The transactions leading up to the trade deadline have begun, and with it, blockbuster moves. The Suns took the last remaining chunk of Brooklyn’s former “Big Three” by acquiring Kevin Durant for Jae Crowder, Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson and draft picks. Overnight, they became championship contenders, but despite their overwhelming talent, they aren’t the outright title favorites, and Vegas has Boston as a bigger favorite.
What Durant Provides For The Suns
There’s no question that acquiring Durant is a net positive move, at least in the context of this season. He’s tall enough to play inside, lanky and athletic enough to play on the outside, and has a rare combination of pure shooting ability and excellent ball-handling skills. Such a combo is hard to resist for not just the Suns, but pretty much any team in the NBA.
He’s translated that skillset into results and consistency. A 13-time all-star and two-time NBA champion, Durant has consistently been near the top of the league, and with an MVP and two finals MVPs, he’s one of the most decorated players in the league. More importantly, he plays at a high level season after season and has averaged over 25 points a game every season since 2008. There is certainly huge value for the Suns to have that kind of scoring injection and overall presence on the floor.
The Cons Of Acquiring Durant
While Kevin’s talent has translated on the scoring sheet, it hasn’t quite translated in the biggest moments. The obvious counterpoint to this is his two championships in three finals appearances. However, when joining a 73-9 team that was one game away from a championship and just a year removed from a finals win, a win with a core of Curry, Thompson, Green, and Durant is almost axiomatic.
With the Thunder, an extremely talented team led by him, Westbrook, Harden, and Ibaka failed to win a championship and fell disappointingly short in a number of seasons. With the Nets, Durant has won just one playoff series, against a Jaylen Brown-less Celtics.
Durant has also shown himself to be somewhat injury-prone, and at 34 years old, he wouldn’t be a long-term solution. Furthermore, his lack of loyalty and general arrogance could get in the way of Phoenix’s chemistry. Not only is this his fourth team (in seven years), but his method of departure and general interpersonal presence has lacked character over the years.
Are The Suns Sacrificing Their Future For A Big Swing?
Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Deandre Ayton, Devin Booker… with all in peak form, that’s an unbeatable team, and even now it’s an excellent core. However, in Bridges and Johnson, the Suns let go of young, important contributors that could play a big role in their future. Durant and Paul are both well into their thirties and have had a bit of an injury history, and a Suns core centered around them can’t last forever.
Having multiple players used to extremely large roles on their teams could also prove to be a bit of an issue for the Suns, and in the past, and his former Nets team is the perfect example of how overwhelming talent doesn’t automatically translate to wins. In the case of the Suns, they should figure it out, and being in the Western Conference, they have an easier road to the finals.
The biggest reason that the Suns aren’t the outright favorite, though, lies somewhere in the North End of Boston. The Celtics have star power, depth, cohesion, and a roster that understands their role very well. With their depth somewhat hampered, can the Suns rely on their star power to supplement a team like that?
Furthermore, with this current core having, due to age among other factors, two to three years of contending level, can they win a championship in that window? With some excellent younger teams getting better and better, and the Suns sacrificing depth and youth for star power, it’s hard to see a clear path for the post-Durant and post-Paul future for Phoenix.
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