Sports is full of heartwarming stories. One of the most popular kind is injury comebacks.
In 2012, Suns F/C Channing Frye was diagnosed with an enlarged heart and missed the entirety of the 2012-2013 NBA season. Going into this season, there were questions about whether or not he would be able to continue his career. Fortunately, he made a full recovery, resumed his career with the Suns, and was given the job of starting power forward at the beginning of the season. His return from injury has been a very touching story, especially because he was able to shake off the rust and remain an effective player for the new Suns regime.
But as that story fades from memory, it should be noted that as a player Frye’s role on the Suns should be empirically analyzed/ What is the value of an aging floor-spacer who is being paid a pretty penny to Ryan McDonough and the young, energetic squad he has assembled? Is he a much needed veteran presence is a room full of young, unheralded talent, or a trade piece that has no place on a rebuilding squad in need of youth and cap space?
In his return season, Frye is averaging 10.9 PPG and 5.5 RPG while shooting 46% from the floor and 40% from three-point range. Not dazzling, but nonetheless efficient. His role as a marksman from deep has been effective to a Suns’ team full of slashing and inside-minded players. On the other hand, he is 30 years old, and is being paid $6.4 this season, and $6.8 million next, making him the second highest paid player on the roster after Goran Dragic. Reasonably talented veterans are often sought after by fringe or legitimate contenders searching for that missing piece, and they will make offers of young potential in return. Young potential is something a rebuilding team is always on the hunt for.
However, it doesn’t seam like trading Frye is the best option for a few reasons. First, it’ll be hard to find a taker that will want to add $7 million to their books. His big contract makes Frye less of a trade asset and more of a dumped player, which isn’t a good idea for the Suns. Also, at this point, the Suns have a lot of deal-making leverage. They own four first round picks and will have a salary cap situation in 2014 to their liking. There’s really no reason to settle for any deals, for Frye or anyone, that don’t provide a good return for the Suns
If the Suns were performing poorly so far, like everyone expected them to. the argument to trade Frye would be a lot stronger. Continue walking down the rebuild road by dropping all the veterans that are expendable. However, with the Suns being a viable playoff team, maintaining some veteran leadership in the locker room is essential to keep a team in line during the late part of the season and the postseason. Dealing Frye now would likely leave the Suns without veteran leadership in the locker room, something a young team needs to stay the course.
Channing Frye is a valuable piece of this overachieving Suns team, and he should remain a member of the head-turning squad in the desert for the foreseeable future.