Apr 14, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns forward Channing Frye (8) answers questions after facing the Memphis Grizzlies at US Airways Center. The Grizzlies won 97-91. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Phoenix Suns: What Channing Frye Opting Out Means

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Channing Frye has been a staple of the Phoenix Suns since he signed with the team in 2009. As an alum of the University of Arizona, signing with his hometown Suns was a logical choice to bring a beloved Wildcat back. His skills as a stretch 4 who could knock down perimeter shots has made him an even bigger fan favorite than he already was for returning home. But home is where the heart is, and apparently Frye’s heart is set on free agency.

Yesterday, Frye opted out of the final year of his contract and will now test free agency, leaving $6.8 million on the table. Given his shooting abilities and the way he flourished in pick and pop sets this season with the Suns, there will be a number of teams lining up to enlist his services. One example could be the Golden State Warriors, a Pacific Division rival that may end up missing on the stretch 4 they wanted in Kevin Love.

This seems like daunting news for most Suns fans, but depending on their belief that general manager Ryan McDonough can put together a deal to land Kevin Love, this could be seen as a blessing in disguise if he does in fact take an offer from another team as an unrestricted free agent. Frye’s unique abilities as a stretch 4 helped make Phoenix’s high-powered offense so dangerous last season, but Love is just the beginning of what the Suns could put together this offseason.

The Suns are no longer able to trade Frye, but they could free up his $9.6 million cap hold if they renounce his Bird’s rights. Why would they do that, you ask? Because if there happen to be any big-name free agents available this summer, the Suns would suddenly be able to afford to sign one of them.

What’s that you say? LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony could both be testing free agency this summer? Well, assuming Phoenix doesn’t make any trades and uses all their picks in the 2014 NBA Draft, they’d have $26.5 million to work with and a flexible, young roster that would appeal to guys like Melo and LeBron.

Frye will always hold a special place in Suns’ fans hearts if he leaves, but opting out and testing free agency doesn’t mean he’d have to leave Phoenix either. According to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic, Frye and the Suns are expected to negotiate a new deal that would give him a long-term future in his home city. Frye taking a little less money per year would be an ideal scenario for the Suns, especially since it would free up some cap space for trades and free agency this summer (even though the Suns could no longer renounce his Bird’s Rights).

It’s not just about the dream big potential of signing LeBron or Melo or trading for Love, however. Frye can still be a valuable asset, as he showed this season with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe thriving in pick and pop situations with him on the floor.

The Suns had the league’s seventh highest scoring offense this year and his return to the court after missing the entire 2012-13 season with a heart condition was one of the many heart-warming stories of this surprising Suns team. In fact, Frye started all 82 games, averaging 11.1 points and 5.1 boards per game while shooting 37 percent from downtown.

The future in the Valley of the Sun was already bright, but Frye opting out could possibly open quite a few new doors. Frye opting out certainly isn’t the end of his tenure in the Valley of the Sun and although nobody’s seriously talking about Phoenix as a future destination for James, Anthony or Love right now, it’s certainly possible the Suns become a major player this summer.

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