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Day Two Suns blog: Barkley comp, Ayton complications as Suns embark on free agency

Here we are. On the verge of the biggest acquisition for the Phoenix Suns franchise since Charles Barkley.

Indeed, not since Barkley was acquired by the Suns in 1992 and won league MVP that year while leading the Suns to the NBA Finalsthe Suns haven’t acquired a player quite like Barkley so far, assuming Kevin Durant’s trade from the Brooklyn Nets goes through.

All due respect to Steve Nash in 2004, who twice became MVP in 2005 and 2006. I still remember training camp in 2004, where the new Suns were playoff contenders, not contenders for the title.

And the same respect for Chris Paul in 2020, who then led the Suns to the Finals in 2021. Like 2004, they were supposed to be a strong playoff team but not actually a title contender.

Barkley and KD are just different.

Barkley joined a very, very good Suns team that had made two conference finals in previous years but faltered in the 1992 playoffs knowing they needed more volume. They had All-Stars in Kevin Johnson and Tom Chambers, as well as potentials in Dan Majerle and Jeff Hornacek. But they just didn’t think they could overcome the difficulty…until they acquired one of the league’s top five players in Charles Barkley.

Yes, Barkley was a Top 5 player who surprised everyone by demanding a trade after another disappointing season in Philadelphia. The Suns jumped in, sending fan favorite Jeff Hornacek and a few other good young players to turn into a title contender overnight.

Now another very, very good Suns team with a pair of All-Stars has another chance to add a Top 5 player who not only wants to be traded, but wants it to be to the SUNS. Once again, the Suns will be able to keep their All-Stars, and will (hopefully) only have to sacrifice one of their potential future All-Stars in Deandre Ayton or Mikal Bridges, along with a few other good youngsters. players.

Just like they had to in 1992 – and we ALL loved Jeff Hornacek to the core – they have to do it now. Make the trade, Suns. Do the trade.


Regardless of how Kevin Durant’s trade negotiations are going, that’s not the only issue to be resolved in Suns-land this summer.

Many discussed the needs of the organization and the assets that could generate the desired results. It’s time to take one last look at the Suns’ proposed roster and answer those burning questions.

What will happen with the Deandre Ayton saga?

The latest information is that the brooklyn nets I don’t want to implicate Deandre Ayton in any deal. That doesn’t mean the Nets don’t want one of the best young centers in the league, or that they don’t want to pay him top dollar.

It just means his acquisition at this time* brings complications the Nets don’t want.

  • salary-matching issues due to base-year pay rule on Ayton would force Nets to shoulder $8-10 million After dollars coming out, and they’re already WELL above the tax apron
  • Ayton’s acquisition in a sign-and-trade triggers the ‘hard cap’ that would force the Nets to immediately lose more than $20 million in wages to get back under the tax apron and stay there

* And don’t complain “they should have extended it last year to the max, like he wanted!” because if the Suns had done that, he would now be on a 5-year designated maximum contract and the Nets still couldn’t acquire him due to a third CBA rule that you can’t acquire two offers of recruits nominated via trade, and they already traded for Ben Simmons. Now the Nets can’t trade for Booker, Ayton, Adebayo or a dozen other good young rookie extension players at most. Imagine telling the Nets “hey we want Durant but you can’t even sniff Booker OR Ayton because rulez”. At least now that’s an option for the Nets. Not a big one, but better than a hard no. Remember that James Jones plays chess, not checkers.

So forget about Ayton going straight to the Nets. He could go somewhere in a three-way trade as part of the deal, but he won’t go to the Nets.

It makes things really difficult for Ayton. The phrase “the market dictates its value” will finally come to fruition. Now is the time to really see what DA is worth.

The Suns made a $16.4 million qualifying offer to their restricted free agent center and former No. 1 overall pick – the only No. 1 overall pick in franchise history. Phoenix Suns – allowing the bidding to begin.

He will now be receiving offers from interested teams throughout the NBA. Depending on the dollar amount and length of those contracts, Phoenix has the option to match them or just let it walk.

It will be interesting to see if posturing occurs. While some teams won’t offer a max, they might try to raise his price, especially if the back channels know Jones wants to keep him here.

