The Phoenix Suns might be the only Pacific Division team that upgrades this offseason

Phoenix Suns Devin Booker Kevin Durant (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns Devin Booker Kevin Durant (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

With all the rumors swirling about the potential movement of superstars shaking up the balance of power in the league, the Phoenix Suns might be the only Pacific Division team to seriously upgrade themselves this offseason.

There was a time in history – only just over two decades ago – when the only team in the Pacific Division that attracted top flight names in free agency were the Phoenix Suns, and teams like the L.A. Lakers, L.A. Clippers, Golden State Warriors, and Sacramento Kings all fought to keep up with the allure of playing in the Valley of the Sun(s).

Today, the Lakers and Clippers are regularly discussed as possible destinations for some of the top talent, they, along with the Warriors and Kings, might not take those steps forward (or in the case of the Warriors, take a step back), while they watch the Phoenix Suns improve dramatically.

The Suns have a multitude of holes on their roster, most notably with starting point guard and power forward.

However, when a team has as many dramatic deficiencies as they do, coupled with the cap space they have, such needs provide them with the opportunity for swift and significant improvement that other teams with more settled rosters do not have.

There is also the case that they are not necessarily invested in the acquisition of superstar talent as they likely have generally what they are looking for in that realm already on the roster in Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton (with now fading hope that somewhere within Josh Jackson is the star that so many people pegged him to be coming out of Kansas), so the direction that James Jones and management will go in free agency is more low risk/moderate reward vs the high risk/high reward of focusing on certain big-named free agents.

Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns /

Phoenix Suns

Let’s say for the sake of argument the Suns should land the pair of Julius Randle and Ricky Rubio, for instance, those two alone will likely come at the combined yearly cost of one bigger named free agent, while also filling two holes and significantly improving the roster,  as opposed to one playing signing while leaving the others issues as problematic as they are now.

The Lakers, in particular, are one of those teams that are seemingly banking on the high risk/high reward draw this summer, hoping to not only trade for Anthony Davis but sign a third super star, potentially Kyrie Irving.

Yet rumors remain abound state that not only do the Pelicans have no interest in trading Davis to the Lakers (it seems generally out of spite more than anything else), leaving L.A. short on that front, but further rumors plant Irving in Brooklyn, not in a re-pairing with LeBron James (more on Kyrie and Brooklyn momentarily).

Should those two superstars end up anywhere but with the Lakers, both L.A. counterparts including the Clippers, could then turn towards current NBA Finalist, Kawhi Leonard.

Long believed to be a potential one-and-done Raptor having supposedly originally preferred to have been traded to one of the L.A. teams, (and also the object of Doc Rivers‘ affection – who was just hit with tampering by the NBA for making comments about Leonard), the better the Raptors do in the Finals – and especially  if they pull off the Championship win – the seeming greater the likelihood that Leonard decides never to leave Jurassic Park.

Should that occur, both of the L.A. team’s abilities to dramatically improve drop exponentially, although each still with an open door for the potential acquisition of likely unrestricted free agent, Kevin Durant.

Considering both the aging of the Golden State Warriors’ roster (mainly their bench), coupled with the serious financial difficulties they are certain to begin facing this offseason with the need to re-sign Klay Thompson (or potentially see him demand a sign-and-trade), as well as the looming decisions with unrestricted free agent DeMarcus Cousins and future free agent, and currently disgruntled, Draymond Green.

Not to forget too that KD might thank the Warriors for three great years and then walk away himself.

If the Warriors were lose Durant (to anyone outside of the Pacific Division), they should be fine for a few more years. Economically, if KD leaves then they’ll more easily be able to re-sign Klay and Draymond, while also probably seeking to re-up Cousins as well, at least keeping their original core intact.

That said, there is no arguing that a Warriors team with KD is better than without, so should he leave, they will at least see a Durant-sized drop off.

Both the Lakers and Clippers again have been presumed targets of Durant’s should he enter free agency (which is of course entirely moot if he stays in San Francisco), but if, for the sake of argument, he and Kyrie decide to pair up in Brooklyn together, or KD does decide to go try and dig the New York Knicks out of the mess their owner has placed them in, as many as three potential teams – all in California – will fail to improve themselves, with the Warriors potentially hurt more than anybody else.

This leaves then the Sacramento Kings and their hopes for free agency.

Like the Phoenix Suns, the Kings have a good young core who, with the addition of some veteran talent, can see significant improvement from one year to the next.

Without as many glaring  holes as the Suns have had, Sacramento – who took a large step forward this past season – does not need much to potentially pull themselves over the top and finally back into the playoffs.

The greatest need is at starting center where they may target some mid-level names (our sister site A Royal Pain recently noted Nikola Vucevic, Brook Lopez, and Dewayne Dedmon as possible targets, but of the three, Brook Lopez seems to be the best bet based on his potential lack of suitors – I personally do not see Vucevic or Dedmon leaving their current teams), meaning that the Kings might, like their California counterparts, strike out this summer as well, failing to make a large leap in the Pacific Division.

Must Read. The Phoenix Suns should pursue smart, not just splashy, moves. light

It is strange to contemplate, considering what the Phoenix Suns have gone through on and off the court for the last three seasons, but they might actually be the team to beat in free agency this offseason, the only team in the Pacific Division who might make a large roster improvement over last year, particularly through that medium of player acquisition.

It would not take much to see the Suns take a large step forward, and with the acquisition of just two good  players to fill their primary holes, coupled with the young core already on the roster, Phoenix might truly be on the rise, while the rest of the Pacific barely treads water.