They finally got their wish. Kevin Durant got his wish to be a Phoenix Sun. Jae Crowder got his wish to be traded (though not where he’d be appreciated, quite yet). New owner Mat Ishbia got his wish to make a huge imprint on the team as quickly as possible.
And the Phoenix Suns got their wish to pair Devin Booker with another MVP caliber player.
I can’t believe it actually happened. Good job James Jones for getting all the chips stacked up. Good job, Mat Ishbia, for pushing all the chips in to the center of the table.
Just hours earlier, Mat Ishbia answered a question on spending into the luxury tax like this:
“The way we look at it is, how do we improve our team?” Ishbia responded. “I’m not going to be sitting here counting the dollars. We’re going to focus on, how do we improve our team? If there’s a way to improve our team, we’re going to look at doing it. We’re not going to sacrifice long term or short term, but we are going to try to win every game.”
He did it. He improved the team, and his aggressive nature probably green-lit a Suns final offer that includes Mikal Bridges (someone they did not want to include) and likely an extra first round pick or two. My guess is the final package the Suns offered was the best package ever laid out there by James Jones.
Good on you, Mat.
KD is the best player (at the time of the trade) to get traded in season since_______?— Anchorage Man (@SethPartnow) February 9, 2023
I've been looking into this for what I'm writing, and I think the answer is Wilt in 1965.— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) February 9, 2023
Durant and the Suns were meant to be. They were the only team on Durant’s wish list this whole time. He longed to play with Devin Booker, Chris Paul and for head coach Monty Williams.
Now the Suns have an in-their-prime MVP candidate in Kevin Durant who steps up in the playoffs enough to have won two NBA Finals MVPs from his days with the Warriors.
Yes it cost the Suns an incredibly big haul, and sure they had other options. According to Woj, the Suns would have pivoted to John Collins if the Nets hadn’t acquiesced by then.
Durant is the best trade acquisition by the Suns franchise since Charles Barkley in 1992, who cost that two-time Conference Finals team a beloved young-ish soon-to-be All-Star in Jeff Hornacek and a pair of young important role players in Tim Perry and Andrew Lang.
Now Durant costs the Suns their beloved self-proclaimed twins, Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson, who may never make an All-Star game but are some of the best role players in the entire league. I’ll miss the twins very much, but that’s the price you pay for greatness.
In the coming hours and days, every single player, Monty Williams and James Jones will all lament the loss of the twins. It’s sad to see them go. But no one will lament the desire to go all-in for Durant.
In the deal, the Suns also re-acquire T.J. Warren who is a ‘bucket’ and is now healthy. He profiles as a great scoring threat off the bench who can get his own bucket on high efficiency out of nothing. He just doesn’t play much defense or rebound the ball.
How do the Suns look right now, on their depth chart?
- PG: Chris Paul, Cameron Payne (injured), Saben Lee
- SG: Devin Booker, Landry Shamet (injured), Damion Lee
- SF: Kevin Durant, T.J. Warren
- PF: Torrey Craig, Dario Saric
- C: Deandre Ayton, Bismack Biyombo, Jock Landale
The Suns now have the profile they’ve always needed to be true championship contender: two of the league’s Top 10 players, including one comfortably in the Top 5, and legitimate MVP candidates in Kevin Durant and Devin Booker. And you can get used to it. Both are under contract for at least three more years.
How does the rest of the team operate around them?
Well, they still have the Point God Chris Paul. You know, the guy who’s been a 2-time All-Star as a Phoenix Sun and 12-time All-Star throughout his career. He’s been rounding into form, back into that guy who’d be perfect as your #3 target.
They also have Deandre Ayton, the next closest thing to a future All-Star. Ayton has posted the franchise’s first ever back-to-back 30/15 games, is having his best offensive season yet, and has a history of stepping up in the playoffs.
That’s a top four that might not be bested by anyone else in the league.
Beyond that, the Suns still have some very good rotation pieces. Torrey Craig likely keeps his starting forward role. Cam Payne and Landry Shamet will be back from injury sometime soon, maybe. According to Jake Fischer, the Suns are even still looking to upgrade at the point guard spot in the next eight hours.
The Suns have already contacted opposing teams in search of point guard reinforcements, sources told Yahoo Sports, searching for premium reserve ballhandling options who could even perhaps replace Paul in the future.
What do the Suns have left to trade? They’ve still got some expiring, or near expiring, contracts for teams looking at cap space, but not much in draft equity. As part of the trade, the Suns committed nearly every first round draft pick they could — unprotected 2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029 pick, plus a pick swap in 2028 — so all they’ve got left to offer is a couple of swap rights and some second round picks.
An important development over the past few weeks has been Dario, if he stays in Phoenix beyond 1pm today, getting more comfortable as a power forward next to Ayton, Bis or Landale. He’s been needed for his rebounding and ‘controlled chaos’ on both ends, and now being able to join another center in the lineup helps the Suns maintain the rebound advantage against most teams.
T.J. Warren adds a wildcard shot creator to the mix. If you noticed him against the Suns Tuesday night, his nine early fourth-quarter points (17 for the game) that kept the Nets close enough for that tight finish.
But really, all this comes down to adding Kevin Durant. Before spraining his knee in early January, Durant had led the Nets — a much worse team than he’s got here in Phoenix now — to 18 wins in 20 games after finally getting some semblance of health from the role players around him.
To the Suns, he brings 29.7 points (1st on Suns), 6.7 rebounds (2nd), 5.3 assists (2nd), 1.5 blocks (1st), 56% shooting (3rd, but 1st among non-centers), 60.7% eFG (1st), 37% on threes (10th), and 7.3 free throws (1st).
He’s Kevin Freaking Durant.