Once profit-minded Phoenix Suns go all-in on NBA title

Jun 19, 2023, 3:35 PM | Updated: Jun 20, 2023, 9:23 am

Bradley Beal is a steal of a deal. He’s also a wildly expensive gambit from a franchise that has changed dramatically in four months.

The Suns were once patient, ponderous and profit minded. So cheap they pared down their basketball operations and sold off their G League team. They focused on draft picks and homegrown talent because their owner was never going to lead with his wallet.

With the Beal acquisition, new owner Mat Ishbia has made yet another splash. He effectively snubbed his nose at the new collective bargaining agreement, which includes heavy penalties for those who push the salary cap to the limit and beyond, designed to eliminate pricey super teams from spawning in NBA destination cities. His aggression is breathtaking.

He has owned the Suns for four months and has already traded for two All-Stars; he fired Monty Williams and hired Frank Vogel as his new head coach; and splurged for a couple of high-priced assistant coaches. The acquisition of Beal gives him three players who will soon be earning over $50 million a year.

The Suns can help fill out their roster by trading Deandre Ayton, but at the moment, the market is softer than the player. Either way, the team has little flexibility left. Almost all of their draft picks have been outsourced, traded away to win a trophy right now. The next team in Phoenix better be the right team or else.

The Suns also have three great players entering 2023-24, which is a significant upgrade. And without Paul, the offense can operate at a higher tempo and run through Devin Booker.

Some are critical of an approach that leaves the Suns no margin for error. Some are making fun of Kevin Durant for requiring another super team to win a title. One media member said that the Nuggets were still better than the Suns.

We’ll see about that. Paul suffered another playoff-ending injury in the Western Conference semifinals; Durant went atypically cold under pressure; Ayton might’ve quit on the team for a second consecutive postseason and Booker was so embarrassed by another blowout elimination loss at home that he left for France without saying goodbye.

But now they have Beal in the mix, a tremendous off-ball scorer and quite the haul for a couple of players the Suns no longer wanted. A couple of players the Suns could no longer afford.

On Monday, a jilted Chris Paul told The New York Times he learned of the news on Twitter, suggesting that Isiah Thomas has more input over personnel decisions than current general manager James Jones. Paul is likely more upset that he’s been traded to the East coast, and that he wasn’t waived and rewarded for years of excellent service.

I’ll say this: whoever is pushing buttons behind the curtain is doing a remarkable job. The acquisition of Beal for Paul and Landry Shamet is laughably lopsided, even if it doesn’t work. It’s the kind of heist the Lakers normally pull off.

In the end, it was the smartest play the Suns could make given their circumstances. And it would not have been possible if money were an issue.

Mercifully, green is no longer a problem on Planet Orange.

Reach Bickley at Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. on 98.7.

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