Even though the Phoenix Suns really haven’t been relevant over the past few seasons, there finally seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Let me help explain why.
Coupled with the recent GM-coach pairing of James Jones and Monty Williams along with one of the brightest young guard-big man duos with Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, the ingredients are in place for Phoenix to finally advance up the ranks from laughingstock to sustainable contender. Unless you want to continue wallowing in the misery of the past few years of sub-25 win basketball, zoom out and look around and you’ll realize changes on all levels of the Suns’ franchise are occurring as we speak.
Let me preface this by saying no, Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving won’t be coming here but getting a meeting with them wouldn’t surprise me one bit. Why? Because the outside image of the Suns is in the midst of a massive facelift, as Jones did his own press tour following his promotion on many nationally syndicated shows across different networks.
As I wrote back on New Year’s Day, securing a visit with Durant and his agent Rich Kleiman would be another step in the right direction showing others around the Association this isn’t your typical Suns operation. No, the times are definitely changing around Talking Stick Resort Arena.
Over the next two seasons, it’s paramount for the Suns to show vast improvements across the board. At the moment, they are definitely not attractive to the A-list superstars who become unrestricted free agents, but that doesn’t mean it can’t pivot with the right moves.
This is why I believe Phoenix should prioritize selfless role players who only care about winning, not their stats and annual dollar amount. As we know with the embarrassing Trevor Ariza ordeal, those are not the personalities you want to bring into a young locker room starved to learn the nuances necessary to become winners in this league. Names such as Al-Farouq Aminu, Thaddeus Young, Darren Collison and Cory Joseph all qualify as examples of free agents Jones and Co. should actually pursue once July 1 arrives. They are not the blockbuster moves you advertise on billboards, but it’s the low-key transactions that usually end up paying bigger dividends than usual.
Also, there should be a mandate within the Suns’ front office to not get overzealous with spending. The chips are stacking up in such a manner that there’s an opportunity for Phoenix to really accelerate the rebuild if they stay patient.
Again, let me help explain why.
If the Suns were to limit their spending on veterans such as Aminu and Collison on two-year contracts, that should be the bridge between where multiple leaps should be happening. And at that point, entering the summer of 2021 where Booker and Ayton will be 25 and 23 respectively, they should be All-Stars or at least widely respected around the league by their peers. Booker’s one All-NBA Third Team vote speaks to how close he is to becoming one of the top shooting guards in the league. Depending on how fast Ayton’s defense can catch up to his unreal offensive package, he should soon enter into the Karl-Anthony Towns tier of elite centers.
2021 is an important offseason for this franchise also due to their state-of-the-art practice facility opening up in Scottsdale. As Jones has alluded to us on multiple occasions, the finer details outside of the 94-foot court definitely matter. Phoenix would go from arguably the team most lagging behind in upgraded facilities to one of the best along with an innovative partnership with EXOS and Steward Health.
Alignment is also a pivotal point to discuss, as this seems to be the first time in over a decade that owner Robert Sarver is comfortable enough to take the backseat on everyday basketball operations. That point was proven during Williams’ introductory press conference last week, as well as committing to him for five years instead of the typical three. All levels of the Suns’ organization are finally on the same page, and that is not something you should sweep under the rug immediately. Moving forward, it absolutely matters when trying to woo stars into an organization.
During the 2020 and 2021 offseason, Phoenix will have max cap space at their disposal. To be more specific, enough to nab any star available as they will be hovering right around $50 million even with the contracts of Booker, Ayton, Mikal Bridges, and upcoming restricted free agent Kelly Oubre Jr. (a 4-year, $58 million deal sounds realistic for the Suns’ newest addition on the wing). Next summer could feature very realistic choices like Draymond Green and Kyle Lowry, but really nothing much else.
That’s where we pivot to the absolutely loaded class of 2021, which has the possibility of featuring all of these All-Stars: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Paul George, Bradley Beal, CJ McCollum, Jrue Holiday, and Victor Oladipo. More so I wanted to hone in on Antetokounmpo, George and Beal — personally, I believe these three would be the ones Phoenix tries hardest to recruit when the opportunity arises.
ESPN’s Malika Andrews reported moments after the Bucks were eliminated that a source close to The Greek Freak told her that a Finals run next season could decide whether or not he re-signs on the dotted line when offered a supermax contract. Meanwhile, with Russell Westbrook’s own supermax looking more and more debilitating to the Thunder’s long-term sustainability, Paul George most likely will opt out when given the opportunity. In Washington, Bradley Beal would be smart to bolt the Wizards due to the John Wall contract that is crippling their roster — and it just kicked into place! Giannis or George would be dynamic in between the Suns’ inside-out duo, while Beal and Booker could form a modernized version of what’s currently going on in Houston with James Harden and Chris Paul.
As we’ve seen countless times over the last few years, player movement can begin out of nowhere. However, pushing the chips in for 2021 and betting on Booker and Ayton to be stars seems like the surest bet to successfully winning over an All-NBA talent to team up with them in the Valley. Really, with the quartet of Jones, Williams, Booker and Ayton, they are set up better than almost anyone if we survey around the landscape.
All of the big market teams are focusing on the summer of 2019, plus the ongoing Anthony Davis derby. If the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers use up all of their proverbial bullets between now and then, Phoenix really could be sitting in a desirable position.
Many might be kicking themselves I’m suggesting kicking the superstar can down the road for another year, let alone two years, but, again, it’s for the greater good of the Suns’ long-term sustainability. When trying to craft a contender from ground zero, you can’t skip any steps along the way.
Who knows, if Phoenix has two All-NBA-caliber players in tow along with a strong backbone off the court with a solid coaching and front office tandem, maybe the Valley really could once more become the hotbed of basketball.
Now, let’s sit back and watch how the Suns operate over not only the next few months, but 365 days. What direction they move towards will tell us plenty of how forward-thinking this new leadership group truly is.