Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.
Those Diamondbacks are a wild ride aren’t they?? I know I know you came here for Suns stuff but mannnnn how can we not start with the heart-attack-on-every pitch NCLS against the vaunted Phillies? I was sure they’d lose on Friday only to see that gutsy comeback, and I thought all along they’d get back into G6 too. Love the Dbacks! They play for their lives at 2:05PM local time today on TBS, down 3-2 in the best of 7 series.
But now as their season is almost over, we get to turn our full attention to the potential juggernaut in the Phoenix Suns, 2023-24 edition. Make no mistake, folks, this is the most talented Suns team since SSOL, even better than the 2020-22 edition that made the NBA Finals.
Will this Suns team win as many games as the Monty/CP Suns? Maybe not. That team won more games in the regular season and playoffs than anyone else in the Association the last few years, but I’m telling you this team’s ceiling is higher.
The trio of Devin Booker, Kevin freaking Durant, and Bradley Beal is DEADLY. Book and KD are top-10 overall talents in the 450-player league. Beal, the third banana, was All-NBA and 30+ points per game scorer and has been his team’s #1 option for a decade. Add in super role players in Jusuf Nurkic, Josh Okogie, Eric Gordon, and Grayson Allen, plus the uber-hustle of Drew Eubanks and other role players, and people will see the Suns did not in fact sacrifice their depth for the Big Three.
The Suns will get to the free-throw line. They’ll take more threes. They’ll run. They’ll make a bunch of shots. Booker’s doing Point Guard things. And they’ll have 20-2 runs in just about every game as the defense swallows up passing lanes to create transition offense for a sudden explosion the opponent hoped to avoid.
I know people are worried about the lack of pure point guard, but Steve Nash and Chris Paul had their deep playoff problems when elite defenses would key on the head of the snake. Now the Suns have a hydra.
“You can’t guard all of us at once,” Durant says with a smile.
Beal on playing with Booker and Durant: “The thing I just love most is they just love to hoop, and it just makes it easier for everybody.”
Vogel wants the Suns to be “an elite defensive rebounding team”. (Vogel, first year with Suns, has coached 3 different #1 defenses in the NBA in 11 prior head coaching seasons)
Vogel on expectations: “Everybody understands what we have here. We have a special team that has realistic expectations to compete for a championship.”
Durant on practicing against Book and Beal: “It’s like iron sharpening iron.”
Booker: “I think the unique part about us three is that we all have the capability of scoring at the highest level, but we have always played the game the right way.”
Durant on facing LeBron James in preseason last Thursday, first time since 2018: “It’s always dope being on the floor with one of the best to ever do it, top five best to ever do it.”
Vogel on 23-year old small forward Nassir Little: “Valuable player. A two-way player. He can guard bigger guys, he can guard smaller guys. He’s an improved 3-point shooter. I think he’s one of those two-way guys that’s going to be very useful for us.”
Suns Around the Web
- ESPN/Woj: Suns planning to release Keon Johnson to get to 15-man roster limit
- ClutchPoints/Trevor Booth: Ish Wainright claimed by Portland TrailBlazers after release from Suns (more on that below)
- Shawn Marion to be inducted into the Suns Ring of Honor on Dec 15, 2023
- Amare Stoudemire to be inducted into the Suns of Honor on March 2, 2024 (#32 on 3.2)
Marion (31) and Stoudemire (32) will join Alvan Adams (33), Charles Barkley (34), Tom Chambers (24), Walter Davis (6), Connie Hawkins (42), Kevin Johnson (7), Dan Majerle (9), Steve Nash (13), Dick Van Arsdale (5) and Paul Westphal (44) as the Suns’ retired numbers.
There are currently 15 members in the Ring of Honor with the ten previously mentioned players along with: Jerry Colangelo, Cotton Fitzsimmons, John MacLeod, Al McCoy and Joe Proski. A new permanent Ring of Honor will be unveiled at the home opener on October 28.
- AZCentral/Duane Rankin($): Nassir Little making a strong early impression in preseason
- The Athletic/Hollinger ($): Suns will make the Finals, fall to Boston Celtics, among 13 bold Predictions
- The Ringer’s Top 100 NBA players, reranked: Kevin Durant #7, Booker #9, Beal #43
- The Ringer: Five big questions, including ‘can 35-year old Kevin Durant stay healthy?’ (note: LeBron was 35 when the Lakers won the 2020 Title; Chris Paul was 35 when he got the Suns to the 2021 Finals)
- ESPN/Zach Lowe League Pass Rankings has the Suns in the Top 4 of most-watchable teams, behind Nuggets, Warriors, and Lillard/Giannis Bucks
- ESPN/Future Power Rankings (3-year timeline): Suns down at 9th because they mortgaged near and long future on the immediate present
Good Bright Side reads you probably missed
Each week I’ll highlight some Bright Side articles that didn’t get as many eyeballs as they should have. It’s worth your time to give these unique takes a look before they’re lost in the ether forever.
