Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.
First, take a moment, or a while, to reflect on the tragedy of 9/11/01 in America. Pass good thoughts to the families of those lost in the mass murder committed on that day. Can you believe it’s been 22 years since that happened? Seems like yesterday.
Yet, the earth continues to rotate. And it’s good to be distracted on days like these by shiny objects, such as the brand new basketball court on 3rd and Jefferson and the new primary uniforms for a Phoenix Suns team that many think could win an NBA Championship. Opening Night is in six weeks, followed by a 5-month, 82-game regular season and (hopefully) a two-month playoff run.
The Suns have the star power at the top of the rotation. They have the veteran role players expected to support them. But if they want to exceed expectations as a team, I think they are going to need a young player to shine brighter than we have a right to expect. For example, the Lakers had LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but didn’t get really dangerous until Austin Reaves (age 25) developed from undrafted nobody to 3rd best player on a Conference Finals team.
No, the Suns don’t have a ton of youth on the roster. But they do have some young players. Going backwards from 2018 No. 1 overall pick and starting center Deandre Ayton (age 25), they also have Josh Okogie (24), Jordan Goodwin (24), Bol Bol (23) and rookie second-round pick Toumani Camara (23). Players generally approach their NBA prime at age 25 or 26, though some can blossom even later.
None of them are All-Stars — though Ayton has always had All-Star skills in his bag — but they have each shown a tantalizing upside. We all know the Ayton story. Okogie started the last 25 games of last season. Bol started 33 in Orlando. Goodwin started 7 in Washington. Camara, a rookie, showed promise in Summer League.
If I’m the Wizard of Oz, I give Ayton the gift of aggressive focus, Bol the discipline to play within a system, Okogie and Goodwin consistent three-point shots. Camara gets veteran savvy.
The Suns need one or more of these guys to exceed expectations by a lot. My bets are on Ayton and Goodwin.
Quotes of the Week
“I think I will never say no, it’s an honor every time.” — former Suns forward Mikal Bridges, on playing for Team USA after they lost the Bronze medal game and will go home medal-less for the second straight World Cup. Could it be that Book and Mikal will be reunited next summer for the Paris Olympics?
“We have a lot of guys with a lot of different skill sets” — Suns coach Frank Vogel, to Duane Rankin of AZCentral, on how he thinks any number of different players can play with the Big Four, from a point guard to a rangy defensive specialist to a shooter.
Suns around the web
AZ Central: Mikal Bridges missed second FT on purpose, hits crazy three to force OT vs. Canada in FIBA World Championships. Bridges was 3rd on Team USA in scoring (13.8 per game, behind Anthony Edwards and Austin Reaves) and 4th in rebounds (3.9).
Mikal Bridges.— Duane Rankin (@DuaneRankin) September 10, 2023
Misses 2nd FT on purpose, tracked ball down, hits corner 3 with 0.6 seconds left to tie game.
Team USA 111 Canada 111.
Mikal freaking Bridges.
Check out Sue Bird and Carmelo Anthony reaction. #Suns #FIBAWC2023 #FIBAWC pic.twitter.com/68FI3IwINh
PHNX Sports: Does Kevin Durant career narrative change if he wins a championship with Suns?
Tracy McGrady says Kevin Durant is the NBA’s best forward in one-on-one
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.
- All — Suns 2023-24 Season Preview Series — be sure to check out all the player and team profiles!
- Rod, OldAZ and Brrrberry — Inside the Suns: Roundtable on predictions and expectations
- John — On national media showing lack of faith in Suns outside the Big Four
No transactions this week. Here’s the salary chart in case you need it.
And here’s the bottom line.
It doesn’t matter how close they look to the line, the Suns will be over the second apron this coming year. Teams must give NBA-level contracts to at least 14 players a year, and the Suns are already over the second apron at 13 guaranteed players this year and still over the apron at only 10 guaranteed players the next.
During this coming season, while being over the second apron, the Suns:
- cannot sign any high-salary buyout guys
- 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.
If you think that’s tough, next year it gets tougher. If they remain over the second apron as projected after the last day of this coming season, the Suns:
- 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
- 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
- Oct. 2: Media Day!
- Oct. 3: Training camp opens for teams like the Suns, who stay in the States for preseason
- Oct. 5: Start of preseason
- Oct. 20: End of preseason
- Oct. 24: Start of 2023-24 regular season; Suns are @ the Warriors on NBA’s Opening Night on TNT to help open the 2023-24 NBA season.
- Nov. 3: NBA In-Season Tournament begins
- Dec. 7: NBA In-Season Tournament Semifinals
- Dec. 9: NBA In-Season Tournament Finals
- Feb. 16-18: NBA All-Star Weekend 2024
- April 14: 2023-24 regular season ends
This week’s poll
Team USA finished out of the medals for the second straight FIBA World Cup (something only a handful of you predicted in last week’s poll) after losing to Team Canada in the Bronze medal game. Ouch.
They’re going to need the A team back again next summer in Paris for the 2024 Olympics. The Suns employ two of those who won Gold in 2021 in Tokyo, Kevin Durant and Devin Booker, and have a third player in Bradley Beal who made the team but contracted COVID and never traveled to Japan.
The NBA’s best American players were already planning to join Team USA next summer, and you can bet that this year’s group falling short of a medal will spur them even harder to get back on the team.
But Kevin Durant, who led the 2021 team to Gold, will be almost 36 years old when the 2024 Games start and he will hopefully be basking in the glow of a long playoff run to the NBA Championship. Would he put his body through that much wear and tear? Book is just 27 and Beal will just be 31, but who knows how they’ll be feeling after next summer’s playoff run too.
Make your prediction now.
How many of Durant, Booker and Beal will play for Team USA in the Paris 2024 Olympics?
This poll is closed
Book and KD
None of them