The Phoenix Suns have had one of the best summers of any organization in the NBA. They managed to turn Chris Paul into a younger star in Bradley Beal, before following that up with adding the kind of depth most thought was beyond them.
Not only that, but they nabbed Eric Gordon on a two year, $6.5 million deal and drafted a player in Toumani Camara who if nothing else, was exactly the type of player in theory that this top-heavy group needed. Asking for any more then would be greedy, right?
True as that may be, the Suns may be able to pull off one final masterful move, and bring in T.J. McConnell from the Indiana Pacers to run this team.
Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports has reported that the talk around Summer League in Vegas is that the Suns would like to add McConnell to fill out their backcourt rotation ahead of what they hope will be a championship run. Doing so will not be easy, and as Fischer also goes on to point out, a third team such as the New York Knicks may be needed to facilitate this deal getting done.
There are really no downsides to the Suns trying to add McConnell, with the lone exception to some being what it may cost to get him. The franchise are in a precarious situation with their cap sheet, and so they would need to get a little bit creative to take on the $8.7 million he is owed in 2023-24 to get him. Enter Cam Payne, who will be making $6.5 million next season.
It is probable that Payne would be moved on in order to add McConnell, and while most fans would be happy with that, they should be careful what they wish for. Payne is certainly limited in how he can help this group, but he has had a couple of big moments for the Suns during his four seasons with the team.
Payne is also one of the longest tenured players on the roster, and works really well with star players. He has no problem running the team for periods of time, but is equally happy to give the ball to Devin Booker and get out of the way, and to never call his own number on the offensive end.
As admirable as all of this is however, McConnell is able to do all of this and beats Payne in one crucial area. He is much the better defender. Tenacious, and more than happy to hound elite floor generals all over the court. It is how the 31-year-old has carved out a career in the NBA, and his level of intensity on the defensive end would be huge for the Suns for the postseason.
McConnell also gives the team a different look to start and finish games, and depending on the opponent you could certainly see him as the fifth starter on certain nights. We’ve tried to decipher who that player will be already, but the one thing McConnell has over all of the other candidates is that he is a true point guard. Something this group has lacked since trading Paul.
McConnell has only started 92 regular games in his entire career spanning all the way back to 2015-16, so he will have no problem coming off the bench if that is how the Suns decide to use him. Running a second united featuring Eric Gordon, Drew Eubanks and one of the team’s star players who will be on the court at all times would make the Suns stronger as well.
Interestingly, McConnell shot a ridiculous 44.1 percent from deep last season. He has rarely taken more than one attempt from deep per game throughout his career, and last season McConnell didn’t even manage that (0.8 per game). So although this number may be an outlier (he is a career 34.3 percent from 3-point range), McConnell could yet add yet another offensive weapon here.
Really there are no downsides to adding McConnell, and just as important for the Suns, he is an affordable option. There is a path to getting him on this roster that will likely only mean losing Payne, and the introduction of a third team could make this deal even more interesting for all involved.
He has only ever played for the Philadelphia 76ers and Indiana Pacers, and would love the opportunity to properly challenge for a championship. 7.1 points and five assists per game are small numbers, but they don’t even differ that much from Payne and McConnell’s best work has never shown up in the box score each night anyway.
The organization did a great job in adding players this summer who are young and still have a lot to prove in the league. They then followed that up with a true veteran in Gordon. McConnell certainly falls into the latter category, and would be an excellent locker-room presence for this group as well.
He would be such a bonus to get, and having a partially guaranteed contract for next year is a plus because they can move on from McConnell if it doesn’t work out. The Suns are already set, but championship windows come and go quickly, and the franchise needs to maximize this opportunity. McConnell helps to ensure this.