As a wise man once said, "Mo' wins, mo' problems".
The Suns got the wins last season and now they are dealing with some of the problems. Now to be clear, many of those problems are of the good variety. Like, its different to have the problem of "Which summer home should I buy: San Diego or Durango?" versus "Should I miss my payment for my car or my rent?".
The Suns problems are very much of the former variety after spending ten years contemplating the NBA version of the latter.
But problems are problems and with a successful preseason in the books, the Suns have some major decisions to make in the coming days that will impact the coming years ahead.
Here are the four biggest questions and answers for the Phoenix Suns franchise.
1. Should the Suns pay Ayton and Bridges right now?
- They might but they don’t have to. Its been interesting to watch Suns fans and some media members freak out about the Suns negotiating tactic. I think the Suns have handled this perfectly. I understand the fears about Robert Sarver reverting to Joe Johnson mode but that’s just unhealed trauma. Look, signing a player long term is not just about giving a player what they want. Its about ensuring its the best short AND long term decision for the franchise. Ayton is great but has had a troubling on/off switch for three years. Bridges is wonderful but has routinely disappeared offensively game to game. The Suns aren’t in any danger of losing these players to free agency as they would enter restricted free agency next season where the Suns maintain the ability to match. Both players could benefit from as much external motivation as possible and above all, I trust James Jones to navigate the chemistry/contract waters as well as any GM in the NBA.
2. Were the Suns spoiled by their success last year?
- Whenever a team rockets from the outhouse to the penthouse, the crash back down to earth is almost always as dramatic as the rocket ship to the top. I’m not worried about that with Phoenix. While they won 52 games, were the #2 seed, won the Western Conference and came within two wins of the NBA championship, they weren’t treated like a very successful team. Everyone either didn’t believe in or qualified their success. Its hard to be spoiled by your success when you aren’t recognized for your success. Throw in the Suns as the rare young, improving NBA Finals team with indisputable leadership in Monty Williams and Chris Paul and I love the Suns over of 51.5 regular season wins on DraftKings Sportsbook. The Suns might be the first underdog defending conference champ in modern basketball history.
3. Did the Suns get their offseason moves right?
- So far, the early returns are very promising. JaVale McGee might’ve been the perfect veteran addition for the Suns on and off the court. Every team needs some fresh blood and McGee’s status as a goofy, beloved teammate in other stops adds the perfect wrinkle to the Suns locker room. On the court, he gives the Suns a great option to sub for Deandre Ayton. Landry Shamet looks like a very nice piece for the Suns bench as a shooter and scorer but I do think the decision to pass on Jared Butler at #29 to trade for Shamet is worth keeping an eye on. There’s no doubt Shamet helps the scoring punch and shooting now but we’ll see at what long term cost.
4. Will this Suns core stay together long term?
- Its funny to see so many Suns fans convinced that this team is going to stay together forever. I understand that based on how likeable AND succesful they were last season. Most NBA relationships don’t end up being the married couple that's together so long that they pass away within minutes of each other after 60 years of wedded bliss. Most NBA teams end like a bad summer fling. One of the reasons the Suns may want to hold off on an extension for either or both of Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges is the flexibility it gives them for another year. While Ben Simmons, Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal might not be ideal targets for the Suns - is Zion Williamson? With rumors swirling around Zion becoming the first rookie to turn down a max and force his way out, aren’t the Suns the best positioned team to pounce? What’s more valuable than talented, young players with proven winning playoff experience? Is Devin Booker lobbying Robert Sarver to rescue Karl Anthony Towns from Minnesota? Now that the Suns have tasted success, shouldn’t they start thinking like the most successful NBA team? Instead of trying to keep everybody happy, the Suns should start thinking about how to add the best players possible.