After a disappointing end to last season, the Phoenix Suns will go all out for the 2023-24 season. The swap for superstar striker Kevin Durant during mid-season signals an attempt to win the title. Unfortunately, they were brutally eliminated by eventual champion Denver Nuggets. It was a tough end to a season where they were seen as post-KD favorites.
New owner Mat Ishbia wasted no time making significant moves to improve the Suns’ title chances in 2023. They splurged on Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal , creating into a deadly combination with Durant, Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton (At least for now). They have also made some moves to keep their roster as competitive as possible. Which of these moves are the best? Let’s analyze them.
Suns best move: The Bradley Beal Trade
Let’s not fool ourselves here. Yuta Watanabe, Eric Gordon and Keita Bates-Diop are all good players who can help the Suns in various ways during the season. The same goes for Drew Eubanks: he’s a solid backup major who found his niche last season for the Blazers. However, calling any of these moves the best move Phoenix has made during the 2023 NBA free agency period is an understatement.
The best move the Suns made during the 2023 NBA free agent era was also their most eye-catching move. In the first few days of the season, Phoenix passed Chris Paul, Landry Shamet, a large number of second-round picks and four first-round picks swaps to Bradley Beal. The move is unlikely to happen: reports of dealings with Beal are scarce, in part due to Beal’s ban on trading.
There are a few reasons why this deal is the best move Sun has made during the free agency era. The first benefit was that it lifted Paul’s huge contract. Paul was a great player in his prime, but he will turn 39 next season. He’s also been more injury-prone over the last few seasons, even missing Phoenix’s second-round loss to the Nuggets. He’s had a good career in Phoenix, but he’s running his course with the team.
Paul’s dismissal would be a big win for the Suns. However, the in exchange for the players they receive makes this way of trading better for Phoenix. The numerous picks in the second round were enough to entice the Wizards to agree to trade with Bradley Beal. Unlike CP3, Beal isn’t exactly a first-guard (though he’s certainly capable of table-setting). However, at this point, Beal is a much better player than CP3.
Beal’s scoring prowess adds another threat to a Suns roster that already has two talented bucket-getters in Booker and Durant. There will undoubtedly be concerns about touches: all three players are elite isolation scorers who work best with the ball with them. However, both Beal and Booker have experience playing the lead guard role on a roster. Both players are willing passers who can make advanced reads and dish the ball out to the open man. Doubling any of these three guys when they’re together is a massive mistake: not only can they score over you, they can dish it to the next guy.
Losing six second-round picks is rough, yes. However, the Suns’ intentions are clear: they want to win NOW. Phoenix is still searching for their first-ever title, and wallowing around in the status quo will not change their fortunes. It’s worth noting, though, that Phoenix technically did not lose their first-round picks: they are just pick swaps. That means they retain their first-rounders: always a good thing for any team. That’s another benefit of this trade: they were able to land a star player without completely mortgaging their future.
The Suns’ window to contend for a title also isn’t just one year like other contenders. Including the 2023-24 season, Durant and Ayton are under contract for the next three years, per Spotrac. Booker will be on the team until the 2028 offseason. Beal’s contract from the Wizards runs until 2027. The player empowerment era means that no player is guaranteed to stay for that long. However, there’s at least a big chance that this core of KD, Beal, Booker, and Ayton stays together for a long time.
Star players aren’t what makes a team complete: The Suns still have the entirety of the 2023 NBA free agent period to fill their roster . What’s great about them, though, is that they’ve built a solid core (though expensive cores). Their chances of winning the title will depend on how well the front office outshines the rest of the gang.