The Phoenix Suns may have owned the Western Conference during the regular season, but it was their peaceful rivals, the Golden State Warriors, who ultimately won the Larry O’Brien Trophy in 2022.
Although the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers are expected to rise as they regain stars after injury, the Suns and Warriors look set to remain two of the conference powerhouses.
The Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns have contrasting roster builds, opening up opportunities for the latter to take advantage of their current situation.
The Warriors have a unique roster – heading into next season they have two players making over $40 million (Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson) and then two more making over $25 million (Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green).
But while majority owner Joe Lacob pays the biggest luxury tax bill in the league, they also have five players who are on rookie contracts. Three of them are lottery picks (James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody), while Jordan Poole has achieved some exciting milestones and was an integral part of their championship rotation.
They could also make him a sixth player, with draft pick Ryan Rollins potentially joining Patrick Baldwin Jr. on the 15-man roster. The Warriors’ mix of experienced and young talent is enviable, but to some extent it also inhibits their flexibility to improve before or during next season.
Their exciting youth makes him a plausible suitor for Kevin Durant, with whom the Suns have been closely linked since his trade request from the Brooklyn Nets. But for the Warriors to acquire him, they would also have to give up Wiggins, perhaps their second-best player in the Finals.
It appears Golden State is unwilling to mortgage the future for short-term gain in the form of Durant, believing they can repeat as champions with what they currently have.
But if they want to improve their roster in any way, shape or form (even outside of Durant), they have little ability to do so. Apart from the nine players already mentioned, the current roster consists of Kevon Looney, Donte DiVincenzo, and although not official yet, reports suggest they will acquire JaMychal Green.
These three players will make less than $15 million combined, and they can’t be traded in the near future anyway given that they were part of this season’s free agent class.
That’s where the Suns come in. They possess the ability to compile salaries to get better players this offseason. Take for example the following players – Jae Crowder, Landry Shamet, Dario Saric, Cameron Payne and Torrey Craig.
These five are expected to bring in a combined $40 million. None of them should be considered untouchable, especially since three of them have expiring contracts. Of course, they don’t necessarily hold great trade value, but the Suns can tie picks as needed based on the value of the returning player.
Golden State seems glued to just about every player on their roster, which is great, their immense chemistry is what got them to the Finals. But, as noted earlier, it prohibits their business flexibility.
Phoenix doesn’t have that problem, which gives them an advantage over the Warriors’ situation. This makes it a possible suitor for any commercial candidate at almost any price point. Even if it’s not Durant, expect them to improve their roster in some way before next year’s trade deadline.