- Frank Vogel (coach), G Bradley Beal (trade), G Eric Gordon (free agency), C Jusuf Nurkic (trade), F Bol Bol (free agency), F Yuta Watanabe (free agency)
- Monty Williams (coach), G Chris Paul, C Deandre Ayton, G Landry Shamet, G Cameron Payne, C Jock Landale
The Suns came within two wins of a title in 2021, then stumbled in 2022 and again last season, despite a massive mid-season trade. If you’re looking for reasons why Monty Williams is no longer the coach, start there — this is a bottom-line business.
Shed no tears for Williams: he was hired in a hurry this summer, by the Pistons, who also backed up the Brink’s truck. But the Suns had great expectations in 2022-23 and fell to the eventual champion Nuggets in six games.
Kevin Durant and Devin Booker were wonderful in their limited time together last season, showing great chemistry and an understanding of how each other can cook. But other than that, the Suns were mainly average: Chris Paul flashed occasional brilliance amid a clear decline, and Deandre Ayton remained inconsistent (and kept failing to see eye-to-eye with Williams).
Phoenix also welcomed a new owner, and Mat Ishbia pledged to do whatever he could to keep the Suns in contention. That seemed like a tall order considering the salary cap, but Phoenix nonetheless went into the offseason with big plans and aspirations.
It’s quite impressive what the Suns did this summer. Despite all the forces and determents conspiring to prevent the formation of “super teams”, the Suns managed to put one together anyway by acquiring the required third star to join Booker and Durant.
That would be Bradley Beal, who by himself can’t carry a team anyplace special — his 11 seasons with the Washington Wizards are evidence — but as a third option? Good luck finding any team in the NBA with a third wheel providing more offensive muscle.
Beal at age 30 is still a certified scorer and three seasons ago he averaged 31.3 points. While Beal dropped off the last two years — and couldn’t stay healthy — he remains dangerous and cannot be left open. Suddenly, the Suns have three players who can’t be double-teamed, at least not without repercussions. Even if Durant or Booker sits out a game, Beal offers Phoenix a player who can score 30 if needed.
The Suns were willing to sacrifice Paul, and don’t have a natural point guard on the roster, which means Booker — who played that role prior to Paul’s arrival — will handle the ball as well as Beal. That sounds problematic on the surface, but Booker, Durant and Beal are all gifted shot creators and don’t need someone to set them up for buckets.
What’s more impressive is how GM James Jones also managed to find rotational guys as well. Gordon is a solid veteran scorer, they re-signed Okogie (a better-than-average defender) and Wantanabe brings shooting range.
The head-scratcher was sacrificing Ayton in the three-team deal with the Bucks and Blazers and getting Nurkic, a plodder with lesser talent. Well, at least until you realize how unwelcome Ayton was in Phoenix. That’s the only conclusion you can reach.
Plenty depends on the system put in place by Vogel. Primarily a defensive-minded coach during his successful runs with the Los Angeles Lakers and Indiana Pacers, Phoenix will need whatever gizmos he can concoct as the Suns aren’t loaded with defensive specialists. This was the trade-off in the Durant deal as the Suns gave up Mikal Bridges (one of the league’s better defensive swingmen) and ascendant wing Cameron Johnson in that trade. But, you do that trade 365 days a year.
If a team can score 130-plus points almost every night, it doesn’t need to be the league’s best defensive team, too. By getting Beal, the Suns have that going for them.
> 30 teams in 30 days: Complete schedule
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