Suns Rumors

Suns Notes: Durant, Booker, Okogie

Kevin Durant finally made his Suns home debut on Wednesday, scoring 16 points against Minnesota in a 107-100 victory. He admitted he was eager to show the Phoenix fans how he’s blending with his new teammates, Nick Friedell of ESPN relays.

“It was hard for me to get sleep (Wednesday),” Durant said. “It was hard for me to stop thinking about the game. Sometimes you can want it too bad. And you come out there and play like you start rushing and start being uncharacteristic. I’m glad I’m back. I’m glad I’m into the zone of playing again and being around the guys and being one of the guys again, just keep building from here.”

We have more on the Suns:

  • Durant told Shams Charania of The Athletic that he’s still rooting for the Nets and holds no ill will toward the organization. Durant asked to be traded before and then during the season. “I want the best for that organization. I wanted the best for us every game,” he said. “I hated it had to go down like that. I wasn’t trying to prove the Nets is a (bad) organization. I was trying to prove that the Nets are a great organization, that they care about their players, want the best for their players. Certain (stuff) just didn’t work out.”
  • Devin Booker told Sam Amick of The Athletic that he becomes even more of an offensive threat with Durant drawing defensive attention. “The thing about Kev is that he’s one of the best scorers – if not the best scorer – to ever play the game. But he still plays the right way,” Booker said. “He makes teams pay for double teaming, and he’ll get off it quick. We just hoop. We make reads We make plays, and we start with a structure and our sets. He fits right into that and he knows what we’re doing.”
  • Josh Okogie, a free agent after the season, has emerged as the team’s fifth starter. He knows his offensive contributions are simply a bonus, he told Dana Scott of the Arizona Republic. “I’m always focused on the defensive end,” Okogie said. “The opportunities that I saw early, it was just that I never really think about scoring. I just try to do my job just to get stops, being about position on defense, try to get the rebound and bring energy to the team.”

Kevin Durant Expected To Return On Wednesday

MARCH 28: Barring a last-minute setback, Durant will return to action on Wednesday vs. the Timberwolves, Charania reports (via Twitter).

MARCH 24: Suns star Kevin Durant is making progress in his injury recovery and could potentially return to action next Wednesday in a home game vs. Minnesota, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). Charania suggests that March 29 contest will be the target barring a setback in Durant’s rehab process.

Durant saw his Suns debut delayed while he recovered from an MCL sprain that he suffered as a member of the Nets. He eventually played his first game for Phoenix on March 1 and then suited up for the team’s next two games, all victories. However, prior to his fourth appearance as a Sun, he sprained his left ankle during warmups — he has been sidelined since then.

When they announced Durant’s diagnosis on March 9, the Suns said he would be reevaluated in three weeks, which would be on March 30. That’s a day after the new return target date reported by Charania. Still, March 29 would be three weeks since the day Durant sprained his ankle, and it’s worth noting that Charania’s reporting at the time of the injury suggested the Suns would reevaluate the 34-year-old in two weeks.

Assuming Durant is cleared to return next Wednesday, he would miss the Suns’ next three games but would be back with seven left on their schedule. That would give him more than enough time to get ramped up in advance of the postseason, even if he sits out one half of the club’s back-to-back set on April 6 and 7.

In addition to getting Durant up to speed for the playoffs, the Suns could also use him back in their lineup to secure a favorable postseason seed. Phoenix is currently fourth in the Western Conference at 38-34, but has lost five of seven games since Durant went down and only has a 2.5-game lead on the No. 11 Thunder.

Ayton Probable To Return Monday

  • Deandre Ayton missed the Suns’ win over Philadelphia on Saturday and has now been sidelined for four consecutive games due to a right hip contusion. However, there’s optimism he’ll return on Monday — he has been listed as probable to play against Utah, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

T.J. Warren Getting More Comfortable In Second Stint With Suns

  • Suns forward T.J. Warren said this week that he’s “slowly but surely” finding his footing in his second go-round with Phoenix, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Warren, who was something of an afterthought in the Kevin Durant blockbuster, didn’t play more than 13 minutes in any of his first 15 games as a Sun and was a frequent DNP-CD, but has scored 21 points in 48 minutes across his last two outings. “It’s tough coming to a team that’s pretty established and trying to find a good rhythm along the way, but it’s been solid,” Warren said. “Just looking to bring some value on both ends of the floor.”

Suns’ Monty Williams Fined For Criticizing Officiating

The NBA has fined Suns head coach Monty Williams $20K for his comments criticizing the officiating after a loss to the Lakers on Wednesday, the league announced in a press release (Twitter link).

