Welcome to ‘Inside the Suns’, your weekly deep down analysis of the current Phoenix Suns team.
Well, Deandre Ayton finally got his bag and will be staying with the Suns as many fans hoped. Does that take Phoenix out of the running for also acquiring Kevin Durant? No but it certainly limits them on what they can send back to Brooklyn in a trade... unless a third (or perhaps even a fourth) team can be brought in. Even then, the pot will likely be sweetened only a little.
KD wants to come to Phoenix but the Nets don’t have to trade him. If KD threatens to sit out... well, then they don’t have to pay him which makes that threat a little less... threatening.
That doesn’t mean that he won’t eventually get his wish, just that the Nets aren’t going to suddenly give in and take whatever they can get from Phoenix in the next few days. If KD’s message to Brooklyn’s front office is “Phoenix or else” then they will also likely be calling other GM’s trying to rope a third and/or fourth trade partner into a potential deal to attempt to maximize their return.
And that’s unlikely to happen quickly. It’s also possible that it doesn’t happen at all and it eventually comes down to accepting the Suns’ best offer or not. Another possibility is that there is at least one GM from another NBA franchise that will roll the dice on making the Nets a very good offer for Durant even knowing that their team isn’t on KD’s list of preferred destinations. What’s the logic behind that? KD will turn 34 this September and doesn't have many more years left in the NBA. Do you believe that he’s going to sit out an entire season this close to the end of his career? Perhaps Durant might be happy just to get out of Brooklyn... Probably not but there might be another GM out there willing to take that risk.
That same logic applies to the Nets just keeping him, probably with the promise that they will continue to work on trading him as soon as possible (either during the season or next summer) but all the time hoping that he will eventually change his mind about wanting out.
The door to a KD trade to Phoenix hasn’t closed but it isn’t exactly wide open either.
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 - The Suns have matched Indiana’s offer sheet to Deandre Ayton. Do you think DA winds up staying with the team long term or will he eventually get traded?
GuarGuar: I think DA most likely will be around at least all of next season. If things go south I could see us dealing him next summer possibly. I’m optimistic whatever beef there is between him and Monty or him and CP will be squashed. He got his money and he’s still in his home state. I think he’ll be ok.
Alex S: I think DAs long term outlook correlates heavily on the Durant outcome. If KD finds his way to Phoenix, I see a more stable potential for Deandre to stick around long-term. If the Suns can’t land KD, then I see Deandre being shopped.
My main reason for this is if KD makes his way here, odds are Mikal and Cam Johnson are both no longer on the roster. Your main core becomes Book/KD/CP3/DA. Two of those three are 34 years and older, one specifically 37. You want to maintain a good future outlook? Keep DA and Book as your 1/2 punch and fill in the rest later.
If we don’t land KD, you still have Mikal and Cam for your future so then the Suns philosophy of DA not being a “max player” might come into play a bit heavier.
OldAz: Man, why you gotta bring me down? Right after I was so Happy when DA signed on Thursday and the Sun’s matched? It is certainly possible that DA is used later this year or next offseason in a trade, but I really hope this is not the case and he is in Phoenix long term. Based on his age and how he has developed so far, I think he is due for a breakout this year or next. I really hope he is given every opportunity to grow his offensive game here in Phoenix and he and Booker are Suns for the long haul.
Cliff30: I hope so. But you’d think if they really wanted him long term they would have just made him a max offer and kept him. The fact that they sent him out to RFA and let him negotiate his contract elsewhere makes me think they don’t really value him. And the way the season ended and the fact that DA probably feels disrespected by the way things played out might mean he asks for a trade in the future. But whatever the plan is now, a lot can change in a year. So we’ll see.
Jim C: I’m not confident that the fences can be mended. Ayton got his contract, but I don’t think the hatchets are all safely underground.
Things can always change, and I’m really good at being wrong, but I think the Suns couldn’t find a decent deal for Ayton... and couldn’t let him walk for nothing. They felt they were stuck between a sword and a wall. Bringing him back was their least desirable outcome.
