EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Kyrie Irving reportedly expects to meet with Suns, but it doesn’t add up

Jun 29, 2023, 12:16 PM | Updated: 7:33 pm

We already know the Phoenix Suns sit bunched up beyond the first tax apron with four maximum contracts on the roster. Somehow, the possibility of adding point guard Kyrie Irving remains in the news cycle, as Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes reported Thursday that the free agent is expected to meet with the Suns, Dallas Mavericks and possibly the Houston Rockets.

It would be a massive surprise if that is anything but a move to force the Mavericks into meeting Irving’s contract demands. Long-time NBA reporter Marc Stein, a podcast co-host with Haynes who is plugged into the Dallas market, has reported in his newsletter this past week that the Mavs are the only leader in the clubhouse to retain Irving.

For Phoenix, the avenues to even acquire another max deal is near-impossible without a sign-and-trade that even more severely limits the team. Deandre Ayton, who has been linked to the Mavericks, would need to be sent out if Irving is to join the already-assembled trio of Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal.

Suns president of basketball operations and GM James Jones said Thursday he will keep free-agency plans internal when reporters asked if the team was planning on meeting with Irving.

Such a sign-and-trade would hard-cap the Suns at the first tax apron at $172 million, a number they are already millions of dollars over with nine players on the roster. To reduce the team’s salary total, Irving would need to take a massive paycut to make closer to $20 than the $40-plus million he could earn on a max deal with Dallas. The Mavs would additionally need to clear cap space via trade or rescinding rights of their current free agents.

On the Phoenix end of things, the Suns would have rescind qualifying offers and cap holds to their own free agents, including Jock Landale, who already has reportedly been tendered as a restricted free agent.

The most logical route for the Suns to acquire Irving is on a veteran minimum deal.

Even for the walks-to-his-own-beat-while-saging-an-arena Irving, that would be quite a gulp to swallow considering his talent. Arizona Sports’ Dan Bickley’s “well-placed source” said there is no truth behind the Irving-Suns report, while John Gambadoro shot the rumor down as well.

Irving, 31, averaged 27 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists last year in 60 games between the Brooklyn Nets and Dallas Mavericks.

Imagining that Irving is willing to take less money leads to the next question: How would that work on the basketball court and on a team?

The Suns can sell Booker, Beal and Durant working together in basketball terms. Adding another ball-dominant player to the mix does, at some point, lead to redundancy.

Defensively, there’s the argument that assembling four three-level perimeter scorers won’t be a net positive considering what is given up on the defensive end, regardless if that includes trading or keeping Ayton’s hot-and-cold defensive abilities.

Egos would probably come into play, at a much higher level here in Phoenix than when Goran Dragic complained about standing in the corner too much just a half-season into spending time with Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas in the backcourt.

These things happen in this league even between superstars who force their way to new homes, and Irving has quite a history of breaking up such marriages.

That’s not the only luggage: Irving has forced his way out of town too much, chose his vaccination status over his team and doubled down on his opinions after spreading antisemitic content on social media.

Irving may do illogical things, so his accepting less money is a possibility. Even in understanding that, there’s just too much illogic from a basketball perspective to believe there is real juice to the Suns adding an eight-time All-Star.

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