There’s a plethora of ways teams can assemble championship squads. Building through the draft, smart trades, free agent signings; the NBA buffet offers many ways to build great rosters. However, all championship teams have one thing in common: elite top-end talent. There’s absolutely no doubt that the Phoenix Suns possess that.
If you polled executives around the league and asked them who has the most talented big four in the NBA, most would say the Suns. Amid injuries, Devin Booker, Bradley Beal, Kevin Durant, and Deandre Ayton will look superb on a nightly basis. Outside of health though, what will dictate Phoenix’s title hopes most will be how much support the Suns four stars get on a nightly basis.
In order to fortify the Suns bench unit, James Jones and company opted to get younger and smarter. A few of the team’s moves resemble the Golden State Warriors front office decisions during the 2021 offseason that helped them capture their first title since Kevin Durant departed.
After missing the playoffs entirely with a healthy Stephen Curry, the Warriors needed to make some changes to their team, even with Klay Thompson’s return looming going into the 2021-22 season. In their efforts, they signed two players that made a significant impact during their Finals run. The first one was Otto Porter, Jr.. Starting three games for the Warriors in the NBA Finals, Porter. Jr. helped space the floor for Curry and Thompson, bringing in a motivated mindset from the start to prove his worth after being in NBA purgatory for so long. The second signing was Nemanja Bjelica, whose size was able to disrupt the Boston Celtics offense at times.
Just like all of Phoenix’s acquisitions, these were cheap signings that were due to a financial crunch as a result of the expensive top end talent of the roster.
For the Suns, the signings of Yuta Watanabe and Eric Gordon mirror the moves from Warriors management two years ago. Watanabe, or “Gotanabe,” if you’re talking to Ian Eagle, can bring the spacing and the size for Phoenix that Porter gave the Warriors. A hot shooter, Watanabe shot 44.4% last year on all triples, and his time with Kevin Durant in Brooklyn will help him coexist with the rest of the team faster. Only 28 years old going into just his fifth year where he’s expected to get regular minutes, the ample star power around Watanabe will help him get open looks to do what he’s best at, shooting.
After being in treacherous situations for the betterment of three seasons, Eric Gordon finally has a defined role on a championship contender. With the fifth starter spot clearly up for grabs, Gordon now has the opportunity to show that he still can contribute on a championship caliber team. By performing well for Phoenix next season, Gordon can raise his value around the league, giving him a shot to get one more big payday before he retires. Similarly to Bjelica, due to Gordon’s physicality and size for his position, in big moments he can be trusted to not be a liability against more twitchier, dynamic athletes.
While it’s still early July and the new season is more than three months away still, the Suns are taking a page out of a recent champions blueprint to help their best players bring Arizona its first ever Larry O’Brien Trophy.