Suns

Suns Send Summer Sparks

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Being a Suns fan these last few weeks has been a long and dreadful experience.

Days on end of stagnant free agency. No front-office news. Far-fetched trade rumors are being thrown around the Internet all day. Exhausting as it gets to keep up with no other real news to keep you occupied.

Alas, a chess piece has finally been moved in the board game of Suns fans’ lives. What the team might look like next year is finally coming to fruition. Well, enough to at least talk about what ACTUALLY is and what could still be. But now with enough stability that some contacts have been signed and positions are filled.

(Kevin Durant could be a Sun by the time you’re reading this. You never know.)

The Ayton Saga

The Deandre Ayton saga, that many feel should have been solved long ago, has finally been sealed, signed and put to rest… for now. The Athletic’s Shams Charania reports the Suns matched the Indiana Pacers’ four-year, $133 million offer sheet. Thus, securing the former No. 1 overall pick to remain in Phoenix.

ESPN’s Bobby Marks has more details on the contract specifics below.

Doesn’t feel like anyone got too short of a stick on this draw, does it? In the end, it seems Phoenix inked the contract about $15 million or so less than they originally were expected to (five-year rookie max he was wanting before), plus the bonuses above. Also, Ayton gets all his money fully guaranteed at the max level he was searching for.

Wins all around, right?

Also, if the reports of the Nets not even wanting Ayton are true, he wouldn’t have been sent to Brooklyn in the Kevin Durant trade scenario anyway.

So maybe the Suns don’t need him for Durant. Phoenix would have lost Ayton somewhere else, while also losing (probably) Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson to Brooklyn for the sign-and-trade deal for Durant.

That might have been a bit too much, though. Would that have been worth it in the end? Depends on what you get back from the third team. But letting him walk wouldn’t have been worth anything. Not many other options than to let someone else offer for less, then match.

Exactly what happened with Indiana. Many think the offer sheet may have forced the Suns to make the signing. But perhaps it’s exactly what they were waiting for. With how long everything was dragging out, the possibilities of only losing Ayton and either Johnson OR Bridges in a sign and trade must have been slim to non-existent.

Business is business. The way the business should be run is another conversation, but it seems the Suns got their guy back for as “cheap” as possible. Just matching an offer less than what they “should” have given him before.

Kevin Durant News?

Now, let’s quickly touch on the KD situation. Contrary to popular belief, the scenario is not necessarily as dead as it may seem. As said before, it’s been reported the Nets weren’t interested in Ayton to begin with. It seems he would have been included in a three-team trade scenario, sending him elsewhere– not to Brooklyn.

At this point, the Suns may still have a top package in Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, picks, and other fillers compared to other suitors out there. Now you get to keep Ayton AND possibly make a move for Durant. This is about as risky as it gets though, considering the chemistry might already be out of whack due to the front-office fiasco.

But maybe a shake-up is exactly what could get the buy-in you need to reach new heights this team hasn’t seen before.

Considering there have been no new reports about a “preferred destination” from Durant, it must be safe to assume he is still eyeing Phoenix as the main landing spot. With Durant on the roster, added to the already big three of Paul, Booker and Ayton, the whole will know what they’re capable of.

Sounds like enough motivation to get everyone back on track.

Roster building

From here until the start of the season, the rest of the roster might just be up in the air. Chemistry is going to be a critical factor in the successes we see. Depending on the Durant situation, we don’t know what assets will stay and what will go. All that is stable is Paul, Booker, and Ayton for six months (cant be traded due to the offer sheet). These guys being in sync will be the most important piece behind it all.

As opposed to what Suns fans are used to though, reports are trending to more big splashes coming. Arizona Sports John Gambadoro reports the Suns are ready to pay upwards of $70 million in tax for the roster this coming year.

The window is small and it is now. Whether Robert Sarver is there in the end — or not pending his investigation — the front office is due to give fans a chance at success. For once, regardless of the pocketbooks.

Already-signed backups like Josh Okogie, Jock Landale and Damion Lee are all examples of the depth moves the team is making in trying to perfect the roster.

New Expectations

As the Suns have been dealing with all this internal back and forth, the rest of the league has not slowed down. Teams like the Timberwolves and Celtics made moves in the trade market. Teams like the Clippers only get healthier as time goes on. Even teams running it back like the Warriors aren’t going anywhere. The development of what the Suns already have will be key to the success we fans want this coming season.

Deandre Ayton

Ayton will have the opportunity to show money isn’t all he wants this year. He’s said since he was drafted that his goal was to get to that second contract.

Well, we’re here and the expectations are gonna be at a maximum level, also. His already-elite touch will be expected to flourish even more. It’s the quicker decision-making, playmaking and assertiveness we will be looking for from the man down low to develop more so.

Mikal Bridges

Yes, even the DPOY runner-up will have higher expectations entering his fifth year in the league. While Bridges’ defense will only improve as he grows, it’s his consistency on the other end of the ball we’ll be watching for this year.

Making his shots — whether they be from the corner or midrange — at a higher clip will be necessary. Too often than not, when he’s not making a cut, he gets left open in the corner. This is giving the defender the opportunity to sag off and camp the drive from the top. With his minute count, there is a need to develop an elite-level corner three. Or even elevate his playmaking of the catch and drive. This would make him basically irremovable from the floor– able to do whatever needed at any point in the game.

Cameron Johnson

Our last young bull is due for a contract extension this coming year. Cameron Johnson has shown no lack of confidence, work ethic or motivation to keep growing his game. All good signs for what is to come this year. With all the chaos that has already swirled around his team with money, you can imagine Johnson will do everything he can to show he’s worth every penny he’ll be due.

Johnson has all the tools for success. Shoots the deep ball at a good clip, can guard 1-4 with little to no help needed, and is about as smart of a player you’ll find. This season is when it feels like it should all come together.

Cam J was playing some of the best basketball of his career before he got injured mid-last season. Posting a career-high 38 points last March, his scoring seemed to just about be rounding itself out. His teammates continuously mentioned how much they want him to keep shooting the ball, and he wanted to keep doing it.

If Johnson can bring that same scoring energy back after being a shell of himself this past post-season, the Suns will be in good shape down the line.

Anything Can Happen

As obvious as it may seem, we’re just going to have to wait for the season to start to see who is on the team. It’s tough with how the NBA is the fastest with its news it has ever been. What’s reported could change in literal minutes.

Keep your eyes peeled and those notifications on. Any moment, anything can develop.

About Cameron Prichard

Twitter: @TheValleyAthltc

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