Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns. (Formerly called Center of the Sun)
The Suns are mortgaging their future. They have ‘traded’ some control over their next 8 first round picks in a whopping four different deals already in the past six months. Four future firsts are gone for good, while four others have been encumbered with at least two pick swaps.
- Kevin Durant (All-Star)
- Bradley Beal (All-Star)
- Jordan Goodwin (backup)
- 5 second round picks
- Mikal Bridges (starter)
- Cam Johnson (starter)
- Chris Paul (starter)
- Jae Crowder (backup)
- Landry Shamet (backup)
- Cam Payne (backup)
- 4 first round picks
- 8 first round pick swaps
- 7 second round picks
Phew. That’s a LOT of changes. Three starters from last season, one starter from the season before, two backups and ALL those picks.
I can’t even really process it right now.
Still, the Suns now have three All-Stars in the lineup, still have Deandre Ayton, upgraded their depth, and will still have four first round picks and five second-round picks in the next seven years.
Let’s get to it.
- First? YES — least favorable of their own, Washington (if 13-30) or Memphis
- Second? YES — Denver’s
- First? NO
- Second? YES — Pelicans’
- First? YES — least favorable of their own, Washington (if not coveyed to NY in a separate deal) or Orlando
- Second? YES — least favorable of Detroit, Orlando or Milwaukee
- First? NO
- Second? NO
- First? YES — least favorable of their own, Washington, Philadelphia (if 9-30) or Brooklyn
- Second? YES (2) — Memphis’ AND Boston’s (if 46-60)
- First? NO
- Second? YES — Memphis’
- First? YES — least favorable of their own, Washington or Memphis
- Second? NO
What all this mean? It means that the Suns are betting on the next seven years being really good.
If they make the playoffs every year for the next seven years, their own picks would be low anyway. And if they don’t make the playoffs, they will still get someone else’s picks in most years.
The most likely outcome, with Devin Booker still in his prime and the owner being ultra-aggressive, is that the Suns will remain good and those 2024/6/8/30 picks will be their own anyway.
The Summer Suns finished 2-3 this past week in Las Vegas Summer League, with second round pick Toumani Camara capping off the week with his best effort: 20 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks.
Camara, at just 6’8”, does not have the ideal tallness for the NBA power forward position, though he does have a 7’0” wingspan and a strong body (220 lbs.), looking for contact as he attacks the basket. Camara’s best attribute might have been averaging 7 free throws per game this week, ranking 6th in Suns SL history (and in a real stretch, would have led the NBA team in free throws per game as well).
He averaged more free throws per game (7.0, over 4 games) than former Suns big man prospects Jalen Smith (2.8, 4 games), Deandre Ayton (4.3, 4 games), Marquese Chriss (6.8, 8 games), Dragan Bender (1.7, 15 games), Marcus Morris (4.9, 7 games), Markieff Morris (4.2, 12 games) and Earl Clark (5.0, 9 games).
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Who’s ahead of Camara in career FTs per game in Suns SL history? Marcus Banks (14 in 1 game), Casey Jacobsen (10.7, 3 games), Amare Stoudemire (8.7, 3 games), Gani Lawal (8.2, 5 games) and D.J. Strawberry (7.4, 9 games). Only one real player in that group.
Camara ended his first SL stint with averages of 16.3 points (10th in Suns SL history) and 7.0 rebounds (14th) with shooting splits of 45/21/71.
He’s not gonna make any All-SL teams. Let’s just hope, with a guaranteed contract for 2023-24, he’s at least better than guys who have to earn their NBA money on a day to day basis like Ish Wainright (still non-guaranteed) and Saben Lee (two way). Can he beat out Ish and 6th-year vets Bol Bol and Chimezie Metu for minutes all season?
Here’s some highlights of Camara’s final SL game this weekend.
The Summer Suns finished 2-3 this week. Camara and Hunter Hale tied for the team lead with 16.3 points per game. Hale had a good shooting week, making 52% of his threes in 7.7 attempts per game over the final 3 games. He’s a bit of an undersized shooting guard (6’3”) but shot well enough in SL to at least get a look in someone’s training camp. Maybe even the Suns.
Suddenly, lots on Sunday after a week of nothing.
- Cam Payne was traded into San Antonio’s cap space, along with a future second-round pick and some cash. No players coming back. On the surface, it’s a salary dump since he was only replaced with someone (Bol Bol) making a third of the money.
- Bol Bol signs with Suns on a one-year guaranteed deal, taking Payne’s roster spot.
- And finally, the Suns traded ANOTHER first round pick swap (2026) for three second round picks. This time it’s a secondary swap on the 2026 first for three future second round picks.
