Phoenix Suns 2024 NBA offseason preview: It's one big, expensive problem

2023-24 season: 49-33

Highlight of the season: A mid-January stretch when the team ran off seven straight wins and looked in part like what was promised by ownership.

With brooms. The Suns, led by three offensive juggernauts in Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal, failed to win a single game in the opening round of the playoffs, losing four straight to the Minnesota Timberwolves, a team ranked 16th in offense.

In what was supposed to be a dynamic offensive season for the Suns, injuries largely kept them from fielding a team of three stars and thus consistency lacked. It didn’t help matters that the organization prioritized top-shelf talent, which with today’s CBA comes at the price of depth. The Suns flat out couldn’t rely on their minimum-salaried veterans, and that led to what ultimately was an embarrassing collective performance in the first round.

The Suns did receive one of the better Durant seasons in recent years. The 35-year-old put up 27.1 points per game, while connecting on 52.3% from the field and 41.3% from 3-point range, while appearing in 75 games. That last number is key, given that Durant has only displayed modest levels of availability since his Achilles tear in 2019.

However efficient and effective Durant proved to be, however, was undermined by the fact that Booker and Beal never quite seemed to find common ground on ball-handling and play-initiation responsibilities. This only worsened against the Wolves as Booker, outside of a 49-point Game 4, was reluctant to be aggressive and spent considerable amounts of time observing instead of attacking.

Ultimately, the Suns’ issues were obvious at the end of the season. They failed to score 120 points in a single game against the Wolves, even failing to score 110 in three out of four, and now questions will rise as to the future of Frank Vogel and whether this current big three can thrive.

Los Angeles, CA, Thursday, January 11, 2024 - Phoenix Suns forward Kevin Durant (35), guard Devin Booker (1) and guard Bradley Beal (3) lead the Suns to a 127-109 win over the Lakers at Crypto.Com Arena. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
The Suns' big three of Kevin Durant (35), Devin Booker (1) and Bradley Beal are left pondering what happened to them. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Roster symmetry and depth. This is easier said than done, however, given that the Suns are deep into the luxury tax, and with the CBA introducing new roster construction challenges, it will be difficult for the team to build upon the current foundation. Oh, and a point guard wouldn’t be a bad thing either.

The 64-win Phoenix Suns of 2021-22 lost a heartbreaking seven-game Western Conference semifinals, traded the farm for Durant and lost a six-game, second-round set in 2023. So, they dealt the mortgage for Beal and were swept from this season's first round. It has to be frustrating to swap every available rising talent and draft asset for a $300 million payroll, only to get demonstrably worse.

Paying Durant, Beal and Booker a combined $150 million means the Suns have little recourse to improve the roster beyond minimum contracts. Of course, they could trade one of their three stars, but nobody is lining up for the three years left on Beal's deal, and trading either Durant and Booker is asking for a downgrade. Call everyone this summer and see if a savior arrives. Otherwise, pray for good health and the possibility that one more summer together improves team chemistry. — Ben Rohrbach

The Suns need some help defensively in the paint and could be interested in 6-foot-11 Tyler Smith of the G League Ignite if he falls into the 20s, or they could take a swing on Purdue star Zach Edey if he falls. Dayton 6-10 forward DaRon Holmes II could sneak into the first round. He was an excellent rim protector for the Flyers during his junior year. He averaged 20.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. — Krysten Peek

Draft pick: No. 22

Because the Suns didn't have a first-round pick last year, they must make this selection, but they can flip the drafted player.

The Suns are projected to be into the second apron, particularly after extending Grayson Allen for $70 million, which will force them to either accept their lack of roster flexibility, or make uncomfortable trades like pivoting off Durant or Booker, neither of which seems realistic.

Furthermore, the Suns cannot combine salaries to take on more money and will still have to re-sign Royce O’Neale, which will add a significant tax charge to their already expensive bill next year. It’s hard to envision the Suns standing stronger next year.

Key free agent

Royce O’Neale (UFA)

A better result than what just transpired. Whether that means a new coach, a more streamlined roster or something else, the Suns are on the clock. They can’t afford to think long term, and that means it’s win or bust from here on out.

A first-round sweep is grounds for dismissal for one of the big three. Booker is the franchise player, so that leaves Beal or Durant. And since Beal has a no-trade clause, the Suns should be on the horn, exploring trade options for KD. Phoenix re-signed Allen, but there are far more holes to fill and moving KD could net more role players or draft capital. If this happens, Booker could creep into late-first-round draft status by next season. — Dan Titus