The Phoenix Suns have been a team involved in a number of trade rumors over the past twelve months. Some of these rumors have become real trades, including the acquisition of stars such as Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal.
Speaking of Beal, there is already discussion about potentially trading the star. While he has not yet played a game for the Suns, Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley has proposed a trade for the Suns to get rid of Beal’s massive contract.
This trade would involve the Philadelphia 76ers, with the Suns trading Beal and some draft picks for Harden and PJ Tucker:
"If the Suns wound up shopping Beal, they’d almost certainly be looking for a star. They’ve already splurged on two (Beal and Kevin Durant), and they clearly think stacking them is the key to delivering the franchise’s first NBA title.Phoenix has been identified as a possible Harden suitor before, and you could make the case his playmaking ability would have more impact than Beal’s scoring, since both would functionally fill third-option roles behind Durant and Kevin Booker."
Buckley makes some interesting points with switching the two superstar players. If Beal’s time in Phoenix does not pan out as planned the Suns will want to get rid of his massive salary. However, they would not just take any player for Beal considering what they sacrificed to get him and the team’s determination to win a championship.
Harden wants out of the 76ers, as he has showcased with his comments towards Daryl Morey and the number of rumors circulating about the star. He also has the benefit of teaming up with Durant before, with the pair working well together with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Brooklyn Nets.
His playmaking ability has also been shown to be much more of a focus in his play than Beal’s. As mentioned by Bailey, this would benefit the Suns who already have two prominent scorers in Durant and Devin Booker.
Harden averaged 10.7 assists per game this past season, proving himself to be a consistent double double threat, while Beal only averaged 5.4 assists per game this past season.
It is worthwhile mentioning that Harden had great options surrounding him, such as MVP Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey. Meanwhile, Beal was a member of the Washington Wizards who were clearly rebuilding, with his scoring being more of a necessity than his playmaking.
Beal’s assist numbers will likely take a boost this season, as he will potentially see his role differ as a third option as opposed to a first option on offence. We have yet to see Beal play with players of Booker and Durant’s quality on the scoring end, so it will be interesting to see how his role pans out.
Another concern for a potential trade for Harden is the frequency of his trade requests in recent years. Since leaving the Houston Rockets in the 2020-21 season, Harden has played for the Brooklyn Nets for one season and the Philadelphia 76ers for a season and a half. He has asked to be traded to another team, which would be his fourth team in four seasons if he is traded again.
This lack of loyalty and commitment to a franchise is a red flag for any team targeting Harden, despite his talents. His team of choice is also rumored to be the L.A. Clippers, so if traded to Phoenix his time may likely be short lived with the team.
Meanwhile, Beal stuck with the Wizards through a number of changes and turmoil within the franchise. While the team was clearly rebuilding, the star stayed with the team in hopes of winning with the organization that drafted him.
The trade to Phoenix comes after the two sides agreed to part ways, with Beal now having a chance at a championship and the Wizards having a good opportunity to rebuild with a young core.
While the situation in Phoenix for Beal could play out any number of ways, both parties seem committed to make it work and contend for a championship. If the situation does not work out, there are other players that the Suns should target instead of Harden.
Only time will tell how the big three of Durant/Beal and Booker’s story will unfold, however everyone can agree that if the trio does not work out as planned, James Harden is not the solution.