Despite their regular season success over the last two seasons, the Phoenix Suns have been unable to reach their ultimate goal. Having found themselves up 2-0 in the 2021 NBA Finals, Phoenix was unable to finish the job, and may now feel very far from another opportunity like that one.
Having faced a team missing a star player in each round of the 2021 Western Conference playoffs, Phoenix was heavily aided by good fortune on their way to the Finals. Faced with similar luck in the opening round vs. New Orleans last season, Phoenix finally faced a relatively healthy Dallas squad in round two, and suffered one of the most embarrassing Game 7 losses in NBA history.
With their brief stay atop the Western Conference now over, the Suns may be facing the reality that they were never as good as they thought. A dominant regular season team?
Absolutely. But without the top-end talent to rival the real giants out West, Phoenix may need to make some changes. According to ESPN insider Brian Windhorst, who famously predicted the Donovan Mitchell trade, the Suns are actively engaged in trade discussions.
What’s going on in Phoenix?
During a recent ESPN segment, Brian Windhorst said, “[The Phoenix Suns] have been very active within this last week. They are conducting business, they are in trade negotiations right now. A lot of them are centered around Jae Crowder. Jae Crowder is a player who is available on the market right now… It would not surprise me if the Suns get involved in the negotiations for Bojan Bogdanovic from the Utah Jazz.
Windhorst added that the sense around the league is that the Phoenix Suns are not afraid to spend more money if necessary. The team, according to Windhorst, is operating like a championship contender that is looking to improve their roster.
After failing to complete a deal for Kevin Durant, Phoenix seems unsatisfied with their current roster. Despite their recent regular season success, there is legitimate reason to believe that the Suns as currently constructed are simply not good enough to compete with a fully-healthy Golden State Warriors, LA Clippers, or Dallas Mavericks team. While Kevin Durant won’t be walking through their door, perhaps some moves on the margins can put Phoenix in a better spot.
How far away is Phoenix from contention?
When looking at the last decade of NBA basketball, each championship has been won by a team that had LeBron James, Steph Curry, Kawhi Leonard, or Giannis Antetokounmpo. While this is not to suggest that only teams with one of these four players have a real shot at contending, this trend begins illuminating the importance of tier-one star-power.
In this era of NBA basketball, recent history affirms the idea that a championship is unobtainable without tier-one talent.
While both Devin Booker and Chris Paul are certified stars in the NBA, neither player is on the level of LeBron James, Steph Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, Nikola Jokic, Luka Doncic, or Kawhi Leonard. Without a player in that tier, swinging a deal for a player like Bojan Bogdanovic may help, but it almost certainly will not overcome that lack of tier-one star-power.
If this is the case for Phoenix, are they stuck in the “good but not great” category? With the Clippers and Nuggets getting healthy, each led by a tier-one star, the Dallas Mavericks continuing to improve, the Golden State Warriors running it back, and young teams like the Memphis Grizzlies on the rise, they very well may be.