The Phoenix Suns made one of the biggest moves in their franchise’s history with their acquisition of superstar forward Kevin Durant, who is perhaps the piece the team needs to push it to its first-ever NBA championship.
Phoenix will have one of the most potent starting lineups in the league with starting point guard Chris Paul, who would rank fifth in the league in assists per game (8.7) though he has not played the minimum amount of games to qualify among statistical leaders, shooting guard Devin Booker and center Deandre Ayton.
Between Paul, Booker and Durant, the Suns have 28 All-Star appearances. It is believed to be the most of any Phoenix team dating back to when the franchise was founded in 1968-69.
Phoenix also acquired forward TJ Warren, who is averaging 9.5 points and 2.8 rebounds this season, in its trade for Durant with the Brooklyn Nets and former Oklahoma City Thunder forward Darius Bazley, who is known for his athleticism and defensive ability, before Thursday’s trade deadline.
The Suns might not be done upgrading their roster, however. Several players are expected to be bought out, which could give Phoenix an opportunity to add more depth as it reaches the end of the regular season and approaches the playoffs.
Bright Side of the Sun takes a look here at seven potential buyout candidates for the Suns.
Westbrook received tons of criticism during his one-and-a-half year tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers, which was seemingly due to his attitude and reluctance to take a lesser role. However, Westbrook succeeded as a sixth man for the Lakers this season and is still a productive player who can add value for the right team.
Westbrook is averaging 15.9 points, 7.5 assists and 6.2 rebounds this season and has shown he can still thrive when the ball is in his hands. His best fit is with teams who will use him to orchestrate their offense, whether it’s as a starter and off the bench, and a leader for either unit.
Could that work for the Suns? It’s possible. Phoenix needs scoring off the bench and is expected to get a boost from Warren, who is known for his capability to score and had a tremendous stretch in the NBA bubble two-and-a-half years ago. Westbrook could provide experience and competitiveness for a unit that will still need to be productive for Phoenix to maximize its championship chances.
However, Westbrook has a desire to get his own buckets and will be asked to play in a system that emphasizes sound team principles in Phoenix. Would that be a fit? It’s possible, but it may take more concession on Westbrook’s part and a willingness from Suns coach Monty Williams for the nine-time All-Star to be his usual self.
Jackson was traded to the Charlotte Hornets before Thursday’s deadline. He provided a positive impact for the Los Angeles Clippers over the last three seasons – he averaged 17.8 points with 3.4 assists and 3.2 rebounds in the team’s 2021 playoff run, in which they met the Suns in the Western Conference Finals – but has declined this season.
After he averaged 16.8 points with 4.8 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game last season, Jackson’s numbers have dropped to 10.9 points with 3.5 assists and 2.2 rebounds per game. He turns 33 years old in April and it is possible he may be on the decline in his career.
Still, Jackson is an experienced player who could provide leadership and a scoring ability were he in Phoenix. The Suns lacked that last postseason, when backup guard Cameron Payne struggled and averaged just 4.2 points on 29.7 percent shooting.
Payne is currently out with a foot strain, so the Suns could use a backup guard to satisfy their need their off the bench. Jackson is not the playmaker Westbrook is but may be a better fit since he can fill his role and will not need the ball in his hands at all times to make an impact.
Recently traded from the Los Angeles Clippers, Wall was waived by the Houston Rockets and will seek a new home after he has played 34 games this season and averaged 11.4 points with 5.2 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game.
Wall is currently out with an abdomen injury and it is uncertain when he will return. He suffered a torn Achilles in 2019, which has slowed his impact after he was known for his quickness and playmaking ability earlier in his career.
Nonetheless, Wall has experience that could benefit the Suns. He will not have to play a large role and could fit in as an extra piece off the bench. He may be one of the better fits since he will not be asked to step up regularly and can maximize a role that is given to him.
Westbrook, Jackson and Wall could each provide a positive impact for the Suns. Whoever can orchestrate Phoenix’s offense best and buy in to their system and role under Williams will best help the team, assuming it wants to sign one of these guards.
Love’s departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers appears to be unlikely. Cavaliers president of basketball operations Koby Altman said Thursday he and Love have not had any discussions about a contract buyout and that he does not anticipate that to occur.
However, if Love wants to force his way out, he could find a role on a contending team with his shooting ability and passing. Back issues kept Love out in the end of January but he has been outside the team’s rotation of late.
Love is averaging 8.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game this season. He is performing below the level he used to as a five-time All-Star and is shooting 38.9 percent from the field and 35.4 percent from 3-point range but could still be valuable piece.
The Suns perhaps need another wing to maximize their roster, and Barton could provide an impact with his scoring and defensive ability.
Barton and the Washington Wizards were reported to be working on a buyout after the trade deadline, and the 11th year forward may be able to provide a positive impact somewhat similar to what he had for the Denver Nuggets for multiple seasons.
However, Barton is averaging just 7.7 points, his fewest since his first two-and-a-half seasons in the NBA. He has played 19.6 minutes per game.
Barton has proven he can provide on a contending team and the Suns could use a boost defensively after their loss of last year’s runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year, Mikal Bridges. Multiple teams could vie for Barton’s services.
Ross was known as an athletic player in his early playing days for the Toronto Raptors but does not fit with the Orlando Magic, who are currently rebuilding.
Ross is averaging 8.0 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game this season on 43.1 percent shooting (38.1 percent from 3-point range). He may fit the Suns’ need for wing depth and could certainly be a better use for a contending team.
Barton can provide a scoring ability while Ross is a player who can play more off the ball and fill a desired role. Barton may be the better option here but Ross is a solid contributor who could benefit the Suns.
Ibaka would be an ideal fit for the Suns, who could benefit from his shot-blocking ability, rebounding and experience.
Ibaka also has a previous connection with Durant, who he played with on the Oklahoma City Thunder from 2009-10 to 2015-16.
Ibaka will not have a big impact offensively but can provide leadership and experience for a Suns team that could use all it can get for a championship run. He won an NBA title with the Toronto Raptors in 2019.
Ibaka is averaging 4.1 points and 2.8 rebounds this season.