The main issues seems to be... can everyone involved put this behind them... can the team still be a family, will DA suit up and show up... and how much can he even improve in the Suns’ system that many feel has been holding him back? There is obviously time for this current trajectory to change course. The Suns can’t trade Ayton for 6 months and he has veto power for a year.
If I had to guess I would think Ayton will be gone in a year at the latest... I would guess the deadline, but Ayton has final say on that...
But who knows... I really wouldn’t be that shocked if he is here long term.
Q2 - What are your thoughts on how the Suns might continue to improve the roster now that DA will return to Phoenix and a trade for KD is not likely to happen (at least not soon)?
GuarGuar: I think we need to be all in on KD still. A CP/Booker/KD/Ayton core is a serious title threat for the next 3-5 years. It would alter the history of the franchise and get us our first championship. After acquiring Kd I’m sure we can get some solid players on vet minimums who would want to play for us/ring chase.
Alex S: One hole to fill would be center depth but I do like the prospect the Suns have in summer league with Olivier Sarr. He seems like an ideal 3rd center for this team… cheap, young, big, and a bit of experience already.
To me the main thing to address would be wing depth to be proactive if KD were to come here. Odds are you are losing minimum two rotation wings. Are you trusting Ish Wainwright to be a 3/4 in your system? Or is he a small ball 5? Torrey Craig ready to take steady minutes after a tough season last year, or is he an expiring in the trade? What about Louis King from the summer league, is he talented enough to get a role?
Lots of questions and lots to play out.
OldAz: I have always believed that the Suns best route to improvement is the continued development of Mikal and DA regardless of any trades. This is true even if a deal for KD does happen (although Mikal is likely part of any KD deal). DA has so much offensive up-side still and Mikal can also improve his offensive value.
If the Suns place significant focus on their development during the regular season, there is no reason this Suns team cannot win it all. So many fans say they need a 3rd scorer or someone else who can create their own shot. I believe both DA and Mikal have this ability and they are already under team control for the next 4 years! To me, this is best accomplished by adjusting the rotation so that Mikal and DA spend significant minutes on the floor without CP3 and Book. There should not be ANY true Bench minutes, but rather DA and Mikal (plus Cam J ideally) should be expected to carry the team for 15-20 minutes game after game. This is not improving the “roster” per se, but the roster does look a whole lot different if DA and Mikal can be counted on like Milwaukee counts on Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton.
If KD is off the table, then I believe there are still countless possibilities, but they all involve trades so you need a willing second team. You have Crowder, Saric, Payne, Shamet, and Craig’s salaries to play with in trade (plus Cam J if the return is good enough) to upgrade the backup PG and starting PF spot. If only one gets addressed, I would prioritize the getting a good young(er) PG and keep Crowder as he does so many other positive things for this team, even when he can’t hit the ocean from the boat.
Cliff30: We didn’t sign Ayton to a max rookie extension, which means we can acquire one via trade. Maybe we don’t have what it takes to acquire KD, but possibly a very discounted Ben Simmons instead? We should kick the tires on the Donovan Mitchell sweepstakes. I know the Knicks have more picks. But maybe Ainge likes Cam Johnson more than the players the Knicks are willing to offer? Worth a shot. But also, it’s a complete tear down and there are players on the Jazz roster we should want. Mainly Clarkson and Bojan, probably not Conley on his contract but depends on the cost to acquire.
Harrison Barnes had been floated prior and I’d still be interested in that. I’m going to continue to beat the drum for Terry Rozier being a target. Coby White is rumored to be available. The Suns were linked to him in that draft, he has the Cam Johnson connection and would be a scoring option off the bench with the upside to start in the future. The Pacers probably aren’t in the mood to deal with the Suns, but Buddy Hield would be a possible target as well. Dennis Schroder seems like the obvious target for the MLE, but he might get more elsewhere. I don’t love Eric Gordon as a target, but as a last resort he’s still an upgrade. There are plenty of options to upgrade. I just hope we don’t sit on our draft capital and do nothing hoping that the Nets finally like our offer for KD.
