Well, it finally happened. Kevin Durant is a Phoenix Sun. Yes, the 2x NBA champion, 2x Finals MVP, 1x Regular Season MVP, 13x NBA All-Star, 6x NBA All-Star, and etc. I think everyone gets the picture. I still cannot even fathom someone of that caliber being on the Suns, as I remember the dark ages of Devin Booker having Josh Jackson and Dragan Bender as core pieces of the rotation. Now, he gets paired with arguably the greatest scorer ever, and catapults the Suns immediately into win-now mode for a championship. I was sitting in my apartment living room when the biggest Woj Bomb of all time hit Twitter. In fact, I was not even the one who saw it immediately, with my roommate freaking out frantically urging me to check my phone. I thought the night was over, with the deadline being the next day and the Raptors just trading for Jakob Poeltl. Immediately, I saw the words “Kevin Durant” and felt an unprecedented feeling. The feeling that the Suns are back, and are adding a perennial superstar to the equation.
What ensued was a sleepless night filled with plenty of Tweets, yelling, calling friends and family (whoever was awake), and utter disbelief at the events that had just occurred. In one swoop the Suns acquired the most talented player in franchise history, and just like that propel themselves to the favorites of winning a chip for the first time. After a lap or two around my apartment, I decided I was controlled enough to look at the details of the deal and how it unfolded. Granted the price was not cheap for the talents of KD, but for someone of that magnitude, these opportunities do not come around very often. The Phoenix Suns sent Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder, and four unprotected 1st-round picks to Brooklyn for Kevin Durant and former Sun TJ Warren on late Wednesday night.
After rumblings in the summer of Kevin Durant’s initial trade request from Brooklyn, his future was always in doubt as negotiations stalled. Luckily the timing worked out for both him and his teammate Kyrie Irving, who was traded to the Mavericks on Sunday after demanding off the Nets. With his running mate gone, and Brooklyn in no real spot for contention with the current roster construction, Durant requested for a trade for the second time with only Phoenix as his preferred destination according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. He also mentions that KD would have stayed on Brooklyn through the rest of the season if the Phoenix deal did not happen.
A major reason this deal happened at this time though was the addition of Mat Ishbia as the Suns’ newest owner, who just so happened to have his introductory press conference that Wednesday morning. Ishbia’s energy was emphatic, and made it clear for his intentions to make the team as best as possible with money not being a limiting factor. He identified four main focuses for the franchise going forward including revitalizing the company culture, dominating the fan experience, community impact, and winning. Just refreshing to hear considering previous ownership and all of the horror stories surrounding that. As a former Michigan State basketball player, Ishbia understands the hoops side of things as well, in which it is commonly understood that he has a lot of contacts to leverage within the NBA. More information about Ishbia’s background and purchasing of the Phoenix Suns can be found in my previous article.
Gotta give a ton of credit for Devin Booker’s networking skill through all of this, as he has been the common denominator that has led to CP3 and now Kevin Durant practically trading themselves to Phoenix to pair with the young superstar.
So what does Kevin Durant bring to the Suns exactly? Well besides being 6-10” (up for debate) 240 lbs matchup nightmare being able to score from everywhere, KD also brings much-needed size and athleticism to the team. The most dire need that KD addresses is a true co-star to Book in the scoring and shot creation department, who can create at-will using his length and skill to get to the right shots on the floor. Durant this season is averaging 29.7 pts, 6.7 rebs, and 5.3 asts on 56/38/94 splits which is incredible efficiency for the 34 year-old given the load he has to carry. This helped propel the Nets to a 12-game winning streak that made Brooklyn look like a powerhouse in the East. Unfortunately, a knee injury that will keep KD out through the All Star Break interrupted the team’s success, in which led to the team even having the worst offensive rating in the NBA.
An underrated part of this trade was the return of TJ Warren to the Suns, who was drafted by the Suns and was with the team including a young Devin Booker from 2014-2019. Warren was notably a force in the Bubble, deeming the nickname of “Bubble Warren” averaging 26.6 pts, 6.3 rebs, 2.4 asts through 10 games including a stand-out performance of 53 points against the 76ers. Warren is averaging 9.5 pts, 2.8 rebs, and 1.1 asts in 26 games for the Nets. TJ will be a great asset to have on the bench, giving firepower to an already loaded scoring roster and help with some of the wing depth that was depleted.
Speaking of that wing depth, it is clear amongst Suns fans that losing fan favorites Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson is going to be tough in the short term. Both wings were the Suns’ draft picks, and fans got to watch them grow into the players they have turned into today. We all wish them well in their future endeavors in Brooklyn, and hope the Twins can continue to flourish on a completely rebranded Nets team.
James Jones has gotten his fair share of criticism in the last couple of years for not making the proper moves to give the Suns all of the pieces they need for a title run, but all fans can do is give him his flowers for taking a risk to alter this franchise’s success. Suns management swung for the fences, and wrap up a fairly successful first day for Mat Ishbia in a monumental fashion especially not having to give up Deandre Ayton to anchor the team. Another thing to consider is that KD still has three years left on his deal, with him and Book being under contract through 2026 stays true to the idea of having short-term success without hindering the future. This is significant because of this pairing keeping the Suns in contention regardless of the timeline of Chris Paul, who is approaching 38.
However, the Suns were not finished. On the day of the trade deadline there was a second (significantly smaller) Woj Bomb with Phoenix acquiring Thunder forward Darius Bazley from the Thunder in exchange for Dario Saric and a second round pick. Bazley is an extremely interesting prospect with a tall frame at 6-8 208 and at only 22 years of age has a high ceiling to reach. He adds to the wing depth, but is also a larger wing that can guard 4s and 5s as well as the athletic capabilities to provide rim pressure. The defensive versatility is extremely intriguing, and can be another weapon the Suns can throw at a variety of players.
In terms of next steps, that appears to be up in the air as Phoenix scans the buyout market. Some notable names trending towards a buyout include Russell Westbrook, John Wall, Reggie Jackson, Will Barton, Terrance Ross, amongst others. One thing that is clear however is that Phoenix is now a prime destination for players given their proven system, location, and now even-more-so championship infused roster. One thing that is clear is that this is a new era of Suns basketball, and I feel extremely comfortable with Devin Booker and now KEVIN FREAKING DURANT leading the charge. Cannot wait for Durant’s debut post-ASG. Also, shoutout to Flex from Jersey for being the most reliable source throughout the Durant sweepstakes. Take a bow for calling it all along despite the non-believers. You can check out my podcast with him here where we discuss KD way prior to it happening:
Who would have thought the Super Bowl was not going to be the most newsworthy event to occur in Phoenix this week?