The Phoenix Suns find themselves in a nice spot right now. They’ve had the kind of busy offseason they envisioned, and managed to land Bradley Beal and a whole host of help on minimum deals. Some of those players have already shown their worth in FIBA play.
But the opportunity to get better in the NBA is always one that has to be taken seriously, and in the short time Mat Ishbia has owned the team, he has done exactly that. He was barely in the door when he gave the ok to go ahead with the Kevin Durant blockbuster deal, and has been aggressive in improving the roster ever since.
Which is why recent comments made by Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks should have the Suns organization on high alert.
In a fascinating piece published by the New York Times, which you can view here, Giannis had this to say about his future;
“I don’t want to be 20 years on the same team and don’t win another championship. I would not be the best version of myself if I don’t know that everybody’s on the same page, everybody’s going for a championship, everybody’s going to sacrifice time away from their family like I do. And if I don’t feel that, I’m not signing.”
Antetokounmpo is eligible for a three-year extension on his current deal in the coming weeks, and he is unlikely to put pen to paper on that. Committing beyond the three years he is already signed up for (the third year is a player option) just doesn’t make sense for a 28-year-old two-time league MVP.
It is unsettling for the Bucks to hear their superstar talk in this way, because he has always be a model individual for the franchise. Never rocking the boat when the team came up short in the postseason, believing in the long-term vision and finally breaking through in 2021 to win a first championship against, of all teams, the Suns. How then can the Suns profit from this situation?
Ishbia has already shown he has that cutthroat mentality in trying to make the team better. He traded Chris Paul, the player who turned the fortunes of the organization around, for Beal only this summer. Ishbia and the front office accepted that the days of Paul as an elite operator for an entire season were over. Given he injury history and being 38-years-old, they weren’t wrong.
It is obviously hard for the Suns to add any more meaningful talent, because four players (Durant, Beal, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton), make up almost all of their available cap space. But if Giannis looks like he might not sign on with the Bucks beyond the two remaining seasons he has left right now, he has to be a player the Suns consider trading some of their best assets for.
What about Durant himself? Absurd as that is, let’s not forget that he is 35-years-old next month, and has had his fair share of season ending injuries. We are not at the point where he is done as one of the 10 best players in the world. But that day is coming sooner than the franchise would like, and Ishbia seems the type to get out ahead of that.
He makes similar money to Antetokounmpo, and although he wouldn’t want to be in Milwaukee (especially if Giannis is leaving town), the Suns don’t have to care about that. They didn’t mind sending Paul to the Washington Wizards, an organization he never even suited up for. He has already managed to get himself to an altogether better situation in the Golden State Warriors.
Even if Durant isn’t the guy to move, the Suns could also essentially trade Beal straight up for Giannis instead. Or they could package Ayton and some other pieces to get a deal done. Obviously all could go well for the Suns, and they themselves could win a championship this season. But the history of superteams in the league is a tricky one, and there are no guarantees.
If Giannis is available, you take it seriously. Even though other teams would have more appealing packages for the Bucks that revolve around younger players and a hell of a lot more picks, that doesn’t mean the Suns would be out of the race. We live in an era where player empowerment has gone mad. So much so that James Harden was linked to this current Suns roster only recently.
So while you might think the Suns being saddled with four players on massive deals is a negative when it comes to the future of Giannis, it is actually a positive. They have several of the kind of contracts, and more importantly the types of players, that would make a trade work. They’d also remain contenders even with Giannis, Booker and the depth they already have.
Which would appeal to Antetokounmpo, because if there’s one thing Ishbia is serious about, it is winning. A trio of Giannis, Booker and Durant seems outrageous, but so too did Durant, Harden and Kyrie Irving, and that happened. Take out Durant for Beal, and it is no less crazy, and in actual fact that trio of younger players might actually work out better.
Nothing is going to happen today or tomorrow on this, but it is an interesting development for the Suns. The two-year countdown on Antetokounmpo’s time with the Bucks has already started, and if a scenario unfolds where he wants out of Milwaukee, the team from The Valley have the players and the owner to try and make a deal happen.