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Setting Suns: Another Title-less Season in Phoenix

Team Again Makes Meek Playoff Exit

The Phoenix Suns finished with the most wins in the Western Conference last season and had high hopes for a deep playoff run. Even after they exited prematurely, many figured they had one more kick at the can in 2022-23 – especially with the same strong roster returning.

When management saw that the team’s trajectory was not heading in the right direction, they rolled the dice on a franchise-changing trade for superstar Kevin Durant. The team’s NBA odds to win the championship shot up, but the squad again fell short again in the playoffs.

Kevin Durant #35 of the Phoenix Suns reacts
Christian Petersen/Getty Images/AFP

Phoenix was destroyed on its home floor in a playoff elimination game for the second year in a row, falling behind by 30 points in a Game 6 loss to the Denver Nuggets.

As they move into the offseason, what went wrong for the Suns and what do they have to do to fix it?

Too Much Change, Too Little Time

It was clear early on that the stars were not aligned for the Phoenix Suns this season. In the offseason, there was friction with center Deandre Ayton and head coach Monty Williams. In the regular season, injuries started to pile up and the team couldn’t even get to the .500 mark. They were 21-24 through 45 games.

Those who bet online would probably agree that the move to acquire Durant was a good one, but in the end there was too little time to get everyone on the same page.

Devin Booker had already missed a chunk of the season, Durant joined the team and promptly injured himself too. In the playoffs, it was Chris Paul’s turn to get sidelined while Ayton played through a painful rib injury that eventually forced him to sit out Game 6 vs. Denver.

This team needs a full offseason to jell, figure out its identity and learn how to play together. The Suns tried to make it work on the fly but it didn’t quite come to fruition. Now they’ll try and do it properly.

Suns Must Replenish Depth

There’s no question that the Suns have one of the best one-two punches in the NBA in Durant and Booker, but things get iffy after that. We know that Ayton is a force on the inside and Paul is still serviceable – if he returns. Beyond that, this team needs to round out the roster.

Taking a look at their free agents, they’re probably not going to miss anyone if they’re leaving. There’s Terrence Ross, T.J. Warren, Damion Lee and Josh Okogie. Then there are some restricted bodies like Jock Landale, Darius Bazley and Saben Lee. None of these guys move the needle in the sportsbook.

The Suns are an attractive place to be for veterans chasing a ring. As the Brooklyn Nets did when they had the Durant-James Harden-Kyrie Irving trio, they found some quality bodies to join for a run. The Suns need to do the same.

Can They Move Paul, Ayton?

The Suns are going to try and sign some guys like Fred VanVleet and they might pull it off. Their best path to really building a contender would be to move on from Paul and Ayton – if they can get some serviceable parts in return.

Paul just isn’t a difference-maker anymore. He’s past his prime and he’s rarely healthy in the playoffs. Meanwhile, Ayton’s development stagnated and there are questions about his efforts in the postseason. What’s worse is both are making over $30 million each next season.

It’s going to be tough to move one or both, but if the Suns can merely get cap space or some quality depth, they should be a contender. Even if they simply dump Paul, bring back Ayton and upgrade the rest of the parts, they will be able to make a run.

One interesting rumor has been that the team might execute a sign-and-trade for Kyrie Irving. It’s a risky proposition but Irving, Durant and Booker likely make the Suns the NBA betting championship favorite.

In return, the Suns could offer Ayton and Paul, along with maybe whatever draft picks they have left. For the Dallas Mavericks, they might not get much back in return for Irving as he’s a free agent, so this could help them with some foundation around Luka Doncic.

Championship Prospects

Until the dust settles, the Suns are a team to avoid with your NBA picks in terms of futures. They clearly don’t have enough around Durant and Booker to make this work just yet. However, this is an attractive destination for a lot of veterans.

One more quality starter and some depth can really propel this team to the top of the West – especially given how open things are. But for now, monitor the offseason moves before you make any financial decisions with them.

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