What if the Phoenix Suns had traded for Kyrie Irving?

Kyrie Irving is having a moment in these playoffs, but where would the Phoenix Suns be right now if they had traded for Irving like they tried to in 2023?
Phoenix Suns v Dallas Mavericks
Phoenix Suns v Dallas Mavericks / Ron Jenkins/GettyImages

Given how badly the Phoenix Suns underperformed in the playoffs in 2023-24, we have firmly entered the "what if?" territory with this group. Every organization in the league can look back on key moments that either got them closer or further away from a title, and the Suns have plenty.

It was only three years ago that they had a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals - and while success is not linear in the league - to have been dumped out of the postseason by an up-and-coming star in Anthony Edwards after making two massive trades to improve is a serious concern.

Which is why it is worth revisiting the rumored Kyrie Irving deal of last year to see it adding him would have put the Suns in a better or worse position right now.

Back when trade talks between the Suns and Dallas Mavericks took place - which were eventually shot down by the Mavs - this was an open and shut case against Irving. He had failed to reach the heights of his days with the Cleveland Cavaliers with either the Boston Celtics or Brooklyn Nets.

In Brooklyn he was a teammate of Kevin Durant, and this was a period where the talk of him signing elsewhere for the midlevel gained some actual steam. The belief around the league was that getting into business with Irving was more trouble than it was worth, especially with his on court abilities appearing to have peaked as well.

The situation with the Nets didn't end brilliantly for Durant, Irving or James Harden either, with the reputation of all three taking a hit. Irving became the easy fall guy for the failed experiment, but three years later it is interesting that he is the only one who has even come close to making it back to the finals.

Suns' owner Mat Ishbia also seemingly didn't care if Durant and Irving didn't end on great terms, and it wasn't his decision to pull the plug on what would have been a sign-and-trade deal. Instead it was the lack of any real assets that the Suns had which would have interested the Mavericks which made the phone lines go quiet.

Phoenix did pivot quickly to add Bradley Beal - and it is hard to believe after only one year removed from adding him - but there is no doubt the Suns would rather have Irving than Beal right now. Both have had their fair share of injuries, but it is Irving who is still playing in June but who did only appear in 58 regular season games. Five more than Beal.

Irving is also two years older than Beal at 32, but there is zero question marks about what his fit would have looked like in The Valley. Would a trio of Irving, Durant and Devin Booker have been enough to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves? Perhaps not, but a sweep with Irving playing the way he has for the last two months seems just as unlikely.

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The fit with Irving in the position of Beal would have been so much better, with Irving a more natural facilitator. He has also has perhaps the best handles in the league, while his shot-making ability is on another level to Beal's. Interestingly though, the 5.2 assists Irving managed during the regular season is only slightly better than the five Beal offered up.

Perhaps then having a more easygoing third star in Beal does actually make more sense, but it is talent above all else that the Suns need right now. To that end Irving would be the better choice over Beal, and on a much more reasonable contract as well. Suns fans would have hated this in the moment, and yet it looks like the best move the franchise could have made to contend this season.