On this, everyone has an opinion. Over the past season, this has been the most controversial issue in Phoenix. The fact that James Jones did not extend a first-round pick was historic. It’s not something that happens very often in the NBA.

Every possession we’ve seen DA fumble the ball in, we’ve heard the noise. “Does a max player do that?” And every time Deandre dived on Giannis Antetokounmpo, we heard the noise. “That’s what a max player does!”

Find out if he is worth a max or if the qualifying offer provided by the Phoenix Suns is closer to his value in the modern NBA. After all, the Golden State Warriors just won a championship with Kevon Looney at five. So we’ll see. To finish.

What to do with the PF station?

For now, let’s assume the answer to that question isn’t Kevin Durant. If Durant is acquired, that’s your most likely answer. Durant pulled out 7.3 rebounds per game last year, which would easily rank first among Suns non-centers last year.

But for this exercise, consider other alternatives.

Jae Crowder was a welcome addition to the Phoenix Suns when he joined the team two seasons ago. It was the first sign in a long time that a quality free agent was choosing to come to Phoenix, and it showed the changing culture within the organization.

Crowder, who was coming off an NBA Finals appearance with the miami heat in the Orlando bubble, wanted to be part of something special. And he delivered. His physical style of play, his ability to warm up beyond the arc for many games at once, his swagger and his tenacity were all something a finesse-based team desperately needed.

The question, was that enough?

Production from the power four position has been one of the question marks over the past two seasons. What Crowder has in courage and tenacity, it lacks verticality and consistent efficiency in all aspects of the game (point production, rebounding). And while in conversation we can argue that center position may not be as vital and valued as it has been in the past in the NBA, length and height are still necessary for success. . Usually this happens by having all four of these attributes.

James Jones has many decisions to make when it comes to the power forward position. Jae Crowder is in the final year of a three-year contract, and his $10.2 million contract is highly negotiable. There are many teams across the Association who would love to have him on their team. This might be the Phoenix Suns’ best chance to maximize his value.

Associate this conversation with the fact that Cameron Johnson is eligible for a rookie extension. Although he does not receive as much compensation as Mikal Bridges the previous year, he is a valuable asset to the Phoenix organization. Could he take over as the starting striker? Is it valuable enough to trade over the next few weeks and days to bolster the roster as a whole?

As Phoenix enters free agency, some of these questions may be answered depending on what is available in the market and how the market views Phoenix Suns assets. Is James Jones ready to break some aspects of his young core? Or does maximizing the value of a crafty veteran best benefit the team?

Or, of course, you stay the course. And you keep both trumps. We will know the answer to these questions in the coming days based on the free agent decisions Jones executes.

How will Jones address the bench?

One thing we have to be prepared for, as Dave King said, is that 40% of the roster will change before the start of the next season. It’s just the way this business works. The bench isn’t just the typical turnover target, it’s what the Suns desperately need to succeed. Let’s face it, the bench didn’t show up in the playoffs. Period. No explanation.

The main difference between the team that made an NBA Finals appearance from the team that got choked up in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs was the execution of the bench team.

Once the dust settles on Durant’s situation, the Suns will still have to deal with what’s left of the bench. Unfortunately, most good bench players who become free agents will have already signed with other teams. But veteran guys at a minimum are most definitely waiting for what’s going on here before committing. They all want to join a competitor.

Free agency provides an opportunity to bring players into a culture that not only benefits them, but puts them in a position where they can win. Will Phoenix have the opportunity to land names that are willing to accept minimum veteran offers or below market value offers simply in order to be part of what this franchise has built over the last three seasons? Will James Jones move assets such as Landry Shamet in an effort to free up space to meet the needs of these new players?

It’s the bench that will determine Phoenix’s success next season. They were effective during the regular season and that’s the depth that equates to 64 wins for the team. But Jones needs to look beyond the regular season with the new additions and identify assets who can perform and succeed when the pressure is at its highest.


Scenarios are what make this time of year so exciting. We all have our own views and ideas on how the team can improve. We have the ability, at least in our minds, to create a list that will win a ring based on those thoughts, ideas, and opinions. That’s what makes it a fun time for fans.

James Jones now has to do it, only for real. Go get them, James.