The Phoenix Suns think they have a sales pitch for Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James that no team can match.
The only question is, will they ever get a chance to make that pitch?
Early Sunday afternoon, Yahoo! Sports/FOX Sports 1 NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the club plans to make an aggressive play to land LeBron James in free agency and, in turn, to use that as leverage to persuade Carmelo Anthony to join up with James in Phoenix.
The superstars opted out of their contracts with the Miami Heat and the New York Knicks, respectively, in recent days.
But then came Sunday night, and a report by ESPN that Anthony has already decided on the when and where of his free-agent tour, and the Arizona desert was nowhere to be found.
According to that report, Anthony will begin his tour Tuesday, the first day of the free-agency period, and will first meet with the Bulls in Chicago. The next day, Anthony will take his (negotiating) talents to the Lone Star State, where he will meet with both the Mavericks and Rockets. ESPN also reported ‘Melo will meet with the Lakers in LA, site of his offseason home, in the coming week. But no mention of Phoenix.
Which begs the question — how could Phoenix possibly compete with the sizzle and sexiness of South Beach, Tinseltown or The Big Apple?
Well, the Suns reportedly have some answers to that, including a pitch that no other team in the league can top.
As Wojnarowski reports, here’s what could make Phoenix an intriguing destination for LeBron and ‘Melo:
• For starters, the two have privately have expressed an interest in playing on the same team, according to Wojnarowski, and this might be their best chance of making it happen. Why?
• Quite simply, because Phoenix can afford it. As Wojnarowski reports, with $33.5 milion in salary-cap space, the Suns can easily cut the $10 million they’d need to match the max contract starting salaries of LeBron ($20.7 million) and ‘Melo ($22.4 million). Heck, if LeBron wants some other free agent instead of Carmelo — Wojnarowski cites Chris Bosh and Kevin Love as possible examples — that could happen. And best of all?
• The Suns could do it without losing much of their young talent. Wojnarowski reports that the team can offer maximum contracts to both LeBron and ‘Melo "without unloading the young core of guards Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic and center Miles Plumlee." Many observers felt Dragic should have been an All-Star this year, and Plumlee — at least on this team — plays like one himself. Oh yeah, speaking of Bledsoe …
• Bledsoe’s agent — Rich Paul — also happens to represent LeBron. And the Suns are banking on Paul’s knowledge of the franchise. Per Wojnarowski: "The Suns know the agent has a more intimate understanding of Phoenix’s potential appeal than most. Paul knows the Suns are the fifth-winningest franchise in NBA history, that owner Robert Sarver has gone into the luxury tax three times in recent years, that Phoenix has long been a preferred residence of thirtysomething stars with families." But wait, there’s more.
• Phoenix has three first-round draft picks in 2015. Yes, three. And the Suns are willing to spend them however LeBron James sees fit.
In summation, as Wojnarowski reports:
Indeed, luring LeBron James away from the foundation that’s been laid in Miami might be easier said than done. And Phoenix will be competing against other teams that can boast star-studded lineups already. The Houston Rockets, for instance, have Dwight Howard, James Harden and Chandler Parsons. The Cleveland Cavaliers — LeBron’s old team — has Kyrie Irving, not to mention recent No. 1 draft pick Andrew Wiggins.
But the Suns — young, talented, deep and financially flexible — could make for an intriguing option. This past season, they stunned many observers who’d had low expectations at the outset of the year. Phoenix compiled a 48-34 record in a stacked Western Conference, finishing third in the Pacific Division and narrowly missing the playoffs. (Many believe first-year head coach Jeff Hornacek would easily have won Coach of the Year honors had his squad been able to squeak in).
Had they been an Eastern Conference team, the Suns would have finished tied with the Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls, and they would have beaten out the Brooklyn Nets, the Washington Wizards, the Charlotte Bobcats and the Atlanta Hawks.
If Phoenix gets a chance to talk to them, maybe LeBron and ‘Melo should at least entertain the idea.