The Phoenix Suns have multiple offseason priorities following a disappointing second-round playoff exit. They already fired head coach Monty Williams, replacing him with Frank Vogel, and traded Chris Paul and Landry Shamet to the Washington Wizards for Bradley Beal, Jordan Goodwin, and Isaiah Todd. Still, the team must make more improvements to help their championship run next season.
Phoenix Suns 2023 Offseason Priorities
One of the most glaring issues for the Suns was their lack of depth and quality rotation players. Following the Kevin Durant trade in February, Phoenix lost key pieces Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson (as well as Jae Crowder). They also dealt Dario Saric to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Darius Bazley and signed Terrence Ross. Their shorthanded bench was on full display in the playoffs, averaging a second-worst 18.2 PPG. The core four of Durant, Paul, Devin Booker, and Deandre Ayton were the only players to average double-digit points.
The Suns only have seven guaranteed roster spots for next season with 10 upcoming free agents. Their team is expected to look very different, but it would be significant if they could retain Torrey Craig or Josh Okogie. In addition to them, Phoenix needs to explore the free agent market to find reliable role players. Signing two-way players with postseason experience will be essential for the team’s win-now plan.
Adding more reserves is also crucial if their stars are injured. With their new big three of Durant, Booker, and Beal missing a combined 179 games in the last two seasons, someone is bound to be hurt sooner or later. Also, the sustainability of overworking the starters is another concern.
Trade Deandre Ayton
Ayton has been the center of trade talks for years, but the Suns may finally move him this year. In a press conference following their playoff elimination, the 24-year-old told reporters he loved Phoenix and would continue to play hard there. However, throughout his career, multiple reports have highlighted Ayton’s frustration with the franchise and desire to leave. Over the past few seasons, he’s repeatedly shown disengagement with the team. One of the most notorious examples was in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals. Ayton idly watched from the baseline as Nikola Jokic and Durant battled for a rebound under Phoenix’s basket.
While he averaged 18 PPG and 10 RPG this season, the Suns have discovered Ayton’s value is low on the trade market. His disappointing playoff performance can be to blame for this. Phoenix was likely to trade him in early June, but they are now hesitant to accept any offers they received for a lesser return. Although it’s also possible they wait until the season starts to give Ayton a chance to increase his value.
With the Suns in a win-now mode, it makes sense to offload Ayton. They should build the roster around their newly established big three. Durant, Booker, Beal, and Ayton are costing Phoenix $161.5 million, bringing them just shy of the luxury tax. Regardless of what happens this offseason, they’ll likely be over the tax apron, but they can free up $32.4 million by trading the center. Dumping his contract will also allow them to sign and receive some quality role players, adding much-needed depth.
Find A Starting Point Guard
With the loss of Paul, there is a vacancy at the starting point guard spot. Here, the Suns have a couple of options to consider. With the current state of the roster, one replacement is Cameron Payne, Paul’s backup. In 56 games as a starter across his career, he’s averaged 11.8 PPG, 3.1 RPG, and 6.3 APG. These are solid numbers, but Payne has struggled with consistency, especially in the playoffs.
There is also the possibility of Booker moving to point guard. He’s filled the role before and showcased solid playmaking and facilitating. Booker sometimes played the position in 2018-19, averaging 26.6 PPG and a career-best 6.8 APG. “Point Book” could return next season, and he’ll excel at setting up his teammates while carrying most of the offensive load.
Another option is Phoenix signing a new starting point guard in free agency. While they can’t afford to spend much, offloading contracts like Ayton’s can free up cap space. Or, they could receive one in a trade. Many notable names are available in the upcoming market, but players like Patrick Beverley, Reggie Jackson, or Gabe Vincent are more realistic options.