Welcome to ‘Inside the Suns’, your weekly deep down analysis of the current Phoenix Suns team.
As the Deandre situAyton continues to be the dominant topic of conversAyton among Suns fans, we’re no different this week. The fascinAyton speculAyton on Deandre’s ultimate destinAyton has spawned much rosterbAyton which we do some of as the anticipAyton of July 1 and free agency continues to build. How will all of this ultimately end? For now all we can do is use our imaginAytons until we get some concrete informAyton.
Thankfully, we’ll all get answers soon so we can stop obsessing over it and hopefully settle into a nice, relaxing summer vacAyton.
And now, on to the Fantable — a round table of Bright Siders who give their takes on the Suns latest issues and news.
Fantable Questions of the Week
Q1 - Lots of Suns fans want to lay the blame for the situation with DA squarely at Robert Sarver’s feet. Do you think it’s all on Sarver or are there likely other things in play?
GuarGuar: I don’t think this is all on Sarver at all. I think James Jones and our front office weren’t convinced on giving DA a 5 year max. They were unsure about committing a huge salary of this team to him for 5 years. At the time he had one dominant playoff run and that was pretty much it. We offered him a 4 year max and his team declined.
Alex S: Nope, not gonna put this all on Sarver. Is he a big influence? Absolutely. But this type of decision is going to have multiple voices involved. I wouldn’t even be surprised if Book and CP3 had a say to an extent on how things are going to play out.
OldAz: Occam’s Razor would tell us that Sarver and his finances have to be involved. It is the one theory that at least makes logical sense and is consistent with Sarver’s history. First it defies logic already that they want to trade away a young talented player who has gotten better every year, and whose contract would be in line with his production and be a bargain in the coming years. If it is truly a basketball decision and James Jones and Monty don’t think DA is worth paying, then every action the Suns have taken in the last year has been inconsistent and counter-productive to their goal of trading him. They should be taking actions that MAXIMIZE Ayton’s value instead of minimizing it:
- Paying DA last year would have avoided the base level compensation rules that limit what the Suns can get back this off season in a Sign and Trade
- Increasing DA’s usage and touches (even within the offense) last season would have pushed his stats into another level that would have driven fan interest and perceived value
- Singling out DA after game 7 and then going silent allowed media and fans to churn up the rumor mill and diminish his perceived value around the league even further
If it is not the Sarver angle, and this is how Jones has gone about trading DA, then he has no business leading an NBA franchise because the team’s actions have decimated what the Suns might in return for DA over the last 12 months. Obviously the Sarver being cheap angle is a more simple and obvious explanation.
Cliff30: It’s 100% Sarver, we’ve seen the same pattern of behavior over decades with different GMs and coaches. For a signing of this size there’s only one voice in the room that has final say. So even if others are enabling him, he ultimately should have learned from his past mistakes and not be giving in to his old tendencies. This city approved 230 million dollars to fund his arena renovation in the midst of a 19 win season in year 9 of what would be a ten year playoff drought. And last year he publicly declared he was going to pay the luxury tax to keep this core together. And now he won’t do it. He should be run out of town on a rail.
Jim C: Let me preface this by making it clear that I am no fan of Robert Sarver. He has earned a bad reputation around the league that reflects poorly on the team, has meddled in situations with personnel that he was unqualified to be involved in and has turned parsimonious at exactly the wrong times (Joe Johnson, etc.). He is definitely not one of the best owners in the league.
That being said, I don’t think this is all on Sarver. He is the top of the totem pole, and all credit and blame ultimately go to the top, but there are several people and factors involved in this situation. Ayton played a role by not performing to the level that made it a no doubt decision. Issues related to his maturity have also raised questions. Now there have been “internal” issues and it looks like Ayton is gone. The last half of this season and the playoffs made the Suns decision to wait look like it might have been the right one.
Not many teams spend into the luxury tax, so I find it hard to fault Sarver for doing something that isn’t the norm... but when a team seems to be so close it would be really nice to make an exception. It seems like an owner that is more of a fan might do that than one who looks at the team like a business. So given the team won’t spend like the Warriors and Nets, it’s about maximizing value in what they will spend. I don’t think it’s as simple as Sarver said not to pay him. I think James Jones and others are also dubious Ayton is worth it considering they don’t think a center of his profile is necessary to win a title... and actually seem to prefer a different style.
Not knowing all the details... it might be that Jones and Ayton both have more to do with this than Sarver. FWIW I wouldn’t have given Ayton the max either.
Q2 - One trade proposal for DA that got me a little interested was a trade with Atlanta for Clint Capela (plus some future draft picks). To me he’s a downgrade from DA but the salary numbers work (CC makes $18.2 mil next season) and he’s under contract until 2024-25. What are your thoughts on this trade idea?
GuarGuar: Capela battled injuries all of last year and is definitely a big step down offensively from DA. I’d have legit concerns about his ability to stay on the court over a season. Not my favorite idea to be honest.
Alex S: The idea behind Capela and Collins is really fascinating to me. I could see a world where they make that swap and maybe throw a guy like Jae into the deal. It’d make a bit of sense for both guys… Phoenix get rim rolling and lob threats for CP3 while sizing up, Atlanta gets the best talent and a great fit at the 4 with Jae (a team that needs team defense).
