How the Suns will have the Kevin Durant trade discussion

Jun 30, 2022, 1:01 PM | Updated: 3:16 pm
Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) becomes entangled with Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul during ...

Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) becomes entangled with Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, April 25, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Kevin Durant requested a trade away from the Brooklyn Nets, and the Phoenix Suns are at or near the top of a wish-list for a new home, according to multiple reports three hours out from the official tip of free-agency talks.

Now, as Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro reports, Phoenix has shifted into discussing a Durant acquisition at least internally just after noon in Arizona.

Trading for one of the game’s top five players will force general manager James Jones to consider his team-building philosophy, one where team is very much at the forefront of things.

The discussion likely centers around this: Will a more top-heavy team have a better championship shot than keeping the core together?

Phoenix point guard Chris Paul’s age and contract guaranteed fully through 2023-24 indicates the Suns know the title-chasing window might not be beyond this year and next, and now it becomes a matter of what the financial cost will be down the road. Durant’s deal for four years would extend any window if he remains something close to his present self.

But more immediately, what does a 2022-23 roster look like if the team goes through with a Durant deal?

Assuming the Nets would like to remain a playoff contender if Kyrie Irving truly opts in as he said and Ben Simmons can play, a sign-and-trade for Suns restricted free agent Deandre Ayton will only be the starting point of a deal. The Suns would have to send significantly more out — not only for the Nets to be satisfied after dealing a top-five player but for the financials to make sense.

If the Nets will not budge and do not want Ayton as part of a package, as Gambadoro reports, other teams will be required to join any swap involving Durant.

Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson are two high-level complementary pieces to consider in a trade, with Bridges already being on a long-term deal that looks even better after he followed the extension signing by being the runner-up for NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Johnson is extension eligible and is one of the league’s best shooters.

Jae Crowder, Dario Saric and Torrey Craig are on expiring contracts that could help push through any deal financially or help maneuver other teams into such a trade.

Unprotected draft picks will have to be included in any trade, as well. Traded picks almost always have protections, but Brooklyn can ask for none given Durant’s stature.

If the Nets like the Suns’ core pieces around Paul and Devin Booker, then you’d expect Phoenix has to brace for gutting the roster. It’s a philosophical challenge for Jones, who has preached filling out his rosters as 3X5 index cards: as in three players deep at all five positions.

Creating the most enticing Durant trade offer means including Ayton, Bridges and Johnson.

It would give the Suns a roster that immediately after such a theoretical deal would like so:

$42,969,845 – Kevin Durant
$33,833,400.00 – Devin Booker
$28,400,000.00 – Chris Paul
$10,183,800.00 – Jae Crowder
$9,500,000.00 – Landry Shamet
$9,240,000.00 – Dario Saric
$6,500,000.00 – Cam Payne
$5,121,951.00 – Torrey Craig

Add it up, and it’s a salary commitment of $145,748,996 to eight players.

Phoenix would be less than $5 million away from the luxury tax line already before considering their $6.5 million tax midlevel exception.

Then the team would need to fill out the other six spots with minimum deals.

Of course, that is looking at a very theoretical proposed trade by only considering what Phoenix has and what Brooklyn might want from only the Suns. Moving the Crowder, Saric or Shamet contracts would help save money for more bodies if the Suns deem that necessary.

The point of this exercise is less about guessing what a trade package would look like.

That’s up for imagination, if only for a few hours or days.

But what the Suns are now discussing is about what that above roster can do, compared to standing closer to pat, and considering how injuries striking the team’s remaining stars in Paul or Booker would stress such a roster to a higher degree, even if Durant remains as good a player worth a threesome of high-level starters, draft capital and maybe more.

Empire of the Suns

Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns handles the ball against De'Anthony Melton #8 of the Philadelph...
Kellan Olson

Suns find winning breakthrough vs. 76ers, Devin Booker stays hot

The Phoenix Suns finally found their breakthrough on Saturday to return to winning ways and avoid a collapse in the second half.
1 day ago
Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns dribbling the ball get fouled by De'Aaron Fox #5 of the Sacrament...
Kellan Olson

Phoenix Suns lose cool again, drop 3rd straight vs. Kings

No matter how well they play at the moment, the Phoenix Suns seemingly can't avoid losing control of a game at some point in the second half.
2 days ago
Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns takes a shot against the Los Angeles Lakers in the second half ...
Kellan Olson

Suns let another winnable game slip away, lose to Lakers

The Phoenix Suns keep letting winnable games slip away in uncharacteristic ways and have now lost five of their last six.
3 days ago
Devin Booker #1 and Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns look on during the third quarter against the ...
Kellan Olson

What happened to the Phoenix Suns in the clutch this season?

The Phoenix Suns went from a historically good team in the clutch last season to a bad one this year. What happened?
4 days ago
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, right, drives around Phoenix Suns forward Torr...
Kevin Zimmerman

What’s at stake in each of the Suns’ remaining games?

Kevin Durant's potential return from an ankle injury after a reevaluation sits a week out for the Phoenix Suns.
5 days ago
Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns drives to the basket past Luguentz Dort #5 of the Oklahoma City...
Kellan Olson

Phoenix Suns collapse in 4th quarter of road loss to Thunder

The Suns were in control for most of Sunday's game against the Thunder but bad turnovers eventually caught up to them.
7 days ago
How the Suns will have the Kevin Durant trade discussion