James Jones is far from done with this list.
Phoenix Suns president of basketball operations and general manager now have Bradley Beal to go with Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Deandre Ayton as Phoenix trades Chris Paul, Landry Shamet, multiple second-round picks and a trade to Washington as part of deal about the three-time All-Star.
Blockbuster deal. Supreme scores. Another max contract.
Booker, Durant, Beal and Ayton account for more than $161 million in salary for the 2023-24 season, which already puts Phoenix up against the $165 million luxury tax threshold.
If the Suns go $17.5 million over the second tax bracket, they can’t use the taxpayers’ mid-level exemptions, can’t sign buyout players and take more money back in trades.
It’s not a hard cap though.
The Suns can go more than $17.5 million above the second tax haven, but just can’t make certain moves if they do. They will have a big luxury tax bill, but new Suns team owner Mat Ishbia has already shown a willingness to spend starting with the $4 billion purchase of the Suns and Phoenix Mercury.
Cameron Payne enters the third and final year of his deal that is partially guaranteed. The contract becomes fully guaranteed on June 29, when the remaining $4.5 million of the $6 million kicks in, while the Suns have a team option on Ish Wainright for $1.9 million that has a June 29 deadline.
Jordan Goodwin and Isaiah Todd are part of the Beal trade, sources told The Arizona Republic. They each have contracts under $2 million for this season, with Goodwin partially guaranteed.
Finding guys at the veteran minimum will be crucial for the Suns. Think of the Miami Heat when they had to build a roster around LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
That’s what Phoenix is facing right now, but guess who was also on those Heat teams that made four consecutive trips to the Finals and won back-to-back championships in 2012 and 2013?
Jones. Just FYI.
The Suns could move Ayton for two to three players in return, as he is due $32.4 million in 2023-2024 on his four-year, $133 million deal.
Ayton’s veto on trades expires next month.
They could also keep Ayton to form what would be a marquee big four. The Suns had it with Paul, Ayton, Booker and Durant, but Paul became the odd man out due to his contract, age (38) and injury history.
Beal hasn’t been the healthiest of players either. He has played a total of 90 games over the past two seasons, but the proven goalscorer will not turn 30 until June 28.
Trade Details:Suns get Isaiah Todd, Jordan Goodwin in Bradley Beal trade, sources say
Regardless of what they do with Ayton, the Suns need the following with limited flexibility to assemble a roster to contend for a championship:
Maybe bring back Damion Lee, who shot a career-best 44.5% from 3 in his first year in Phoenix last season.
Justin Holiday is an unrestricted free agent who can hit 3s despite shooting 28.6% from deep in his 18 games with Dallas (career 36.3% from 3) after being waived by Houston after a trade from Atlanta.
Stretch four or five rebounds
No matter how they’re put together, the Suns need their power forward or center to be a rebounder if Ayton ends up elsewhere. With three scorers in Durant, Booker and Beal, having someone who can board allows them to get out in transition for easier opportunities.
At the same time, a stretch can be big pick and pop with Booker, Durant or Beal. Darius Bazley is a restricted free agent with a $6.2 million qualifying offer that the Suns have until June 29 to extend.
He barely played after coming over in a trade from Oklahoma City for Dario Saric just before the Feb. 9 trade deadline, but Bazley is an athletic big who shot a career-high 40% from 3 in his 36 games with the Thunder in 2022-23.
Ayton puts pressure on the rim on dives from the pick-and-roll, but Beal, Booker and Durant can stress the defense in multiple ways to adjust and locate the open man or pick up theirs.
Can’t double all three. Someone should be open.
Jock Landale is a restricted free agent. He shot just 25% from 3 in his first year with the Suns, but is capable of making 3s. Landale also competes and fights.
Bringing back Bismack Biyombo could give the Suns a guy who can sit for weeks, get the call and be ready to rock.
Trey Lyles will also be an unrestricted free agent. Lyles said he would love to return to Sacramento after having a solid postseason for the Kings. However, Lyles was able to reunite with Booker when the two played together at Kentucky. He’s a stretch four who isn’t a rebounder, but Lyles is someone who could help a contender.
The NBA champion Nuggets found that in Bruce Brown, who also proved that he can score. The Suns could use someone like him, but ultimately they need Beal, Booker and Durant to raise their level on that end given how much they are being paid.
New Suns head coach Frank Vogel said during his introductory press conference that Durant told him he is looking forward to guarding in his system. Three of Vogel’s teams have finished the regular season first in the NBA in defensive rating.
Beal has never been known for his defense, while Booker has improved and shown a willingness to compete. Booker has always talked about being on the same page defensively. Since the three are expected to log big minutes, they better read the same notes on defense.
The Suns could re-sign Torrey Craig to the early bird exception. He is a versatile defender who will struggle against bigger fours. He is sometimes overpowered, but Craig competes and grinds through injuries.
If the Suns keep Ayton, it will largely be about rebounding and postplay. He’s averaged a double-double for his career, but Phoenix still needs perimeter shooting, a fifth starter and a backup five.
Despite how overwhelmingly dominant Nikola Jokic was against Ayton in this year’s playoffs, the Suns may be better off developing Ayton to better match up against the two-time MVP.
Ayton more than held his own against Jokic in the 2021 playoffs as Phoenix swept Denver. Vogel can improve his defense, but Ayton should find it even easier to score playing with Booker, Durant and Beal.
Maybe the Suns can start three guards. The third in front of Booker and Beal also needs to create some, but if he’s a defender who can consistently drain 3s, it would work for Phoenix.
Josh Okogie brought more skills to the table, but he failed to make open corner 3s in the postseason as Booker and Durant received extra defensive attention.
The Suns understand their roster limitations, but they will try to build a team with the necessary talent to go with Booker, Durant and Beal to win their first-ever NBA championship.
Again, Phoenix didn’t trade Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder and its first-round draft future for Durant and moved Paul, Shamet and its second-round draft future for Beal for another early playoff exit.
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