A quiet start to the Suns’ free-agent season became much noisier Monday when unrestricted free agent Channing Frye agreed to a four-year contract with the Orlando Magic.
The deal will pay Frye $32 million, according to a Yahoo Sports report.
So, instead of just adding contractual longevity by opting out of the last year of his Suns deal, the 31-year-old power forward also increased his per-year salary.
Frye, who would have made $6.8 million had he played out the final season on his previous deal, was considered one of the Suns’ re-signing priorities. According to popular speculation, the former University of Arizona and St. Mary’s High star would have been targeted for a Phoenix return over three years at around $15 million total.
Financially at least, he did much better than the speculation.
For the Magic, Frye will join two guard Ben Gordon as highly remunerated veterans capable of providing shooting accuracy on an otherwise young team with very little in the way of floor spacers.
For the Suns, losing Frye will remove his considerable cap hold and create even more financial flexibility for now or the near future.
It also removes a deep-shooting threat from an offensive system that thrives on the drive-and-kick ability of guards Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic.
During the dreadful 2012-13 season — which Frye missed after being diagnosed with an enlarged heart — Dragic often reminded reporters that not having the 6-foot-11 shooter lurking behind the 3-point line was bad for his attack plan.
Frye returned for the 2013-14 campaign at a higher level of performance — and health — than anyone expected. He was one of only three Suns to play all 82 games (each as a starter) and gave Phoenix 11.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.
His 3-point percentage (37) was unremarkable, but his reputation as a shot maker was one of many reasons why the Suns made a strong jump in offensive efficiency.
In addition to his floor-spacing properties, losing Frye reduces the Suns’ power forward ranks to one — Markieff Morris.
Thank you for everything Suns fans. These last years have been the unbelievable. I will always appreciate ever minute in the Suns Uni.
Twin brother Marcus Morris and rookie C.J. Warren can work at the four in small-ball lineups, but Frye’s versatility in playing post positions also isn’t shared by centers Miles Plumlee and Alex Len.
While the Suns continue to wait on the big free-agent dominos to start falling, they will have the financial flexibility to hire another power forward.
They did flirt with 3-point-shooting center Spencer Hawes, but he agreed to a deal with the Los Angeles Clippers. Josh McRoberts, a four man with some deep-shooting chops, reached a deal with the Miami Heat. Patrick Patterson, a short (6-9) four man with an improved 3-point stroke, re-signed with the Toronto Raptors.
Unfortunately, most of the available four men don’t possess anywhere near Frye’s ability to make 3s. One who could fit the shooting description is Ryan Kelly, who averaged 8 points per game in his rookie season with the Los Angeles Lakers and is a restricted free agent.
Although Kelly is a shooter, he can’t give the Suns defensive versatility or veteran leadership they also lose with Frye going to Orlando.