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What are the Phoenix Suns Scheming?

In the past six months, the Phoenix Suns have fired their former coach of the year Monty Williams, traded for NBA superstars Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal, sold the franchise to Matt Ishiba for $4 billion, and lost in the second round of the playoffs. This sure seems like a lot of change and transformation in one organization in just six months so let's take a deeper dive at these moves and what lies ahead for Phoenix.

In December of 2022, Matt Ishiba the chief executive of United Wholesale Mortgage purchased the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury (the WNBA affiliate team in Phoenix) for $4 billion. N.B.A. Owners Approve Mat Ishbia’s Purchase of Suns and Mercury - The New York Times. This was a good move for the league as it got Robert Sarver out of his former position of owner amid a scandal that many owners and fans frowned upon. Just seven weeks later Ishiba would leave his first mark on the franchise by trading for superstar and future hall of famer Kevin Durant from the Brooklyn Nets. 

This move initially looked to be a great trade and had NBA insiders and fans across the league believing the Suns were now the best team in the league. This trade did however cost a pretty penny as Phoenix had to send fan favorites Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson to Brooklyn as well as four first-round draft picks and an additional 2028 draft swap. Kevin Durant trade to Phoenix Suns causes big shift in NBA odds | FOX Sports. Losing Bridges and Johnson hurt this Suns team, especially with their depth and it showed during Phoenix’s playoff run. In the first round of playoffs, the Suns matched up against a depleted Los Angeles Clippers team which saw Phoenix win in just five games. Both Kevin Durant and Sun’s all-star shooting guard Devin Booker were magnificent this series each having at least 25 points a game versus L.A. In the second round, however, this is where the Suns' depth, or lack thereof was exposed big time. The Suns squared off against the Denver Nuggets and while Booker and Durant still continued to have big-scoring performances it simply did not matter due to horrid defense and no one else contributing on offense for Phoenix. The Suns would lose this series in six games and head coach Monty Williams just two years removed from coach of the year was kicked to the curb. 

Heading into the 2023 offseason, many believed Phoenix would make some major changes possibly trading away former first overall pick and center Deandre Ayton to get some depth on the roster. The Suns did the exact opposite of what many believed and traded away even more assets for another star player in Bradley Beal. Phoenix received Bradley Beal, Isaiah Todd, and Jordan Goodwin while trading away former all-star Chris Paul, Landry Shamet, cash, second-round picks in 2024, 2025, 2026, 2027, 2028, and 2030, as well first-round pick swaps in 2024, 2026, 2028 and 2030 to the Washington Wizards. Many bashed this move for Phoenix and while yes, it is a lot to give up pick-wise, Chris Paul’s contract was pretty terrible so getting off of that is nice all while adding a three-time all-star. The fit with Beal will be interesting but Phoenix believes he can be a great third-scoring option for them paired with Durant and Booker. This still does not solve their depth problem and probably makes it even worse, to be honest, but getting Beal for that price is hard to pass up on so I get why they made that trade. 

Phoenix has also come out and said they do not plan on trading center Deandre Ayton who was a liability defensively in the playoffs. On paper Phoenix’s starting five next season would look something like Devin Booker, Cameron Payne, Bradley Beal, Kevin Durant, and Deandre Ayton. As of today, Phoenix has only eight players under contract which is insane; and four of the eight will make at least $33 million next season in salary. Bradley Beal averages roughly $50 million a year, Kevin Durant, $48 million, Deandre Ayton $33 million, and with Devin Booker’s new deal kicking in, in 2024 he will make $58 million a season. In the coming years, Phoenix will be paying four guys about $190,634,242 million a year; simply put, that is absurd.Arizona Cardinals 2023 Salary Cap Table | Spotrac. Paying that amount of money to just four players hasn’t yet been a successful formula for building championship teams in the NBA but Phoenix hopes to rewrite the narrative with crazy star talent. I believe Phoenix can be successful in the regular season with their approach but I also think they are a little out of their depth if they truly believe they can win an NBA Finals with a flawed roster lacking depth pieces. 

Editor: Joan Andrew Ramadan

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