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The Championship Window Is Closing For The Suns

Devin Booker and Kevin Durant
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The Phoenix Suns are currently in 8th place in the Western Conference with a record of 17-15. There have been high expectations for the Suns to play well since making the blockbuster trade late on February 9th, 2023, with the Brooklyn Nets for Kevin Durant and T.J. Warren in exchange for Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, Jae Crowder, four first-round picks, and a pick swap. They ended up finishing as the 4th seed as they eventually lost to the Denver Nuggets in the Semifinals. The Suns made another big move by acquiring Bradley Beal from the Washington Wizards in exchange for Chris Paul in the offseason. With a new big three, there was a lot of hype surrounding the team. Now, they are fighting for a spot in the Playoffs.


Can the Big Three Stay Healthy?

The big three of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and Bradley Beal have only played two games together this season. The reason behind this is that all of them have been dealing with their share of injuries. Durant and Booker have been able to play together while trying to carry the team even with injury setbacks. Bradley Beal has been the one issue with staying healthy, as he has only played six games this season. Beal is still dealing with a right ankle sprain and back issues since the offseason. It doesn’t make it any easier with Durant and Beal being over 30 years old. Even so, the big three possess an offensive firepower that few teams have. It is already hard to stop them individually, but they can show a lot of potential when playing together. For that to happen, all of them will need to be able to play together.


Questionable Decisions by Management

With Mat Ishbia taking over ownership of the Suns, he wasted no time influencing big trades for Durant and Beal. In doing so, it left Booker as the only player left from the team that made the finals in 2021. These moves have handicapped the team in making any crucial offseason signings as they are severely over the salary cap. They currently have the third-highest payroll in the NBA, with contracts worth over $188 million. With trading for Durant and Beal, they had no other choice but to sign the rest of the roster with minimum contracts. This has restricted the Suns to surround their stars with quality depth. The bench has been one of the problems for the Suns, as they have the fifth-lowest-scoring bench in the NBA. This has made Durant and Booker increase their scoring workload while also finding alternative ways to win.


The Future of the Suns

With trading for Durant and Beal, they gave up a lot of their good players and future draft picks. The Suns have given up ownership of their first-round picks with the trades they have done up to 2030. The only control they have is with their limited second-round picks. What makes things worse for the future of the Suns is the new CBA deal. The new CBA runs all the way to the 2029-2030 season and includes new rules that limit teams with high payrolls like the Suns. One rule that limits high payroll teams is the Second Tax Apron. The Second Tax Apron applies to teams that are over $17.5 million over the luxury tax threshold. Not being able to sign Buyout Players and losing the Mid-Level Exception are just some rules that apply to teams over the luxury tax. If the Suns can’t figure things out, they will have no choice but to trade one of their players from the big three to make cap room.


How Can the Suns Make it Work?

With the Suns giving up basically their entire future, their priority is to win the championship as soon as possible. It will be tough, as they have built a top-heavy roster with little depth. They will need their three stars to stay healthy and play together to build chemistry. While the big three handle the offense, they will also need help from the role players to help provide defense and rebounding issues. If everything goes right for the Suns, they can show that they can be hard to win against.



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Aaron Mata is a contributor on Back Sports Page. He is currently in his third year of college, attending George Mason University with the goal of graduating next year with a degree in Sports Management. 

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