Net result? Lower overall payroll, lower luxury taxes, more second round picks to use in future deals.
Take a look at Bol highlights.
And now, let’s take a look at the cap sheet. Your only takeaway at this point is that the Suns have:
- 4 max contracts
- 11 minimum contracts
Their 4th-highest paid player makes $32 million this year, while the 5th highest paid makes $3.2 million. No other team in the NBA has this much of a drop from one salary to the next.
And here’s the bottom line.
The Suns are now just a hair over the second apron if you only count the guaranteed money (i.e. only $300k of Goodwin and none of Ish Wainright).
You might conclude that the Suns could get themselves under the second apron with a little more salary dumping on the margins. You’d think they could release Goodwin, Wainright and one other minimum guy and BOOM no second apron... except that every NBA team must have 14 players on their roster during the season. The Suns currently have 15, and those 15 include a whopping 11 on minimum contracts already. Dumping any of them
Since they’ve already gone to the extreme of 11 of their 15 players being at the league minimum and they’re STILL over the second apron, the only real way to lower their bill even further is to trade one of the big salaries (Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Bradley Beal or Deandre Ayton) for something less.
There’s reason for concern about Durant’s durability going forward, but he and Booker are very much superstar talents. Despite going out in the second round, there’s still an argument Booker was the second best player this postseason.
If the Suns emerge from what looks like a mess with a deeper, more well-rounded supporting cast around these two, they’ll be among the betting favorites heading into next season.
Sports Illustrated — Rohan Nadkarni has the Suns 5th as well, among a group of 8 contenders
As effectively as Phoenix has filled out its roster with minimum contracts, I’m still not sold on the Kevin Durant–Devin Booker–Bradley Beal experiment just yet. If the team closes games with KD, Book, Beal, Eric Gordon and Deandre Ayton, who is the perimeter defender in that group? Who is making the hustle plays? Is Cam Payne really the only NBA-level point guard on the roster? Who among Payne, Keita Bates-Diop, Yuta Watanabe and Drew Eubanks is ready to be a steady performer in a high-stakes playoff series? The top-end talent of this team is undeniable. Still, there are too many questions that need to be answered before I can fully buy in.
I love Rohan, but take his words on the Suns with a grain of salt. The LA native has the Lakers as a better contender, saying they had a “fantastic summer” (they re-signed some guys who played great in the playoffs, and overpaid another overachieving Heat point guard from a Finals run).
Rohan then goes on to list the Warriors as the second-biggest contender for next season.
I don’t really know how to explain this other than I remain a huge Stephen Curry believer. I also think Golden State is leaning into Steph’s championship window in a way it didn’t last year. Chris Paul should provide much more consistent play than Jordan Poole. Dario Šarić gives this team some frontcourt flexibility it lacked last year. And the overall commitment to the core veterans should help ease the vibes after the Last Dance–esque cloud that hung over the 2023 team. And unlike all the West teams behind them on this list, I’ve seen much of this Dubs team actually win a ring together.
He questions the fit of Beal, Booker and Durant but leans into the fit of Chris Paul with the Warriors? That’s homerism right there, folks. Extreme homersim.
Quotes of the Week
“I want to win one this year. We don’t want to wait. We want to win one this year.” — Eric Gordon to Duane Rankin of AZCentral.com and the Arizona Republic
“Making Suns and Mercury games available to all our fans across the state, for free, was extremely important to us. It was a major priority and we got it done for our fans. We are excited about this for our fans.” — Suns owner Mat Ishbia on making Suns games free on Arizona’s Family, Channels 3 and 5, next season. The Suns haven’t been on free TV in 20 years. Suns games will now reach almost 3 million households, nearly triple what Bally Sports reached.
Lots more quotes in here, from Ishbia to Duane, if you’re paying for AZCentral.com access. Ishbia says Isiah Thomas had nothing to do with the Bradley Beal trade, but that he definitely seeks out the advice of Thomas and other Michigan State alums like Mateen Cleaves.
Important Future Dates
Second week of August: NBA schedule released.
August 31: Last day for teams to waive players and apply the stretch provision to their 2023-24 salaries.
September 5: Last day for teams to issue required tenders to unsigned second-round picks; those players become free agents on September 6 if not tendered.
Late September: (specific dates TBA) Training camps open.
October 24: 2023-24 NBA season begins.
This week’s poll
You good with what is essentially Bol Bol for Cam Payne?
This poll is closed
No! We needed Cam for next year
Yes! Bol is fun to watch and could get better
Meh. Doesn’t really matter.