PHOENIX – In the dead of night, Mat Ishbia and company made a dramatic move.
On his first day on the job, the new Suns and Mercury owner pulled off arguably the biggest trade in Phoenix sports history.
With Ishbia’s blessing, Suns general manager James Jones worked a trade for future Hall of Fame forward Kevin Durant and brought back former Suns swingman T.J. Warren. The Brooklyn Nets received Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder, four unprotected first-round picks in 2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029 and the right to swap picks in 2028 in return.
Teams say a lot more with actions than in press conferences. Ishbia spent much of his introductory press conference discussing how he wanted to make the Suns among the NBA’s elite teams, and he quickly put his words into action. The trade came together after Jones sent a text message to Nets General Manager Sean Marks around 11 p.m. ET, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported. Ishbia would soon get involved in negotiations, too, as would Nets owner Joe Tsai.
Suddenly, a deal was in place to acquire the 2014 Most Valuable Player.
“I’m not going to be sitting here counting the dollars, I’m going to be focused on how we improve our team,” Ishbia said Wednesday. “We’re not going to sacrifice long term for short term, but we’re going to try and win every day.”
The Suns now employ a fearsome foursome of Durant, Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton. The first three all have cases to make the Hall of Fame. The Suns (30-26) are fifth in the Western Conference but could soon ascend to the top of the standings if all goes according to plan. If the team’s expectation coming into the season wasn’t already to win a championship, it is now after trading for a player of Durant’s caliber. The Suns are legitimate contenders looking for their first title in their 55-season history.
Over the summer when Durant previously requested a trade, Phoenix was atop the list of teams that had his interest. Things soon simmered down and he rescinded the request before the season began. However, Kyrie Irving’s trade to the Dallas Mavericks Monday afternoon caused Durant and the Nets to reconsider their partnership. Now, Durant finds himself a Suns player.
The trade marks the final domino to fall in the collapse of the short-lived Brooklyn Nets super team that once featured James Harden, Irving and Durant. Harden was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers at last year’s deadline.
Durant improved the Suns so they have a seemingly sure shot at this year’s playoffs, but some fear they may have sacrificed the long term for short-term success. The 2023 and 2025 picks given up aren’t likely to hurt the franchise, but what about the 2027 and 2029 picks? By then it’s almost a certainty Chris Paul, 37, will have retired, and Kevin Durant, 34, will be close behind him. It will be imperative for Phoenix to hit on its first-round picks in the years in between. The Suns likely aren’t too worried. Jones has openly talked about how little he cares for the draft anyway.
There is no doubt losing cornerstones Bridges and Johnson will hurt Phoenix’s depth. The Suns’ 3-point shooting and defensive capabilities aren’t easily replaceable. Role players like Damion Lee, Saben Lee, Ish Wainwright, Dario Saric and Torrey Craig need to fill the holes left behind.
But the onus now lies on Durant and his co-stars to put them in positions to excel in the pursuit of Phoenix’s first championship. The Valley can’t wait.