Jim C: Hopefully James Jones has something up his sleeve, because July has been a hot mess. Really hot here in Phoenix...
I think Jones still needs to address the exact same issues (three point shooting, rim protection, players that can create their own offense and attack the basket and get to the free throw line, a backup point guard, etc.)... that he needed to address headed into the free agency period. The Suns look like a worse team than the one Dallas obliterated in the last two games of the playoffs. No definite improvements that I can see and possible inner turmoil headed into the season.
The Suns already weren’t the best team. The Warriors are better. The Clippers get Kawhi back. Morant might be the MVP next year. Boston and Milwaukee aren’t going anywhere. Other teams have made lots of moves so who knows which one might be a surprise next year.
The Suns are struggling to tread water.
So James Jones... just please do something. This can’t be the totality of the offseason if the team wants the fanbase to be engaged thinking this is a championship caliber team headed into next season.
Q3 - DA’s new contract will put the Suns into luxury tax territory. Do you think that Suns owner Robert Sarver will continue to be a taxpayer in the future?
GuarGuar: I think for this year Sarver is very willing to pay the tax even if we got KD too. I think he’s learned some lessons and is willing to show how bad he wants to win a title here in Phoenix. After 1 season though I could see us making cost cutting moves based on his history.
Alex S: Sarver will be a taxpayer as long as the Suns can fill the seats and be a contender. I could almost see Sarver selling before he goes back to his old ways of cheaping out on contracts and draft picks but I could very easily be proven wrong. We’ll also have to see what happens with this investigation here soon.
OldAz: If the Sun’s continue to show progress and are competing for titles, then I believe he/they will continue to be tax payers... to an extent. I am choosing to believe that Sarver really did learn his lesson after the JJ situation and wants to maintain a top team. This will necessarily involve getting into the LT to some extent. With accelerators the further you get over the cap along with repeat taxpayer penalties, I don’t think the Suns will ever be taxpayers like the Warriors. I only see Sarver doing deep into the cap on a one time basis if he can get a player like KD to add to the core, and even that is truly hard to imagine. I do think it is more realistic that the Suns could be moderately into the luxury tax territory year after year so long as they stay competitive.
Cliff30: Right now the Suns have only four players on guaranteed deals for next year, Booker, DA, Mikal and Shamet (with an additional 17 million in guaranteed money to CP3 and Cam Payne). Whether we’re a tax payer next year largely depends on whether we’re picking up CP3’s option and extending Cam Johnson. But even if we keep CP3 and Cam, if we could unload Landry and Payne we likely could avoid being a repeat offender and fill out the roster. Even if we are into the tax, what I can’t envision is them going deep into the tax to keep guys like Jae and Dario around. So depth is going to get harder going forward. Even more so when Books salary balloons the following year, although that’s likely offset by CP3’s departure. But then depth gets even thinner.
Jim C: I think the Suns will be a taxpayer, just not a Warriors/Nets taxpayer.
Yes, Sarver has done things to earn his parsimonious reputation. His purse strings have tightened at exactly the wrong times (Joe Johnson, Kurt Thomas and picks), but the narrative of him being the biggest cheapskate in the league is exaggerated. Robert Sarver just seems to be the type of guy that lots of people don’t seem to like.
Just because people don’t like him doesn’t mean he won’t be a taxpayer. I think as long as the team is competing for a championship Sarver will be willing to pay some tax. There will just be a limit.
So if I’m right, this is up to James Jones to keep a championship caliber team here so he can keep spending Sarver’s money.
As always, many thanks to our Fantable members for all their extra effort this week!
Interesting Suns Stuff
Matching Deandre Ayton’s offer sheet diminishes the Suns chances of landing KD - Windhorst | Get Up
Phoenix Suns News Updates On Dario Šarić Aron Baynes and MORE
Last Week’s Poll Results
Last week’s poll was “How long do you think the Kevin Durant trade negotiations will last?”
45% - A week or two at most.
14% - At least another month.
41% - They could take all summer.
A total of 641 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
Do you believe that the Suns still have a realistic chance of getting Durant this summer?
This poll is closed