Pelton: Suns remain most appealing despite Bucks, 76ers looking for head coach

May 18, 2023, 6:12 PM

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Devin Booker...

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) celebrates in front of Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) at the end of Game 4 of basketball's NBA Finals Wednesday, July 14, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

(AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

It’s risky that the Phoenix Suns entered this NBA head-coaching cycle when two other teams who have MVP finalists and title aspirations also fired their locker room leaders.

But if you ask Kevin Pelton about how appealing the Phoenix opening is comparatively, there are reasons the Suns could garner as much or more interest compared to job openings in Philadelphia and Milwaukee. He ranked the Suns ahead of the Sixers and Bucks for a piece on ESPN.

“I think the No. 1 question when you look at these three teams that were all among the top-five in title odds coming into the playoffs and are now sitting home in the conference finals is, ‘How long are you going to have the stars that have made the teams so good?” Pelton told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo on Wednesday.

The Suns’ Devin Booker is under a supermax deal through 2027-28, while Kevin Durant is inked through 2025-26.

“I think you can feel pretty confident you’ll have those guys for the foreseeable future,” Pelton said.

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo can opt out of the final year of his contract and become a free agent in 2025, while the 76ers’ Joel Embiid could reach free agency by 2026.

And their rosters, like Phoenix’s, have major questions about the role players around them.

Sixers guard James Harden could leave in free agency this summer, while forward Tobias Harris is entering a contract year. The Bucks could lose center Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton in free agency, and the latter’s health this past season adds question marks about a potential decline.

“If some of those guys leave, some of the stars there … could start looking around and wonder if this is the best chance for me to win a championship,” Pelton said.

There are questions for the Suns to be sure. A report indicates the team will ride with point guard Chris Paul, but he and center Deandre Ayton could be traded to more evenly fill out what’s currently a top-heavy roster.

How new Suns owner Mat Ishbia and president of basketball operations and general manager James Jones sell a coach on working with them also will matter in the process to replace Monty Williams.

Ishbia’s heavy involvement early on in his ownership, Pelton said, probably won’t concern too many coaching candidates.

“The good news is he’s the one making this choice. You’re his guy,” Pelton said.

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