The Phoenix Suns were quiet to start free agency but got a great pickup in Jae Crowder.
He’s not the marquee free-agency signing some were hoping for in the wake of the Chris Paul trade, but make no mistake about it: Jae Crowder is a sneaky-good addition for the Phoenix Suns. It was a quiet start to the free-agency period for general manager James Jones, but it didn’t take long for his patience to pay off.
As The Athletic’s Shams Sharania first reported on Saturday, the Suns have agreed to a three-year deal with the veteran wing. According to AP’s Tim Reynolds, the deal is worth just under $30 million, meaning it’s worth Phoenix’s full Mid-Level Exception at $9.3 million a year.
John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports reports the Suns beat out three teams, including the Dallas Mavericks, to land Crowder after he showed out in the NBA bubble for a Miami Heat squad that shocked the world by reaching the Finals. This is a good sign in and of itself: It’s been a while since respected, veteran free agents routinely wanted anything to do with Phoenix, and that’s a testament to the rebuild Jones has manufactured in his limited time at the helm, the advantages of having a player like Chris Paul and the growth of Booker into a certified star.
Paul is the Suns’ main attraction this offseason, even as it cost them two beloved and very useful pieces in Ricky Rubio and Kelly Oubre Jr. Those two deserve a ton of credit for helping turn the culture around in Phoenix and restoring the organization’s image. Rubio was the first point guard capable of making Devin Booker’s life easier in his entire career, while Oubre’s career year and influence on the “Valley Boyz” wave that’s become the Suns’ identity cannot be overlooked.
However, Phoenix makes that trade 10 times out of 10 for a top-25 player like CP3, especially when he’s an upgrade at a position that needs to continue making life easier on Booker so he can be fully optimized. With Oubre out the door, the Suns were prepared to play Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson at the 3 and 4, but landing Crowder essentially slots him into Cam’s spot in the starting rotation and adds further wing depth to a lineup teeming with positional versatility.
Last season for Miami, Crowder posted 11.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game over his 20 regular-season appearances with the Heat, shooting 48.2 percent from the field and a blistering 44.5 percent from 3-point range on 6.4 attempts per game. Though his percentages dropped once the playoffs began, a few cold streaks diminished what would’ve been an impressive shooting display otherwise, and his defensive impact was quite clear as he defended everywhere from 2-5 on the court.
At age 30, Crowder’s mental toughness, leadership, physical style of play, respectable 3-point shooting and versatility on defense will be major additions to a Suns squad looking to end its 10-year playoff drought. Between him and CP3, that’s a lot of high basketball I.Q. and mental fortitude to go around for a younger group that should soak in every ounce of it.
No, the Suns didn’t go out and sign a flashy name like Christian Wood, Danilo Gallinari or Serge Ibaka. No, they didn’t win the D.J. Augustin sweepstakes over the Milwaukee Bucks, and yes, it felt like Jones was awfully quiet in the opening hours of free agency as multiple Suns targets quickly went off the board.
But patience is a virtue, and Jones carried forward the momentum of a successful Suns offseason (bizarre draft night aside) with the kind of addition that makes a likely playoff squad even stronger, both mentally and physically. A signing like Crowder reinforces the notion that for the first time in a decade, much is expected of Phoenix. And that’s a beautiful thing.