- Stephen: Film Study on Jordan Goodwin’s preseason impact, especially on defense
- Brandon/Zona: 4 takeaways from preseason, including the Big O, JO, Allen and clear roles
- Rod, Brrrbery, OldAZ and GuarGuar: Weekly Fantable thoughts on shooting, TOs and the D
- SirHammo - The Sun shines bright down under
The Suns released Ish Wainright late last week, and now plan to release Keon Johnson on Monday to get to the maximum roster limit of 15 standard contract players.
Ish had been sidelined with a strained calf the entire preseason and was on a non-guaranteed standard contract, one of 17 contracts (2-over-the-limit) for the Suns. So it was a tough but easy call to make Ish a casualty. Happily for Ish, his contract was picked up by the Portland Trailblazers, where he can now reunite with Deandre Ayton and rookie Toumani Camara.
Now Keon Johnson hits the streets. His contract still counts on the Suns cap sheet ($2.81 million plus 3.5x luxury tax hit), though, so his release does not impact the Suns bottom line. Just the roster counts, unlesssssss someone claims him on waivers at his current salary. Which is unlikely, considering he could be signed as an unrestricted free agent for a 1⁄3 less — or even to a two-way at 3⁄4 less. I thought they might try to trade the 2021 former first round pick, but his poor play would have probably required the Suns to send along money or a second round pick to entice a buyer, so I’m glad they didn’t go that route just to save a few million in salary (thanks, Mat Ishbia!).
Here’s the cap sheet.
Contracts in black ink are guaranteed, meaning the Suns have to pay those salaries whether or not the player is on the team, and would only be offset by the salary that player would get by signing with another team.
If Johnson is not outright claimed, the Suns are still 2.4 million over the second tax line.
They will have to make a trade later in the year that nets -$2.5+ million in return salary to get under the second apron.
Why does this ‘second tax apron’ matter? Because being over that mark limits what the Suns can do with signings and trades to continue to improve the team.
During this coming season, while the Suns are over the second apron, they:
- cannot sign any high-salary buyout guys (who had more than $12.4 million or so)
- cannot acquire > 10% more salary than they send out in any trades
That means no more Terrence Ross signings after the trade deadline, and no more Durant and Beal trades the way they were done in bringing back significantly more salary.
And if the Suns are still over the second apron after April 2024, they
- cannot pay more than league minimum for free agents from another team
- cannot trade the “seven years out” first round pick (2031)
- cannot acquire any players in sign-and-trade
- cannot send out cash in any trades
- cannot take back ANY more salary than they send out, not even a dollar
- can only do one-for-one trades for salary-matching purposes (no salary aggregation of multiple players)
If they remain over the second apron twice in the following four years (i.e. three of five), starting NEXT season:
- those future frozen draft picks are moved to the END of the first round (they can later be unfrozen if the team gets below the second apron 3 out of 4 years)
In short, trades get tough for the teams over the second apron, including the Suns, Celtics, Nuggets and Clippers (This list only leaves out the Warriors and Bucks because Klay Thompson and Jrue Holiday are merely Bird Rights free agents until they re-sign).
Important Future Dates
- Nov. 3: NBA In-Season Tournament begins
- Dec. 7: NBA In-Season Tournament Semifinals
- Dec. 9: NBA In-Season Tournament Finals for inaugural NBA Cup
- Feb 8: Trade Deadline
- Feb. 16-18: NBA All-Star Weekend 2024
- April 14: 2023-24 regular season ends
The Week Ahead
- Oct. 24: REGULAR SEASON OPENER! Start of 2023-24 regular season; Suns @ Warriors on NBA’s Opening Night on TNT to help open the 2023-24 NBA season.
- Oct. 26: Suns at Lakers
- Oct. 28: Suns first home game of the 2023-24 season, hosting the Utah Jazz
The Suns kick off the 2023-24 season this week with three games, including tilts against the 2022 NBA Champ Warriors and 2023 Western Conference Finalists LA Lakers. Both games are on the road, on national TV, giving the Suns a chance to show their mettle right away.
Tuesday’s game will be the first time Kevin Durant plays in front of Golden State fans since the three-year Finals run, stopped short of three straight titles because Durant suffered injury and missed (almost) all the 2019 Finals. He played there in 2021 for the Nets, but during a no-fans pandemic play-through.
Tuesday’s game will also be Chris Paul’s first game as a Suns opponent, after being traded for Bradley Beal in June and then re-traded to the Warriors for Jordan Poole. Paul is starting next to Stephen Curry. I’m looking forward to how he fits in there.
The week wraps with the home opener on Saturday, where the Suns will unveil the reimagined permanent Ring of Honor, new court design and of course a whole new round of merchandise.
After two exclusive national TV games during the week, the home opener will be broadcast for free to Arizona residents who get digital TV reception (just need an antenna) and Arizona’s Family channels (3/5). The Suns will push 70 of the 82 regular season games this way, reaching triple the households (3+ million) who can see the Suns for 20+ years.
This week’s poll
What’s the Suns record, after two road games against other title contenders and then home vs. the plucky Utah Jazz?
Suns record after 3 games?
This poll is closed