Bradley Beal trade has Suns owner Mat Ishbia backing up the talk

Jun 19, 2023, 11:38 AM | Updated: Jun 21, 2023, 11:32 am

Kevin Durant, Mat Ishbia and James Jones (Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)...

Kevin Durant, Mat Ishbia and James Jones (Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)

(Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)

“Money follows success.”

Phoenix Suns owner Mat Ishbia will say it in almost any interview about his basketball team. He is backing up his talk with how he’s operated just four months into his tenure.

The Kevin Durant trade, where the Suns added a monster contract for an aging superstar, said as much. The Suns pivoting to a unique television deal, moving away from traditional cable, backed it up, too.

The Bradley Beal trade, adding an even larger contract with a no-trade clause, made it written in stone that Ishbia is not fronting.

Ishbia’s team will pay four max-level contracts for the next three years with Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton still on the roster. Whether or not Ayton is traded this offseason, it puts the Suns in a difficult position financially in terms of building a roster around them.

A one-year snapshot makes this about turning Chris Paul’s contract — one that was potentially about to be waived — into an All-Star player. It’s a no-duh move.

Long-term, however, it’s wildly limiting and a bet on the league getting a surprising boost from its next TV deal that could expedite the rising salary cap figures in the years ahead. It’s a bet on using star power, Ishbia’s do-everything-to-win mentality, warm weather, a lightly taxed state and more to convince pretty good players to take veteran minimum deals in order to ring-chase.

ESPN’s Bobby Marks memed this as a “blowtorch to new CBA,”one created with an attempt at stopping teams from building superteams.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported that the second tax apron had much to do with the willingness to make such a deal.

But the more the Suns looked at it, sources said, the more they came to an understanding that if they were going to pierce the second apron, it was better to explode right through it. If they just crept over the line, as they were sure to flirt with anyway based on their roster’s current salaries, it would have been challenging.

But if they just went all-in and went way over, their situation might be workable. Go barely over the line, the Suns believed, and it would be hard to make moves in the future. Go way over the line by adding all the talent they could now, and it opens up some options.

The important thing to remember is there’s a lot that’s fluid.

Nobody thought Paul could be dealt for much of value. Nobody thought the Wizards could get off Beal’s deal easily, and while the return looks bad, new Washington front office leader Michael Winger took less than a month from taking over to hit a hard reset. Nobody thinks the Suns’ deal looks great beyond this coming season.

But when there’s a will, there’s a way.

A championship will depend on Ishbia setting up the filter of the Suns being an enticing landing spot for free agents. Now, he sends the roster to president of basketball operations and general manager James Jones to optimize the picture.

Here’s what he has to work with:

— Seven Suns remain under contract: Booker, Beal, Durant, Ayton, point guard Cam Payne and reported acquisitions of guard Jordan Goodwin and forward Isaiah Todd. Payne has $6.5 million owed to him that is partially guaranteed until June 29, and his on-ball abilities likely make him worth keeping around as a pure point.

— A new second tax apron that’s part of the new collective bargaining agreement will delete any exceptions for teams above it, and the Suns will accept that fate for this year and more, especially if Ayton remains. That leaves Phoenix with eight roster spots and a pair of two-way deals to fill while already being at above $174 million in salaries at present. That’s just short of the projected $179 million second tax apron that severely limits Phoenix.

— Veteran minimum exceptions are all that Phoenix has to work with: The Suns might need to add about seven of ’em if it pays up in re-signing Jock Landale and Torrey Craig to larger deals. Phoenix will also be able to retain Josh Okogie, Damion Lee, Bismack Biyombo and Terrence Ross.

— Adding draft picks by trading into the 2023 draft — though cash considerations as a trade asset would likely be needed — could reduce that number.

— Landale and Craig can re-sign for deals up to $11.9 million and a minimum of two seasons, per Marks. Phoenix owns their early Bird rights and can re-sign them for 105% of the league-average salary. Landale is a restricted free agent and has a cap hold of just more than $2 million, which is included in the salary outlook at present.

— Between the Durant and Beal trades, the Suns don’t have much in terms of draft picks for the rest of the decade, though it’s plausible that if Ishbia’s spending is accurate, they could buy their way into the draft.

— If the Suns are in the second apron for multiple years, there are severe penalties, including having a first-round pick down the road slide to the very end of the first round, regardless of team record.

Phoenix Suns salary cap post-Bradley Beal trade

Phoenix Suns salary cap numbers post-Bradley Beal trade for Chris Paul The Phoenix Suns’ salary cap after the proposed Bradley Beal-Chris Paul trade with the Washington Wizards.

Empire of the Suns

Grayson Allen, Milwaukee Bucks...

Kevin Zimmerman

The if of the 5th: Grayson Allen has experience edge of potential Suns starters

Grayson Allen has been a starter on an elite team before. Should he hold the same role with the Phoenix Suns?

6 hours ago

Eric Gordon #10 of the LA Clippers reacts during the second half Game One of the Western Conference...

Kellan Olson

The if of the 5th: Eric Gordon as starter would give Suns offensive firepower

Does it make enough sense for the Phoenix Suns to look past defensive question marks and start Eric Gordon for the best offense?

9 hours ago

Bol Bol #10 of the Orlando Magic in action against the Chicago Bulls during the first half at Unite...

Kellan Olson

The if of the 5th: Chaotic possibilities for Phoenix Suns with starting Bol Bol

The Phoenix Suns would be embracing chaos by using Bol Bol as a fifth starter, an idea that has both serious pros and cons.

1 day ago

Yuta Watanabe #18 and Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets react during the third quarter against t...

Kellan Olson

The if of the 5th: Yuta Watanabe would maximize Phoenix Suns’ spacing

Yuta Watanabe as the fifth starter would make the Phoenix Suns' offense even more nuclear but bring more questions defensively.

2 days ago

Josh Okogie, Phoenix Suns...

Kevin Zimmerman

The if of the 5th: Josh Okogie’s on-ball duties could be Suns’ priority

Will Josh Okogie be the Phoenix Suns' fifth starter? His on-ball defense is something Frank Vogel will like.

2 days ago

Grayson Allen #12 of the Milwaukee Bucks shoots against the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena...

Kellan Olson

Grayson Allen, Nassir Little bolster depth, unearth Suns’ trade flexibility

The Phoenix Suns' haul for Deandre Ayton included two off-ball perimeter players that could become key role players this season.

2 days ago

Bradley Beal trade has Suns owner Mat Ishbia backing up the talk