Free agents and trading options
Not even Kevin Durant could stop them from hitting rock bottom, and now here we are, discussing the Phoenix Suns’ offseason plans in 2023. This team may already have peaked, and winning basketball games on paper is not good enough in real life.
The Suns will go through a major upheaval after letting Monty Williams go. But there are also multiple upcoming free agents and multiple targets for the Suns to consider if they want to get the most out of their current championship core.
Sun’s plans for the 2023 off-season
With that in mind, we take a detailed look at the current status of the Phoenix Suns, as well as some of the Suns’ offseason rumors and what they do and don’t do, before returning to the NBA Finals after another disappointing end to the season.
The narrative around the Suns was that they were a thin team, but it seems Monty Williams didn’t trust his bench enough as they had a lot of top players like Terrence Ross and TJ Warren. Josh Okogie won’t give them much offensively, but he’s a solid defender and Damion Lee was one of the most efficient three-pointers in the league.
Furthermore, while Bismack Biyombo was far from the elite, they still gave them many solid minutes in the regular season, especially when Deandre Ayton was out. Finally, there’s still a chance Darius Bazley can prove to be a solid two-way player when put on a long leash.
With that in mind, one could expect the Suns’ free agency targets in 2023 to be mostly star or actual players. Kyrie Irving was a rumored target early in the offseason and some even believe they might have a shot at James Harden.
But then again, that might not be realistic unless they find a way to do a sign and trade as they don’t even have the mid-level trading exception. Perhaps options like D’Angelo Russell, Gabe Vincent, Naz Reid or Jalen McDaniels would be more likely for them.
Who takes over?
The Suns also need to know who will lead the team going forward. Monty Williams was instrumental in their culture change, but it seemed like he’d already peaked with this team. They no longer needed a motivator, they needed a tactician.
Now they face the difficult task of replacing a coach who guided them to the NBA Finals and the man who has won the most games in the league since 2021. Nick Nurse might be great with the Xs and Os, but does he have a strong presence to take on Devin Booker and Kevin Durant?
Durant was a key player behind the Brooklyn Nets firing of Kenny Atkinson, so obviously he’s not a choice. Mike D’Antoni hasn’t been a coach in a while and god knows he won’t improve their defense so maybe he’s not a smart choice either.
We always have Doc Rivers, but he might be the last person you’re looking for if you want a team to do well in the playoffs. Maybe Mike Budenholzer? He defeated Durant while he was with the Milwaukee Bucks and also defeated the Suns in the NBA Finals.
Chris Paul: keep or swap?
There is a large elephant in the room that they also have to deal with. Chris Paul is washed, plain and simple. Of course, a drained Chris Paul is still better than 90% of the point guards out there, but he may not be what they need right now.
Paul failed to stay healthy in the playoffs for most of his career. Additionally, he has a long history of underperforming when it counts, and he’s not getting any younger. His trading value could be at an all-time low, so a move from him could result in one of the NBA’s worst offseason trades.
On the other hand, several teams could still try to add a veteran to develop some culture in the locker room, and the Suns could definitely use the depth. It’s a tough break and it’s sad to know he may never win a ring, but for now it is.
It continues with Ayton
Finally, most of the Suns’ offseason plans for 2023 should be finding a trading partner for Deandre Ayton. They have to face the fact that he doesn’t want to be there, and he couldn’t have made that clearer in the playoffs.
Ayton’s performance — or lack thereof — was an obvious and unobtrusive embarrassment against the Denver Nuggets. It’s one thing to be outdone by Nikola Jokic; You can get a pass for that. But not even attempting a rebound is unacceptable for an NBA player, let alone a starter, a former first-over pick and a man who just got a big contract.
He’s still young and a physical paragon with a gifted attacking game and he’s proven he can be a defensive factor when motivated. So you need to find a new place for him where he actually wants to be, contribute and be held accountable, while also hiring a new, defensive-minded big man.