OldAz: I hate this trade, but if the Suns are truly intent on trading DA then I could totally see this being James Jones’ goal. Capela would fit the limited offensive role the Suns have forced DA to fit into and would at least be a serviceable replacement for DA on Defense. While the Suns would take a step back next year, it would not be a huge one (again, only because they under-utilized DA anyway). However, it does not bring them closer to the Championship and the team would still be up against the cap. This would have to be followed by another move to trade expiring contracts for a scorer who can create their own shot. Otherwise after next season, when CP3 is the basketball equivalent of 100 years old, the team will be left with very limited options to continue competing and the draft picks Atlanta would have to include would all be lower value picks because Atlanta would continue to compete in the East.
Cliff30: He does some things really well. He’s a better rebounder and shot blocker than DA. But he’s coming off his worst season in a while. He’s not really switchable, he can’t make FTs, and he’ll be 30 at the end of his deal. I don’t like it. But I’m not going to like any trade proposal. I guess it’s not like the one year rentals with Grant, Turner or Wood. He has history with CP3, which I guess is a positive. And it would really bother me that basically the biggest knock against DA is that he’s not Luka or Trae Young. And so now we compound the problem by letting Atlanta have Trae and Ayton? Woof. Plus, if we’d drafted a PG instead of Ayton, Clint Capela probably would have been the guy we went all in on in FA instead of signing Ricky. And now we get stuck with the back end and likely less productive portion of the contract...
Jim C: In a vacuum DA is a superior player than Capela, but if it’s true that the Suns’ system was holding Ayton back by limiting his role on offense... and that is expected to continue... maybe it wouldn’t be that much of a downgrade. Capela has averaged more rebounds and blocked shots than Ayton in all four years DA has been in the league. Capela also shot the highest percentages of his career playing with Paul in Houston. Capela even led the league in field goal percentage once. Capela also led the league in rebounding once. Capela can’t shoot free throws, but DA didn’t get to the line that much so not necessarily a huge factor. Ayton’s defense is better, but metrics like VORP and BPM surprisingly don’t suggest DA is a better player (or more effective contributor).
I don’t know what else is available, but this might not be that bad... especially depending on what those other picks are. DA is a better player, but Capela might fit what the Suns are trying to implement as their system.
Q3 - There’s at least one report that Dario Saric may NOT be on the trading block this summer. While I’m sure he’s far from untouchable, do you think keeping Dario would be a good, bad or ‘meh’ move for Phoenix?
GuarGuar: If Dario is full strength he can be a very impactful player. There’s a chance we are champions if he doesn’t go down. It’s hard for me to say if keeping him would be a good move because I’m unsure of his health. But if he’s like he was 2 years ago I think it’s a good move. He’s a quality player.
Alex S: In this world where DA seems to be out the door and JaVale is not a lock to be back, I can see Dario making a return next year. His flexibility is important and if there isn’t a trade market for him, why would you just throw away an expiring deal? A good solution would be getting him in the rotation to start the year, showcase him a bit, and move him for value.
OldAz: I have also heard that Dario has had setbacks in his recovery (verifiable fact I believe) along with a rumor that he will not be ready for the start of the season. If this is the case, it would be a terrible move to hold onto him. He would be trying to get back into shape all season, not be part of the regular rotation, and his expiring contact has far more value in packaging with other expiring deals to bring in a player that can be a bigger part of the rotation all year long.
Cliff30: I would have said keeping Dario was a meh move earlier. But the news that he underwent another knee surgery last month make me think he’s not coming back anytime soon and even if he does he didn’t have any athleticism to lose. A year older, two knee surgeries and a year of rust make it very doubtful he’s a contributor in 2022-23 in my opinion. There are some useful players on rebuilding teams. Some combination of Dario, Craig and Payne should be used with picks to get one. If they keep him I think that’s a bad move. But hey, if Bob really is up to his old tricks we’ll be packaging Dario with a pick to a team with cap space just to clear salary. So keeping him certainly isn’t the worst move we can make.
Jim C: Mostly meh, but I think Saric does add some much needed toughness and a little bit of size. He is a player that can contribute off the bench. His injuries, however, make it pretty hard to depend on him or get too excited about his potential contribution coming back from his ACL injury. He has only played a total of 192 out of 420 possible regular season games the past five seasons. Even taking out last season it’s only 192 of 328 (that’s a little less than 6 out of every 10 games).
He is valuable when he’s available because he can also act as the team’s third center. He’s big enough to handle himself against most big men. The ones he isn’t big enough to hang with are the same guys that have been giving Ayton problems. There are just a few behemoths in the league. Saric is pretty versatile for a big. He definitely gives the team the ability to give opponents different looks situationally. Things just haven’t quite worked out since he’s been here though... so mostly meh.
As always, many thanks to our Fantable members for all their extra effort this week!
Interesting Suns Stuff
5 Ideal Trade Targets For Deandre Ayton | Phoenix Suns Rumors
Phoenix Suns News Dario Šarić UPDATE and MORE!
Last Week’s Poll Results
Last week’s poll was “Do you expect CP3 to be back with the Suns beyond the upcoming 2022-23 season?”
52% - Yes.
48% - No.
A total of 405 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
How much blame does Robert Sarver deserve for the Deandre Ayton situation?
This poll is closed
75 to 100%.
50 to 74%
Less than 50%.