Kevin Durant makes the Suns legit contenders, but the team will still explore ways to improve

The past can predict the future, and this certainly applies to the world of NBA team building. The vast majority of significant league roster changes occur during the week leading up to the February trade deadline and the stretch of time that the June NBA draft becomes a free agent. This organically split the calendar into two effective periods for team leaders to adjust here and decide there, with leftovers from the previous negotiating table resurfacing at the next meal. Anticipating an upcoming menu can be as simple an exercise as determining what’s left to take.

sixes, a long time ago, tried to trade Ben Simmons for James Harden in January 2021, but Simmons demanded a trade from Philadelphia when his representative met with team officials in the NBA draft. The lack of a satisfying off-season trade deal for Simmons showed just how adamant the Sixers will be with Simmons until their optimal return — Harden at the 2022 trade deadline — finally presents itself.

Just a few months later, Kevin Durant made a trade request with the Brooklyn Nets in June while keeping a close eye on the Phoenix Suns. And that left the door open for his eventual departure to the Valley at last week’s exchange deadline. This is a fixed market square dance in which partners who come together in one sequence can sync the next time they leave for another spin. The way the final quarter of the regular season and playoffs play out will certainly set the stage for the entire league to be active this summer – and a few noteworthy situations outlined below.

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 30: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) #7 Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets watches a game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Barclays Center on January 30, 2023 in New York City.  The Nets defeated the Lakers 121–104.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by uploading and/or using this photo, User agrees to be bound by the terms of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
The Suns are interested in a partnership between Kevin Durant and Devin Booker. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Is Phoenix the favorite?

How Durant will team up with Suns star defenseman Devin Booker and Chris Paul — after Phoenix laid four undefended first-round picks between 2023 and 2029, plus a pick trade in 2028, and talented starting flanks Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson will be a key issue at the center of the NBA’s advancement. Such spending on Durant, 34, while Paul, 37, has already shown noticeable signs of decline – and given both All-Stars’ history of nagging injuries – puts Phoenix in a clean champion position or a bust.

However, so much luck is required for a title that it’s impossible to guarantee a result when long-term health over a two-month postseason changes title races every season. We’ll see what new reinforcements hit the buyout market in the wake of former Magic shooter Terrence Ross. TJ Warren and Darius Bazley will help provide much-needed depth after Jay Crowder also left in the outgoing package for Durant.

This iteration of the Phoenix superteam seems to have less room for error than most All-Star conglomerates. Whatever the case, Phoenix lives on, the Suns are too busy and seem too eager to spend money under the aggressive ownership of new team governor Mata Ixbia for Phoenix not to look for more guns ahead of next season. The Suns approached the Nets with an offer to trade Kyrie Irving after the All-Star point guard asked to leave Brooklyn, sources confirmed to Sportzshala Sports, and there were rumors in the league that Phoenix hoped to get both Irving and Durant in some way.

This is not just a window into another real reality. The future reunion of Durant and Irving with the Suns will loom on the fringes of Phoenix and Dallas. Phoenix had already contacted rival teams about other players in the February trading market, sources said, and league staff expected him to go after Fred VanVleet if he did get free rein this summer.

Some future, at some point in Phoenix when Booker is still at the helm, seems guaranteed not to be with Paul by his side, and now those hours have definitely begun to dwindle. The addition of Durant could alleviate some of the worries about Paul’s table setting and perhaps even prolong his career as a point guard. Or the arrival of Durant — with heightened expectations from a team that was already a title contender — could force the Suns to more actively explore contingency plans beyond Paul as point guard this offseason.

Durant and Booker have contracts through 2025-2026. We’ve seen the fragility of these dynamic duos and amazing trios. Durant, Irving and Harden are infamous for only playing 16 games together. But this long glimpse of Durant and Booker under command control for the better part of half a century is a foundation that any contender dreams of, a solid foundation like the one the Golden State Warriors still cling to.

Kyrie Irving Mavericks Experiment

Dallas cannot afford that luxury. This summer, Irving will have the opportunity to gain unlimited free agency, the same leverage he used when he requested the deal from Brooklyn in the first place. Even if you refuse to believe that Dallas and Irving don’t have a handshake to sign this summer, as reportedIrving’s oral evidence of team commitment in the past proved to be utterly weightless. He was keen to leave Cleveland in preparation for LeBron James’ departure to Los Angeles. He fled Boston to join Durant in Brooklyn. He left the Nets after failing to secure his desired long-term contract extension.

However, the Mavericks absolutely cannot afford to lose Irving for nothing. Dallas could have sold Jalen Brunson at last year’s deadline and instead watch him go to New York as a free agent. That should put Irving in a good position for any pending contract talks, as long as this experimental pairing with Luka Doncic becomes anything more than a flammable conjecture. Or the mutual attraction between Irving and James of the Los Angeles Lakers, not to mention Durant’s aforementioned Suns, will certainly resurface. Looks like Irving and the Lakers will be dancing around each other until the music about James’ record tenure stops.

Using an unprotected 2029 first-round pick to get Irving will allow Dallas to move its 2025 and 2027 first-round picks this summer after the Mavericks’ 2023 pick finally moves to New York in a deal with Kristaps Porzingis in 2019 year. If Irving and Doncic manage to form a partnership that Doncic and Porzingis never fully cemented, then maybe the Mavericks will even take that choice and go shopping for an additional partner for Doncic and Irving. Why stop at two alphas when you can chase a third? That was the way the superstar staking teams worked.

The other side of this coin could lead to exciting decisions in Dallas. A sign and trade for Irving would be a viable option if the Mavericks needed to help ease his exit, because watching Irving run away like Brunson before him would be nothing less than a disaster.

That’s why the Irving gamble comes as a surprise to naysayers in rival front offices. As for this season’s talk of the supposed window the Mavericks need to complete Doncic before it’s his turn to look for something else, the Dallas All-NBA engine is still far from considering any future with another franchise, according to many people familiar with the situation. . Sources say Doncic approved the Mavericks’ leadership before Dallas proceeded to sign Irving.

Perhaps Irving’s ingenuity will give Doncic a break to punish opponents better and save on his use. It was the Mavericks’ move with the most potential for a team that reached the Conference Finals last season. But any side result with Irving is far more likely to exacerbate real concerns about Doncic’s schedule in Dallas, as opposed to if the Mavericks spent less on a lower ceiling.


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