Williams made the statements in question to reporters in a post-game press conference after the Lakers shot 46 free throws – compared to 20 for the Suns – in a game L.A. won by 11 points.

“I can sit here and rant and rave about what I feel like is not a fair whistle. It’s just not,” Williams said (Twitter video link via Mark Medina of “46 free throws. We’re attacking the rim. I’m getting explanations about (how) we’re taking too many jump shots, mid-range jump shots. We’re playing a physical game.

“They had 27 free throws in the first half, they end up with 46. When do you see a game with 46 free throws for one team? That’s just not right. I don’t care how you slice it, it’s happening to us too much. Other teams are reaching, other teams are hitting, and we’re not getting the same calls, and I’m getting tired of it.”

It wasn’t the first time Williams has complained about the whistle the Suns have been getting. He also griped about the fact that Giannis Antetokounmpo went to the line 24 times last Tuesday and that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander shot 19 free throws on Sunday. The Suns attempted a total of 40 free throws in those losses to Milwaukee and Oklahoma City, compared to 73 for their opponents.

Trade Breakdown: Kevin Durant To The Suns (Four-Team Deal)

This is the ninth entry in our series breaking down the significant trades of the 2022/23 season. As opposed to giving out grades, this series explores why the teams were motivated to make the moves. Let’s dive into the biggest blockbuster of the year, a four-team deal between the Suns, Nets, Bucks and Pacers.

Trade details

On February 9:

  • The Suns acquired Kevin Durant and T.J. Warren.
  • The Nets acquired Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, the Suns’ 2023 first-round pick (unprotected), the Suns’ 2025 first-round pick (unprotected), the Suns’ 2027 first-round pick (unprotected), the Suns’ 2029 first-round pick (unprotected), the right to swap first-round picks with the Suns in 2028, the Bucks’ 2028 second-round pick, the Bucks’ 2029 second-round pick, and the draft rights to Juan Pablo Vaulet (from Pacers).
  • The Bucks acquired Jae Crowder.
  • The Pacers acquired Jordan Nwora, George Hill, Serge Ibaka, a 2023 second-round pick (likely the Cavaliers’ second-rounder; from Bucks), the Bucks’ 2024 second-round pick, the Pacers’ 2025 second-round pick (from Bucks), and cash ($1.36MM; from Nets).
  • Note: The Bucks acquired the Pacers’ 2025 second-round pick in a prior trade.

The Suns’ perspective:

After posting a losing record for seven straight seasons – and missing the playoffs for 10 straight – the Suns had a remarkable turnaround in 2020/21, going 51-21 and reaching the NBA Finals, ultimately losing in six games to the Bucks. Last season, the Suns held the league’s top record at 64-18, but had a meltdown in their second-round loss to Dallas, getting blown out at home in Game 7.

Phoenix was reportedly high on Durant’s list of preferred destinations when he requested a trade this past offseason, but there were rumors of low-ball offers from rival teams and Brooklyn was said to be disinterested in obliging his request.

A few weeks later, there were questions about Deandre Ayton’s eagerness to be back in Phoenix after he signed a four-year, maximum-salary offer sheet from the Pacers over the summer amid tensions with head coach Monty Williams. The Suns quickly matched, however, signaling they still valued the former first overall pick, even if his role sometimes fluctuates.

In mid-September, former owner Robert Sarver was suspended by the NBA for a year and fined $10MM for workplace misconduct, including racist and misogynistic comments, following a lengthy investigation. He subsequently decided to sell his controlling stake in the franchise to Mat Ishbia, which was finalized shortly before last month’s deadline.

Finally, right before training camp opened, Crowder said he wasn’t going to participate, as he was reportedly unhappy with Williams after being told he would come off the bench (he had started the previous two years). The Suns then made an announcement saying the two sides would work together to find Crowder a new team.

Despite all the turmoil, ‘22/23 started out pretty well, with Phoenix going 15-6 over its first 21 games. Unfortunately, Johnson tore his meniscus during that span, and Chris Paul was sidelined by a foot injury until early December. The Suns lost five straight shortly thereafter, with star guard Devin Booker going down with a groin injury in mid-December.

Obviously, Crowder being away while Johnson was hurt didn’t help. Torrey Craig did an admirable job filling in, as did Ish Wainright, who was promoted to a standard deal from a two-way contract last month. But ideally, neither player would be logging heavy minutes on a championship-caliber team.

Paul is 37 years old (38 in May), and he is not the same player he was when the Suns made the Finals a couple years ago. He’s still good, just not on the same level, particularly from a scoring standpoint. That’s a huge deal, because he was Phoenix’s second-best player during the previous two seasons.

