The Phoenix Suns are all in.
Under new owner Mat Ishbia, the Suns have set up the framework for a deal that will bring in Bradley Beal to pair with Kevin Durant and Devin Booker, sources confirmed Sunday to CBS Sports. The deal was first reported by ESPN.
That’s a stunning Big Three, at least on the offensive end, and a statement of intent from Ishbia that he is here to win, now.
Those within the Suns’ organization acknowledge and accept the question marks that surround this move. With the cupboard of first-round picks already bare from bringing in Durant in February, acquiring Beal from the Washington Wizards means sending out a bevy of future second-round picks and pick swaps.
The future, quite literally, is now. If this doesn’t work, there is no Plan B. Phoenix is betting the now and the later on the belief that a Booker-Beal-Durant triumvirate is enough to win; the future be damned.
There’s also a question of depth. Yes, the Suns expect to keep Deandre Ayton, at least as part of this trade, and instead will send Chris Paul and Landry Shamet to D.C. That was another reason Suns sources felt this move was a no-brainer: Beal’s no-trade clause meant he could dictate terms of his move with unusual leverage, even in an NBA where stars tend to get what they want.
The fact Beal could in essence reject deals that sent too much to Washington meant Phoenix would get as good a deal as possible, sources explained. There remains the possibility Ayton could be moved for depth down the line, but for now the Suns are thrilled with the embarrassing amount of talent accumulated since Ishbia took over the team a few months ago.
There’s also a risk of the availability of these players. Beal has not played more than 60 games since 2018. Durant has not played more than 55 games since injuring his Achilles in the 2019 NBA Finals. Booker missed a good chunk of this past season with a groin injury.
And yet, with this collection of uberly talented question marks, Phoenix will instantly become Denver’s top competition in the Western Conference. It also sets up an interesting and stark juxtaposition of how to build a championship team.
Denver is the team of patience: Michael Malone taking eight years into the job to make, and win, a championship. Most teams would have long since fired him. Sticking with not just Nikola Jokic, whose two MVPs made that an easy call, but also Jamal Murray, whose season-ending ACL injury a year ago and rough start to the 2022-23 season would have created question marks in other places. Drafting a worrisomely injured Michael Porter Jr. 14th overall and letting him grow, slowly, into a key, impact player.
Phoenix is the team of impatience: Firing Monty Wiliams two seasons after he made an NBA Finals. Giving away depth and talent to bring in Kevin Durant. Seeing in Beal an all-in risk worth doubling down on. Limiting, sources say, the influence of president of basketball operations and general manager James Jones as Ishbia and those around him flex their muscle and look for a bolder and more immediate approach.
Denver is the team of chemistry: Jokic and Murray have come up in this league together, with Malone as their head coach for every NBA game they’ve ever played.
Phoenix, most certainly, is not: Frank Vogel will be Booker’s sixth head coach. Booker and Durant have hardly played together, and neither has ever played with Beal. And the organization has sent out players like Cam Johnson and Mikal Bridges who may have grown, together and with Phoenix’s stars, into a chemistry-fueled group.
Yet there is no denying both teams are vastly and overwhelmingly talented.
For the Suns, sources say, the arithmetic of this deal was clear: Talent is everything. Whatever other challenges acquiring so much of it may bring, the organization believes Durant plus Booker plus Beal equals its best shot at a trophy a year from now.