The Phoenix Suns should leverage roster advantage over biggest Western Conference rival

Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul, Devin Booker (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul, Devin Booker (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

The Phoenix Suns may have owned the Western Conference during the regular season, but it was their pacific rivals, the Golden State Warriors, who ultimately lifted the Larry O’Brien Trophy in 2022.

Although the likes of the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers are expected to rise as they regain stars from injury, the Suns and Warriors appear set to remain as two of the conference powerhouses.

The Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns have contrasting roster constructions, opening the possibility for the latter to take advantage of their current situation.

The Warriors have a unique roster build – heading into next season they have two players making over $40 million (Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson), then another two making over $25 million (Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green).

But while majority owner Joe Lacob is paying the biggest luxury tax bill in the league, they also have five players who are on rookie contracts. Three of these are lottery picks (James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody), while Jordan Poole took exciting steps and was an integral part of their championship rotation.

Jordan Poole and Mikal Bridges, Phoenix Suns (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Jordan Poole and Mikal Bridges, Phoenix Suns (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

They could also make that a sixth player, with draft pick Ryan Rollins potentially joining Patrick Baldwin Jr. on the 15-man roster. The Warriors blend of experienced and youthful talent is enviable, but to some degree, it also inhibits their flexibility to get better heading into, or during next season.

Their exciting youth makes them a plausible suitor for Kevin Durant, whom the Suns have been heavily linked with since his trade request from the Brooklyn Nets. But for the Warriors to acquire him, they’d also have to give up Wiggins, perhaps their second best player in the Finals.

It appears like Golden State are unwilling to mortgage the future for short-term gain in the form of Durant, believing they can repeat as champions with what they’ve got currently.

But if they want to upgrade their roster in any way, shape or form (even outside Durant), they have little capacity to be able to do so. Outside of the nine players already mentioned, the current roster consists of Kevon Looney, Donte DiVincenzo, and though not yet official, reports suggest they’ll acquire JaMychal Green.

Those three players will make less than $15 million combined, plus they cannot be traded in the near future anyway given they were a part of this season’s free agent class.

This is where the Suns come in. They do possess the ability to compile salaries to obtain better player/s this offseason. Let’s take the following players for example – Jae Crowder, Landry Shamet, Dario Saric, Cameron Payne and Torrey Craig.

Those five are set to make $40 million combined. None of them should be considered untouchable, particularly given three of them are on expiring contracts. Of course, they don’t hold great trade value necessarily, but the Suns can attach picks as required depending on the value of the returning player.

Golden State seem glued to almost every player on their roster, which is great, their immense chemistry is what won them the Finals. But, as previously stated, it prohibits their trade flexibility.

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Phoenix don’t have that issue, giving them an advantage in comparison to the Warriors’ situation. It makes them a possible suitor for any trade candidate at almost any price point. Even if it’s not Durant, look for them to upgrade their roster in some way before next year’s trade deadline.