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Why the top free agents could have a direct impact on the Suns’ summer plans

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The aftershock of where the elite names go will help decide what course Phoenix should take.

Toronto Raptors v Boston Celtics Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

First off, let’s end the discussion about the Suns snatching a max free agent out of literally nowhere. I hate to break it to Suns fans out there, but we are talking microscopic chances the Kevin Durants of the world ever even consider Phoenix. At least not at their current state.

However, it would be naive to believe that the domino effect from the cream of the crop names won’t have an impact on every other team. It happened last season with LeBron James to the Lakers, and there’s an even greater chance the summer of 2019 has even bigger ripple effects.

This upcoming free agency class is loaded with stars, with all on the verge of max contracts: Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler and Kemba Walker. Again, none in all likelihood will be your next member of the Suns, but wherever they sign will have direct correlation with whatever move they end up deciding on.

The two superstars who have the most pull on Suns-related scenarios are two who were previously connected to the franchise via trade rumors in back-to-back summers: Irving and Leonard. If both decide to leave their current spots in Boston and Toronto, there’s three routes to venture down where it could get absolutely crazy from Phoenix’s point of view.

Irving rejoins LeBron in LA — Lonzo Ball to Suns?

Irving’s ending in Boston has been ugly. At the beginning of the season, Irving asked Celtics season ticket holders if they would take him back he would re-sign long-term. Less than six months later and ... yikes.

The Celtics’ locker room seemed to splinter as the season progressed as Irving threw teammates like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier continuously under the bus to local media. Irving was expected to take on a leadership role in Boston, the reason he left Cleveland and LeBron in the first place, but that went horribly.

Is it possible the bread crumbs have led us to a reunion on the west coast? Absolutely. The former Cavaliers teammates won a championship together alongside Suns GM James Jones, so they could decide to run it back in Hollywood.

If Irving were to land in the purple and gold, though, that means Ball is on his way out the door. Whether it’s for a last-second effort at Anthony Davis again or not, I can’t see Irving and Ball meshing well in the backcourt.

This is where Phoenix easily could come into play. There was heavy smoke around the Suns kicking the tires on Ball before February’s trade deadline, so his trade value could decrease immediately upon his replacement’s arrival.

Would you trade a lottery pick, possibly top 3-5, for the former UCLA Bruin? Who knows if it even takes that much, but Irving moving to the Western Conference would have huge ramifications.

Big Baller Brand to the Valley as a result? Ball fits right in with the Suns’ core alongside Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton.

Irving restarts in Brooklyn — D’Angelo Russell?

Even though Las Vegas has the Nets as the early favorite to land Irving if he bolts Boston, I think it’s the least likely. I say that because Brooklyn would be very similar to the situation he’s in now.

Would it really be that different if Irving was leading a group of Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen and Spencer Dinwiddie instead of Tatum, Brown and Rozier? I don’t think so, and the only one way I could see him in the borough is if he’s joined by another max free agent.

From Brooklyn’s point of view, this is easy to achieve. All they would have to do is renounce their restricted rights on D’Angelo Russell, the point guard who blossomed into a top candidate for Most Improved Player.

The connections with Russell and Phoenix are well-known. He’s best friends with Booker and would fill an immediate need in the backcourt.

One hold up here is the financial implications. Is Russell truly worth a near-max or an actual one exactly like Booker? That’s the question Jones and Co. will have to ask themselves if they don’t solve the point guard conundrum before then.

Leonard leaves Toronto — Kyle Lowry trade?

Out of the three options listed, this one is definitely the most realistic. Why so? Well, I believe Leonard is leaving Toronto unless they win it all.

Before being shipped off to the Raptors, Leonard and his inner circe seemed hell-bent on getting him to his hometown Los Angeles whatever way possible. Whether it was the Lakers or Clippers, there was some legit rumblings before it was cooled down shipping Leonard across the border for a package centered around DeMar DeRozan.

At this point in time, I would bet on Leonard landing with the Clippers. If he really wants to go back home, why not be the star of your own team while not having to worry about the LeBron spotlight? That sounds perfect for someone mild-mannered like Leonard.

Leonard leaving would be the first step in a complete teardown for the Raptors. GM Masai Ujiri has set up this roster to rebuild around Pascal Siakam whenever he wanted to pull the trigger, which would totally happen without their star two-way wing.

Steps two and three would be selling off Marc Gasol and Kyle Lowry to the highest bidders via trade. Hello, Suns!

If Phoenix were to get extremely lucky once more in the NBA Draft Lottery pairing Zion Williamson with Booker and Ayton, how does Lowry sound as a win-now veteran at point guard? The perfect package is available to use in this scenario, too.

Suns: Kyle Lowry

Raptors: Tyler Johnson, T.J. Warren, 2020 Bucks first-round pick

Lowry would provide the Suns a buffer to compete immediately while also being the ideal veteran presence in a young locker room. With many years of playoff experience under his belt, plus shooting and playmaking capabilities, Lowry would step right in and help further change the culture.

Whether it’s Ball, Russell, Lowry or another point guard option available in trades or free agency, that position needs to be settled ASAP by the Suns’ front office. And from the sound of it, that is Jones’ No. 1 priority this summer to finally find Booker his backcourt running mate.

All of these scenarios could be rendered meaningless if Phoenix lands Murray State’s Ja Morant in the top three of the draft, but the new lottery odds give that only a 40.1 percent chance of happening while falling outside the Zion-Ja range sits at 59.9 percent.

Prepare yourselves for all the situations you can in the meantime.

Poll

Which scenario intrigues you most for the Suns?

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    Kyrie to Lakers; Lonzo Ball trade
    (267 votes)
  • 49%
    Kyrie to Nets; D’Angelo Russell chase
    (468 votes)
  • 22%
    Kawhi leaves Toronto; Kyle Lowry trade
    (217 votes)
952 votes total Vote Now