on. Unless he really wanted to be in Phoenix beyond this season, and unless the Suns really saw potential in him, this feels like a waste of a roster space in the context of this season’s aspirations.

Ish Smith — An underwhelming but serviceable option at backup point guard after being waived by the Charlotte Hornets. Then again, what does Smith bring to the table (other than speed) that would warrant taking the ball out of Durant and Beal’s hands? And is it enough to realistically see him earning playoff minutes? Probably not.

Victor Oladipo — If this were Victor Oladipo from last year, the one who put up 10.7 points, 3.5 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game off the bench for the Miami Heat? Sure! But this year’s Oladipo, who just got waived by the Memphis Grizzlies, has yet to play a single game and is coming off yet another knee injury. There’s too much risk involved for the Suns to bite.

Ish Wainright — The Valley loves Ish, Ish loves the Valley, and “Strongman” is available after being waived by the Portland Trail Blazers in January. But as fun as it’d be to see Wainright and his boulder-sized shoulders back in Phoenix, the additions of O’Neale and Young might limit the Suns’ interest in adding another burly wing who’s best-utilized in small-ball lineups.

Furkan Korkmaz — Maybe Furkan Korkmaz just needs a change of scenery after trying (and failing) for years to find his niche with the Philadelphia 76ers. Or, maybe this “sharpshooter” who’s a career 35.6 percent shooter from deep isn’t actually good enough on offense to counteract his poor defense. After being waived by the Indiana Pacers, maybe Korkmaz will get his opportunity to prove himself, but it probably shouldn’t be in Phoenix.

Robin Lopez — Adding Robin Lopez to Jusuf Nurkic would give the Suns the best social media center duo in the NBA, but again, the addition of Young probably rules out another center on the buyout market. After largely sitting on the bench with the Bucks, getting traded to the Sacramento Kings and then waived, Lopez will probably need to find a new deal elsewhere.

Now let’s get to the three Suns buyout targets who might actually help this team.

Cedi Osman

There’s been no official indication the San Antonio Spurs will buy out Cedi Osman before the March 1 deadline, and there’s a strong possibility they prefer to keep him for the summer, where they can use his Bird rights to either re-sign him or sign-and-trade him instead. But if something changes in the next two weeks and he does hit the buyout market, he’d be a great fit in Phoenix to lend extra wing depth.

At 7.1 points in 18.0 minutes per game, Osman would be one of the higher-scoring options to hit the buyout market. It’s not that the Suns’ high-powered offense needs more scoring, but having a guy who’s shooting 47.4 percent overall and 37.7 percent from long range available off the bench sure wouldn’t hurt.

Osman’s pull-up 3-point percentage is atrocious, but that shot would likely be eliminated from his diet in Phoenix. He’s shooting 40.8 percent on catch-and-shoot 3s and 41.5 percent from the corners, though the vast majority of his attempts come above the break, where he’s shooting 36.6 percent. Having that type of 3-point threat one pass away from Booker, Durant or Beal would just add to the strain on opposing defenses. He’s an efficient cutter as well, ranking in the 70th percentile in cuts per game and the 86th percentile on field-goal percentage on those cuts.

On the defensive end, Osman isn’t great by any means, but he’d hopefully be a serviceable team defender in Frank Vogel’s system, which has been a top-10 unit since late December. At 6-foot-7, Osman would bolster the wing depth and optionality, especially as a guy who’s actually spent more time at the 4 than the 3 this season.

Otto Porter Jr.

Like Osman, there’s been zero official word that Otto Porter Jr. will hit the buyout market. But since the Toronto Raptors traded him to the Utah Jazz, he has yet to play for his new team. He struggled to make an impact over the last two years in Toronto, playing in a grand total of 23 games. But it’s hard to believe the 30-year-old wing is completely washed up after playing vital minutes during the Warriors’ 2022 title run.

During that season, Porter averaged 8.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.1 steals in 22.1 minutes per game off the bench. He shot 46.4 percent overall and 37 percent from 3, and he’s a career 39.7 percent shooter from long range. Is it possible a change of scenery would give him the chance to prove he’s still got something left in the tank on a playoff team?