The Suns reportedly offered up Paul in an effort to land Kyrie Irving from Brooklyn shortly before Durant made his own request. I don’t know if those rumors are true, but either way, CP3 stayed put.

By mid-January, the Suns were just 21-24, and the season was slipping away. They recovered well leading up to the trade deadline, going 9-2 over that span to sit with a 30-26 record prior to February 9. Still, the damage had been done. I don’t think the Suns make this trade – specifically the way the deal was structured – if they still believed they were a real championship contender without acquiring Durant.

Ishbia played a major role in the deal. Even before he was officially approved by the league’s Board of Governors, a report came out saying the Suns were willing to make win-now moves, and he talked about being aggressive just before the deadline. He was also quickly willing to sign off on the extra $40MM the deal cost the Suns in salaries and tax penalties, a stark departure from the previous ownership group.

A report from ESPN indicated that president of basketball operations James Jones wanted to negotiate the inclusion of Bridges or add protections to the first-round picks, but the Nets held firm in their demands. The Suns also may have had another deal lined up for Crowder, but he ultimately was included in this trade as well.

Durant is in the first season of a four-year, $194MM extension. Booker, Durant and Ayton are all under contract through at least ’25/26. If healthy, those three alone make up a very strong (and expensive) core. It remains to be seen how long Paul will be around – his $30.8MM contract for next season is guaranteed for $15.8MM, and it is fully non-guaranteed in ‘24/25.

Durant is one of the greatest players in NBA history. He is a former league MVP, two-time Finals MVP, 13-time All-Star, 10-time All-NBA member and four-time scoring champion.

In 981 career regular season games (36.7 MPG), he has averaged 27.3 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 4.3 APG, 1.1 SPG and 1.1 BPG on .499/.384/.886 shooting. In 155 career playoff games (40.4 MPG), he has averaged 29.4 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 4.1 APG, 1.0 SPG and 1.2 BPG on .476/.356/.866 shooting. He is the definition of a superstar.

Despite being 34 years old and tearing his Achilles tendon four years ago, he continues to play at an incredibly high level. In fact, when healthy, you could easily make a case for Durant being the best player in the league this season.

In 42 games (35.7 MPG), he has averaged 29.5 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 5.2 APG and 1.5 BPG on .566/.386/.931 shooting, good for an absurd .681 true shooting percentage. The FG%, FT% and TS% are all career highs. He is shooting 62.9% on twos, which is ridiculous considering the majority of his shots are mid-range jumpers.

Durant is also playing very motivated and strong defense in ‘22/23, which surprised me a bit because he had coasted on that end at times the past couple seasons. His teams have gone 29-13 this season when he has played, which is the equivalent of the second-best winning percentage (69.0%) in the league, only trailing the Bucks (71.8%).

Durant can do everything on the court at a high level. He’s 6’10” with a 7’5” wingspan, but he possesses guard-like skills, with elite shooting and excellent ball-handling. His passing has improved throughout his career, and when he tries, he is a top-tier defender. He is a matchup nightmare.

After playing in just four games from 2020-22 due to a couple of left foot surgeries, Warren finally returned to the court for the Nets in December, averaging 9.5 PPG and 2.8 RPG on .510/.333/.818 shooting in 26 games (18.8 MPG).

He clearly wasn’t at his best physically or from a production standpoint (he averaged a career-high 19.8 PPG on .536/.403/.819 shooting the season before getting injured), but he was still contributing off the bench. Warren has hardly played in his second stint with Phoenix, however, averaging just 6.4 MPG in eight games. He’s on a one-year, veteran’s minimum contract, so he might not be back next season.

A few weeks after the trade was completed, Ishbia claimed the move carried “no risk.” That, of course, isn’t true.

Durant has gone down with a sprained MCL a few seasons in a row. You could say that’s a fluke, since it has involved players falling into his knee. But that doesn’t change the fact that he’s played 35, 55 and 42 games over the past three seasons after missing all of ‘19/20 with a torn Achilles.

His ankle sprain on a routine layup while warming up prior to his fourth game with Phoenix was concerning. I could very well be wrong, but to my eyes, it didn’t look like he slipped; it looked like his ankle just gave out and rolled.

Durant is in his 16th season, has made several long playoff runs, and has also played in the World Cup (once) and the Olympics (three times) for Team USA. He’s still incredible, but the tread on his tires are pretty worn.

Giving up Bridges and Johnson stings. They were key role players for Phoenix who both improved tremendously throughout their Suns tenures, which we’ll get into more shortly.

