Kevin Durant-Suns era could be over before it ever really began

by ARKANSAS DIGITAL NEWS

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Well, it didn’t take long for Kevin Durant to find something to complain about it on his new super team.

According to a report form ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Suns can “feel the frustration” coming from Durant regarding their current roster situation. Wojnarowski cited Bradley Beal’s inability to stay on the court and the roster’s “underwhelming supporting cast” as major pressure points, coupled with the fact that Phoenix currently has no draft assets or tradeable contracts to add talent to this team.

This felt inevitable. Trading for Washington Wizards point guard was a massive bet on the talent of Durant, Beal and Devin Booker. The three make up a combined $130.4 million in salary cap, just $5 million and change below the league’s salary cap. Because the Suns were hard-capped at the first salary apron, they signed minimum players. The only significant player they could acquire was Jusuf Nurkic, a center whose strengths come exclusively on the offensive end of the court.

The trade has played out in a worst-case scenario. Beal, who has started 60 games in a season just five times in his 12-year career, has played just six games as a Sun. When he is on the court, Beal is averaging his worst field goal percentage since 2014-2015 and putting up just 14.7 points per game.

Durant and Booker are pulling their weight. Durant’s 30.3 points per game would go down as the second-highest of his career. Booker is also close to setting a new career-high points per game while already averaging career-high assists (5.4) and rebounds (8.3).

That’s about all the production this team can get out of its roster. 35-year-old Eric Gordon is the third-highest point scorer when Beal isn’t available. Grayson Allen should be a role player but is now a vital piece of the Suns’ rotation. The minimum-salary fliers and throw-in trade contracts they used to fill out their bench – Keita Bates-Diop, Jordan Goodwin, Drew Eubanks, Nasir Little, Yuta Watanabe – are all playing key minutes and failing to elevate the team.

Phoenix currently sits at 14-15, half a game out of the West’s play-in tournament. They have the third-hardest remaining strength of schedule in the league. There is no current out for this Suns team, either. Phoenix tied up four first-round pick swaps (2024, 2026, 2028, 2030) and six second-round swaps (2024, 2025, 2026, 2027, 2028, 2030) in the Beal trade. All that for six games from a 30-year-old, ball-dominant point guard whose effectiveness gets diminished when he’s the third mouth in a big-three offense.

That trade, mind you, does not include the three remaining first-round picks (2025, 2027, 2029) that the Suns gave up to acquire Durant. Their roster is so thin that no current asset on its own could be flipped for meaningful talent. The trade to get Durant already depleted the Suns of talent like Mikal Bridges and rotation players like Cam Johnson and Jae Crowder. The Beal trade made an asset-poor team destitute, with no way out but down.

When Durant asked out of an imploding Brooklyn Nets team, the fit with the Suns felt weird. Durant and Booker were a promising duo, yes, but Chris Paul was an aging point guard, DeAndre Ayton was a questionable center talent, and the remaining roster was lackluster. Less than a year later, Beal is an even worse aging point guard, Nurkic is an even more questionable center and the roster is even thinner. The Western Conference, meanwhile, has gotten even better in the meantime.

Durant left one failed experiment for another. If the rest of the Suns can’t pull things together, he will once again be asking to leave.

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