36 unbothered: Is there a way for the Chris Paul trade to come back to bite the Suns?
Oct 17, 2023, 6:48 PM | Updated: 6:52 pm
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Devin Booker left the Phoenix Suns’ second elimination game blowout loss in the conference semifinals without saying a word. At least to the media.
He went into the offseason without addressing what happened, both after the game and at exit interviews the next day, only posting a vague social media post “36 unbothered” afterward, two days following the firing of head coach Monty Williams. What was first speculated by fans as a reference to his and Kevin Durant’s added-up jersey numbers was later corrected by Booker: He was just cruising through 36 holes of golf.
Regardless, he unknowingly created a nickname for the Suns’ superstar duo in the process.
To keep us occupied until the Oct. 24 season opener against the Golden State Warriors, which is seven days away from Tuesday, Empire of the Suns podcast co-hosts Kellan Olson and Kevin Zimmerman will round out the last 12 key storylines for Phoenix’s 2023-24 season after being joined by Arizona Sports contributor Erik Ruby for the first 24.
Day 36: Devin Booker enters his prime
Day 35: The Suns have put in the work this summer
Day 34: Suns do have some continuity with returning bench players
Day 33: Kevin Durant gets integrated
Day 32: Bradley Beal proving something
Day 31: How the Big 3 develop chemistry
Day 30: Mat Ishbia’s first full season as owner
Day 29: How does Suns’ place of play change without Chris Paul
Day 28: Suns can maximize Yuta Watanabe in proper role
Day 27: Deandre Ayton finally is traded
Day 26: Who is Suns’ biggest threat in Western Conference?
Day 25: Matrix and STAT in Ring of Honor
Day 24: Phoenix Suns’ most appetizing lineups combinations
Day 23: The importance of Kevin Young’s return to the Suns
Day 22: The revamped Suns sunburst jerseys
Day 21: TV antennas and Phoenix Suns basketball for all
Day 20: Is there room on the Suns to unlock Bol Bol?
Day 19: What Grayson Allen brings to Suns
Day 18: Suns’ championship expectations
Day 17: Drew Eubanks could bring pop to Suns’ center group
Day 16: Olympic implications
Day 15: Jusuf Nurkic changes the Suns in the middle
Day 14: Jon Bloom takes over for Al McCoy on the airwaves
Day 13: Eric Gordon was the Suns’ biggest offseason signing
Day 12: Do the Suns need to trade for a point guard?
Day 11: The Suns need Josh Okogie
Day 10: How Phoenix Suns can build a championship defense
Day 9: How Suns can lose the Deandre Ayton trade
Day 8: Who is the Suns’ most important player outside Big 3?
Day 7: Is there a way for the Chris Paul trade to come back to bite the Suns?
Kellan Olson: I don’t really see it. This team really needed a shakeup and the writing was on the wall for months that the futures for both Paul and Ayton were murky. Phoenix had reached its high point with Paul and was able to get off Landry Shamet’s contract as well that has one more year of guaranteed money left at $10.2 million this season.
We have to start off the court for where this has a chance of happening the most. The four first-round pick swaps are the lottery tickets for the Wizards, which come in 2024, 2026, 2028 and 2030. Considering Booker, Beal and Durant are all under contract through 2026, it would take massively unforeseen events for the Suns to miss the playoffs. Even if two of them are injured for significant patches of a season, one of them can do the heavy lifting for chunks of the year to keep the Suns in the mix.
The mind starts to wander on the curiosity with the 2028 swap, but the wrinkle here is Washington gets the worst first-round pick amongst its own, Brooklyn, Philadelphia or Phoenix. For 2030, the Wizards receive the lowest pick of either themselves, Memphis or Phoenix. The Suns were creative with these swaps and the extra layers on top of the later ones should mean they’re in the clear.
It would be naive to act like it’s a foregone conclusion, though. The NBA changes fast. And those picks are five and seven years away. Part of why these swaps are so dangerous is because if you’re in a position for the swap to get triggered, that means you’ve been losing a whole lot, so moving down hurts even more.
If one of those swaps gets triggered and it moves the Suns 1) out of the lottery and 2) by a handful of spots, that really stings. Obviously giving up any top-five pick, even while moving down just a few positions, would really sting as well.
Six second-round picks is pennies. They are useful to have for contenders to continue to get bites at the apple of developing long-term pieces but if it’s the difference between getting a player of Beal’s caliber, let alone a top-100 guy, it’s a no-brainer.
There are only two routes I see: at least one of the swaps gets triggered and/or Beal’s contract proves to be a burden.
The latter triggers the most topic of conversation since by all accounts Beal is overpaid, making an average of over $50 million a year for the next four seasons. But the Suns are going for it in a window of contention during the rest of Durant’s contract that will naturally end a year prior to Beal’s.
But even if Beal underperforms on the court, the Suns simply did not have any better way to upgrade the team. Taking on a contract like this was the only way.
So, to me, if we see a pick swap activated in a costly way and the Suns didn’t win a championship, that’s where I can at least kick off a discussion. But for now? No way.
Kevin Zimmerman: Bradley Beal is really good. He’s on the downside of what we generally describe as a pro athlete’s prime but there’s still a lot longer shelf-life on it than what is left in Paul’s tank.
And here’s the thing: Fans could cite his no-trade clause and massive contract as problematic but there are two counter-points to that. 1) Washington just showed that you can get off that contract and the terms will only get more favorable with each passing year and as new TV money flows. 2) It’s not your money! It’s Ishbia’s to worry about!
The only way this bites the Suns is if that bite is super direct. Like if the Golden State Warriors meet Phoenix in a playoff round and down their title hopes. If it’s in the conference finals and you can argue the Suns would cruise over Eastern Conference team X, maybe you have a case. That’s probably not a great argument if the Milwaukee Bucks or Boston Celtics are sitting there in this current iteration. The Suns aren’t the favorites.
The Suns went all superteam on people and still look like maybe the fourth- or fifth-best squad in the league. Just imagine where Phoenix would be if it was still trying to run things back with Paul and Ayton.
Now, if Paul is the guy who still has Third Team All-NBA juice to midrange Phoenix to its death on the way to an NBA title for the Warriors, maybe you have a case. I just find that hard to believe.
What I’m saying is that Beal would have to get Monstar-sucked of his talent for this to look bad on the Suns’ end.