The Phoenix Suns might be the winners of six straight games, but it has not been a straightforward season so far for the organization. Kevin Durant may be putting up MVP numbers – although he just missed his first game and counting through injury – and Devin Booker is now back and seemingly fully healthy after ankle and calf issues.
But the Suns have yet to get much out of their main offseason acquisition in Bradley Beal. He has been limited to just three regular season games so far, as a result of a back issue that has failed to improve despite the time that Beal has sat out. He is going to be re-evaluated in roughly two weeks, but that is just when the next concrete update on his status will be made.
The Miami Heat were linked with Beal this offseason – and are rumored to have been in position to go and get him – but they didn’t. Are they being proven right?
The Heat of course also struck out on their main summer trade target in Damian Lillard, who ended up going to the Milwaukee Bucks in a deal that the Suns helped to facilitate. They did not turn their attention to Beal immediately, and in fact it may have been that the player was more in favor of the move than the organization. Beal has already said as much himself this season;
"“So, my initial favorite was Miami. And so, we call Miami. Pat (Riley, Heat President) says well I’ll go talk to Micky (Arison, Heat Owner) and figure it out. So he goes, talks to Micky, we go, we hear back (New York) Knicks, Sacramento, Brooklyn a little bit, and then it was Milwaukee and it was one more big team …And that was kind of one of the most difficult things about every trade and every team. And I respect and love every team, but a lot of them just couldn’t do it because the money was just so high.I’m like, ‘OK, what’s Miami doing? Dragging feet.’ And eventually it came to a point to where Miami said they just can’t do it. But it was an eye-opener for sure. And that’s why I said I went into everything kind of open-minded and with an open slate. And out of nowhere here comes a dark horse in Phoenix and their aggressiveness pushed me over the top.”"
That is a long-winded way for Beal to say that he was interested in heading to South Beach to team up with Jimmy Butler, but that the franchise didn’t care to move quick enough to go out and get him. Given that Beal also had a trade clause at the time, and that the Wizards got very little from the Suns for him anyway, a deal surely could have been worked out if the Heat wanted to.
Only they didn’t, and they now sit 10-6 in the Eastern Conference and have positioned themselves much like they have in the last several seasons. Once again being overlooked while turning players many people have never heard of into the ideal role guys to go with Butler and Bam Adebayo.
Tyler Herro – the most likely player who would have been moved for Beal – is still on their roster and although the Heat seem to win more games and appear more cohesive when he sits, they must still think Herro is the better long-term option between himself and Beal. The age profile trends in Herro’s direction, he’s seven years younger at 23, but what if the health report does too?
Herro broke his hand in the opening round of the playoffs proper last season against the Bucks, but unlike Beal, he has never had any issues with his back. For all of Beal’s durability earlier in his career, in the four two seasons he has played (in reverse order), 50, 40, 60 and 57 games. The three years preceding that? all 82 games twice, and 77 before that.
Now it is the Suns who are having to contend with the fact that Beal may miss the rest of the in-season tournament, but much more importantly, already cannot be relied upon to be out there when it really matters. Durant and lately Booker have done a great job of masking this fact, and the Suns will keep knocking off regular season wins if their role players continue to shoot well.
But this wasn’t what the organization had in mind when they traded Chris Paul for Beal. It was time to move on from CP3 anyway, but there are other directions the front office could have gone in. Instead they went after a player who the Heat – astute judges talent in the league – wouldn’t pick up the phone and return calls to. We’re almost into December, and that looks a smart choice.