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The Rundown w/T-Money

The Rundown v5.3.23 – A $132,929,128 Liability

The Phoenix Suns are in trouble. Deep trouble

As in they have never won a best-of-seven playoff series after dropping the first two games.

As in they just lost their point guard, who suffered a groin injury, and is listed as day-to-day, which means he misses at least a week – or Game Three, Game Four, and (if there is one) Game Five. 

(Damn you, State Farm, for making him wear those fabric-heavy, over-sized shorts).

This is where they need Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson … not Deandre Ayton, just standing around.

A role player who can’t even play his role.

Bridges, in a reserve role, was averaging 12.1 points a game in Phoenix. After being traded to the Brooklyn Nets, he jumped to 26.1 points per game. Johnson went from 10.7 as a Sun to 16.6 as a Net.

The latter – Ayton – is just a $132,929,128 liability who’s been just watching the first two games like a paying spectator. After signing his big money contract, Ayton has basically remained the same, average center.

I’m surprised the Suns’ new owner and his competitive spirit has allowed Ayton to lumber through 63 minutes of basketball. Even his mortgage company employees don’t get to loaf like Ayton has.

It’s too bad that the Brooklyn Nets didn’t take Ayton in the swap for Kevin Durant instead of Bridges and Johnson. (For those asking about Sean Marks’ acuity as a GM, that decision alone should give him credence).

In the first two games, Ayton has either been in awe of Nikola Jokic or indifferent in his approach to the semi-finals matchup with the Denver Nuggets as he has only put up 14 points in each game, seven rebounds in Game One and eight rebounds in Game Two.

Jokic, meanwhile, went 24 and 19 in Game One, and in Game Two it was a game high 39 points and 16 rebounds.

The sad part is that on offense, Ayton needs Chris Paul as Paul is Ayton’s best option in the pick and roll, or the give and go. So if Paul is indeed out, this series is all but over.

The Suns need to bring on Manute Bol, who amassed more blocked shots in his NBA career than he did points. Unfortunately, Bol passed away nearly 13 years ago … yet is still more active than we’ve seen Ayton be in this series.

Meanwhile, Jamal Murray is playing out of his mind … and rightfully so, since injury has kept him out of playoff series in recent memory.

No disrespect to Kevin Durant’s mom, but Murray is looking like ‘the real MVP.’

But since we’re talking about moms, I would throw a jersey on Miss Wanda over Ayton with the way he’s disappeared in this series. Her vibrance and fire are what the Suns need and not getting from high-paid spectator Deandre Ayton.

Maybe if the Suns still plan to chase Kyrie Irving (and they may well need to with Paul withering out every time the Suns are in the playoffs), maybe the Dallas Mavericks are takers in a sign and trade.

Devin Booker will wear himself out like he did in the second half last night and lose his potent efficacy. Cameron Payne has to show up better than two points and five points – the Suns need his 10.3 points and 4.5 dimes if Phoenix is to rise from the ashes.

Durant will have the world on his shoulders and will feel like he’s still in Brooklyn … except for the colorful jerseys Phoenix has.

As for Ayton, Suns management and ownership has to move on from the albatross that is holding them back from an NBA Championship.

  • $30,914,750 this year – little to no ROI, certainly not in this semi-finals series with the Nuggets
  • $32,459,438 in 2023-24
  • $34,005,126 in 2024-25
  • $35,550,814 in 2025-26

Matt Ishbia, I know you agree with me. In fact, I’m surprised you haven’t donned the baggy shorts and laced up your kicks, and inserted yourself into the lineup.


Tracy Graven is the Senior NBA Analyst for
He has written the NBA, done NBA Radio, and appeared as a guest for the last 21+ years for HoopsWorld, Swish Magazine, HoopsHype, the Coach Scott Fields Show,, and is also tackling the NFL, NCAA, and will be pinch-hitting on some Major League Baseball coverage for BackSportsPage.
He’s spent 21 years in locker rooms in Orlando, Boise (CBA, G League), San Antonio, Phoenix, Denver, Oklahoma City, and Atlanta. 

A corporate trainer by day, he currently resides in SEC Country near Knoxville, Tennessee.
Reach him on Twitter at @RealTMoneyMedia  

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