Feb 8, 2014; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz shooting guard Gordon Hayward (20) defends against Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) during the second half at EnergySolutions Arena. The Jazz won 94-89. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Phoenix Suns: Welcome To The Free Agency Conversation

Fans have been anticipating it for awhile, but now the whole world is on notice: the Phoenix Suns are officially players in 2014’s free agency period this summer.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports and The Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro, the Suns plan to aggressively pursue a meeting with LeBron James, who recently opted out of his contract to become an unrestricted free agent. Phoenix is a long shot to convince James to leave the Miami Heat and their four consecutive NBA Finals trips, a fact the organization is well aware of, but the Suns do have quite a unique pitch for the four-time MVP.

There are plenty of reasons for LeBron to take his talents to the Southwest. Despite never winning a championship, the Suns are the NBA’s fifth-winningest franchise. Phoenix is coming off a season in which they won 48 games (six less than the Heat) with a team composed of Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and a team full of role players and former misfits.

Head coach Jeff Hornacek finished second in Coach of the Year voting and general manager Ryan McDonough finished second in Executive of the Year voting. The Suns narrowly missed the playoffs in the loaded Western Conference, but a knee injury to Bledsoe limited him to 43 games and Phoenix would have had home-court advantage in the first round had they played in the Eastern Conference.

The Suns have a flexible roster that would allow them to sign LeBron James to a max contract and possibly sign another big-name free agent as well. LeBron could have his pick of Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh this summer, or Kevin Love next summer. The Suns would need to shed around $10 million in salary to get there, but this would be easily doable while still keeping the team’s core of Dragic, Bledsoe and Miles Plumlee intact.

The Suns would be instant title contenders with LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony/Chris Bosh on the roster and they’d be extremely well set up for the future with a host of young talent and future draft picks. Archie Goodwin and Alex Len haven’t gotten their opportunity yet, but they will. Markieff Morris is a promising young piece and Sixth Man of the Year candidate. The Suns also have three first round picks in next year’s draft, including a pick from the Los Angeles Lakers that is top-five protected.

A starting lineup of Dragic, Bledsoe, LeBron, Melo/Bosh and Plumlee is a tantalizing prospect for Phoenix Suns fans and would be impossible to stop offensively. The Dragon and friends Bledsoe and LeBron (who share the same agent, by the way) would be one of the league’s premier defensive backcourts and although interior defense might be an issue, the Suns would become favorites in the West with a sustainable future built on young, promising talent backed by one of the league’s best training staffs to keep the older veterans healthy.

LeBron James isn’t the only target in Phoenix’s crosshairs either. According to Jody Genessy of the Deseret News, the Suns will be making restricted free agent Gordon Hayward a big offer as well. After extending Hayward a qualifying offer, the Utah Jazz are expected to match any offer, even a max contract. Hayward is one of the league’s best up-and-coming forwards with a great-two way game, coming off a season in which he averaged 16.2 points, 5.2 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game.

But even though Hayward is no LeBron James, and even though landing LeBron, Melo or Hayward is a long shot, just the fact that the Phoenix Suns are in the free agency conversation now is encouraging for the future. “In McDonough we trust” is rapidly starting to mean something more substantial.

Tags: Carmelo Anthony Gordon Hayward Lebron James Phoenix Suns

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