Suns sign Banks to five-year, $21 million deal

PHOENIX -- As an up-and-coming free-agent point guard, Marcus Banks could have found a team that was willing to guarantee him a starting job.

Instead, he told his agent, Michael Higgins, he wanted to play for the Phoenix Suns, who have two-time MVP Steve Nash in the same position.

"He thought I was crazy," said the 24-year-old Banks, who left the Minnesota Timberwolves to sign a $21 million, five-year contract with Phoenix. "I just felt it would be a great opportunity. We just looked at the best opportunity. I'm not a selfish guy at all. I don't mind playing behind Steve Nash."

It also helped that Banks lives in Las Vegas, an hour's flight away. He played college ball at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas.

The Suns had scouted Banks but assumed he would be out of their price range because he could command a starter's salary. They were surprised when Higgins contacted them and said Banks had his sights set on Phoenix instead.

"It's a tribute to Marcus and his desire to win that he wanted to do that," said David Griffin, the Suns' vice president of basketball operations.

Originally drafted 13th overall by Memphis in 2003, Banks was traded to Boston in a multi-player deal. He has averaged 6.5 points and 2.5 assists per game in three seasons with Boston and Minnesota.

The 6-foot-2 Banks' strength is defense; he shoots 42.7 percent from the floor and 33.7 percent from 3-point range.

Phoenix is an offense-oriented team, but the Suns believe Banks' speed and defense make him a good fit for a club that has reached the Western Conference finals two years in a row. The club expects Banks to ease the load for Nash, who averaged a career-high 35.4 minutes per game last season.

"Every facet of his game is improved, and at 24 years of age, we feel like he's just starting to scratch the surface of what he can do in terms of his talent level, and his fit with our system is just spectacular," Griffin said.

Banks' signing will likely be the last major move the Suns will make during a quiet offseason. The club also signed forward Eric Piatkowski to replace Tim Thomas, a key part of their playoff run.

The Suns said before the offseason began that they are content with their core players and they hope Amare Stoudemire will regain his dominant form after missing most of last year with knee injuries.

"You see other teams out there doing a lot of things, but if you really look at our top seven or our top eight, we're pretty good," managing partner Robert Sarver said. "We did pretty well last year, and we were missing really one or maybe two of them. I think this pretty much takes care of it.

"We stayed the course," Sarver said. "We're on a mission here for the next few years to win a championship, and we think we have the pieces to do it. We may not have made a lot of moves, but we also didn't snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory either. I feel really good where we're at."