At 6-foot-8, Porter would lend more size and positional versatility to the Suns’ wing depth. Golden State used him effectively as a post-up hub and a routine handoff threat, and his 3-point shooting would make him a solid complementary piece. Porter is efficient around the basket (even through contact), he looked comfortable moving the ball where it needed to go during his time with the Warriors, and he could help on the boards too.

Defensively, his size, activity and communication skills would all improve Phoenix in some of their weaker areas on that end. A team with title aspirations can never have too many serviceable wings that can play multiple positions, and Porter’s ability to log minutes at the 3, 4 or even 5 could help in a playoff scenario where foul trouble, injuries, matchups or cold streaks force Vogel to look further down his bench.

Danuel House Jr.

House leans closer to a “break glass in case of emergency” option, but that’s kind of the baseline for expectations on the buyout market. The Detroit Pistons waived him after he was traded there by the Philadelphia 76ers, and while his production has fluctuated over the last few years, a new environment could provide him the opening to be a contributing member on a playoff squad again.

Over the last two years in Philly, the 30-year-old wing shot 32.3 percent from 3 — a far cry from the 36.9 percent he shot over four seasons with the Houston Rockets during his peak. But even though he’s struggled to find his footing over the last few years, and even though he wouldn’t bring as much switchability as guys like O’Neale, Young, Osman and Porter, one can at least envision a scenario where he’s still a serviceable 3-and-D wing on this particular team.

House would probably be on the fringe of the playoff rotation, only seeing meaningful action on nights where foul trouble or injuries dictate the need for another guy who can log minutes at the 3. House is a streaky shooter at this point in his career, and he’s not a lockdown wing either, but he’s decent. In a pinch, that’s all the Suns could realistically expect from a buyout guy, and anyone who can fortify the wing depth would represent a useful pickup.

Bonus: The Saben Lee alternative

Saben Lee is not technically a buyout addition, but if Osman and Porter don’t hit the market, and if the Suns aren’t convinced House can actually help them, there’s another in-house option who could address the need for a backup point guard.

Saben Lee, who’s currently on a two-way contract, could be bumped up to a veteran minimum deal for the rest of the season if the Suns so choose. Two-way contracts can only be given to players with four years of NBA experience or less, and given that this is Lee’s fourth year in the league, he will no longer be eligible for another two-way contract next season. The timing there is unfortunate, since the Suns will finally have a G League affiliate again next year.

Lee has only appeared in 13 games this season, so his numbers aren’t impressive by any means. But every time he’s come in, he’s shown the value of having a speedy backup guard with a downhill mentality. Lee pushes the tempo, gets into the lane frequently (95th percentile in drives per 75 possessions) and looks for his teammates when he gets there (85th percentile in drive passout rate). He’s also been a pest defensively.

After the Suns’ last win against Detroit — where Bradley Beal was sidelined by injury, Devin Booker got ejected in the first quarter, and Lee finished with a season-high 16 points in 24 minutes — Vogel praised Lee for helping stabilize the team and provide a spark off the bench.

“He’s an elite athlete,” Vogel said. “He can really touch the paint at will, and he makes good decisions when he gets there. He’s very shifty, he’s got a great ability to draw fouls with sweet moves and shot fakes and those types of things. He’s a hell of a guy to have in that situation to come in and give us that spark.”

Lee has stayed ready, crediting routine scrimmages between the guys who don’t play as much — Nassir Little, David Roddy, Theo Maledon and others — and the coaching associates, which the Suns refer to as “stay ready bump.” He’s familiar with the Suns’ system since he’s spent the entire year practicing with the team, and he has the right mindset about what his role is whenever he gets to play.

“The coaching staff just tells me to push the pace and get in the paint, and I feel like that definitely helps our team in just trying to get dudes the ball,” Lee explained. “That’s kind of what I try and do and to help bring to the team.”

If the Suns scour the buyout market and don’t feel confident about any external additions, Lee has shown enough to warrant that final roster spot as another “break glass in case of emergency” kind of floor general.

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