Anytime you give up an unprotected pick in a future season it’s a risk. The Suns gave up three beyond 2023 — four if you count the 2028 pick swap, which will only be exercised if Phoenix is worse than Brooklyn.

Those picks from 2027-29 in particular could be extremely valuable. Durant will be 37 when his contract expires after ’25/26. Will he still be playing at this level, and will the Suns want to keep him if he’s not?

The Suns knew the risks. But the West is seemingly up for grabs, and they had faltered in their quest to make it back to the Finals.

I can’t say adding Durant made Phoenix the favorite in the West, but he nearly carried the Nets to the Finals with both Irving and James Harden injured a couple years ago. If healthy, this team will be extremely dangerous.

The Nets’ perspective:

The Nets were literally an inch or two away from sending Milwaukee home in Game 7 of their second-round series in 2021, which saw the Bucks prevail in overtime after Durant’s foot was on the three-point line on a potential game-winning buzzer-beater. The Bucks went on to win the championship.

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Pacific Notes: KD, Klay, Brooks, Fox, Sabonis, AD

Suns forward Kevin Durant has been able to do more on-court work lately, Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium said on FanDuel TV’s Run It Back show, adding that he believes there could be an update on the star’s status later this week (Twitter video link).

According to Charania, the Suns are “hopeful” that Durant will return to action before the end of month, or possibly in early April, though he does say the team will be cautious.

Durant has been out since March 8 after sustaining a left ankle sprain during a pregame workout routine. Charania reported the next day that he’d be reevaluated in two weeks, but the Suns said three. Either way, it’s a positive sign that the 34-year-old has been making progress in his recovery.

Here’s more from the Pacific:

  • Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks continues to rankle members of the Warriors. He repeatedly shouted “you suck” at the defending champions from the bench in the closing minutes of Saturday’s victory over Golden State, with Klay Thompson responding by counting off four on his fingers, representing his championship rings (Twitter video link via NBC Sports Bay Area). “I don’t care about Dillon Brooks,” Thompson told Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. “When he retires, I don’t think anyone will ever talk about Dillon Brooks ever again. I promise you. It’s sweet right now, but wait 10 years.” According to Barnes, Brooks commended the Warriors’ accomplishments, but slipped in a dig as well. “He’s got four rings. That’s all he was saying. It’s motivation to us,” Brooks said. “We want a ring as well. Being able to go through the process of steps that we did last year, we keep going and learning from it all. It’s friendly trash talk, but I just hold a lot of real estate over there in San Francisco.”
  • Charania recently interviewed Kings All-Stars De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis (Twitter video link). They covered a number of topics, including head coach Mike Brown, last year’s trade that brought Sabonis to Sacramento, Sabonis’ thumb injury, and their respective All-NBA cases, among others.
  • Lakers star Anthony Davis is expected to play in both games of the team’s final back-to-back set in early April, Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report said on his #thisleague UNCUT podcast with Marc Stein (Twitter link via Fox Sports Radio). According to Haynes, Davis was given the option of either playing last week’s back-to-back at New Orleans (a win with Davis) and at Houston (a loss without him), or the back-to-back set on April 4th and 5th at Utah and at the Clippers. He obviously chose the latter.

Monty Williams May Consider Rotation Shakeup

  • Suns coach Monty Williams indicated that rotation changes may be coming after Sunday’s loss at Oklahoma City, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Williams was frustrated after watching a double-digit lead slip away in the fourth quarter. “This one’s on me,” he said. “I’ve got to get guys in the game that can create a rhythm, especially on defense. We’re giving up way too many 30-point quarters, consecutively. That’s on me. I have to figure out the guys who can play together defensively as opposed to the starters to increase the momentum from an offensive and defensive standpoint.”

Bazley Said Trade To Suns "Kind Of Tough"

  • Forward Darius Bazley said that getting traded from the Thunder to the Suns jolted him, per Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. “It was kind of tough,” Bazley said. “When it first happened, it was one of those moments when you’re like, ‘Dang.’ That’s all I knew. A lot of those guys, I’ve been with them since I first came here.  In the NBA, your teammates and staff, you spend more time with them than you do your own families.” A restricted free agent this summer if extended a qualifying offer, Bazley has only made two cameos with the Suns.

Landry Shamet Cleared To Return For Suns

Veteran guard Landry Shamet will be available on Sunday for the Suns‘ game in Oklahoma City, the team officially confirmed today (via Twitter).

It will be the first time Shamet has been active for the Suns since January 16. He has missed the last two months due to a right foot injury. Prior to going down, the 26-year-old was averaging 9.5 points and 2.2 assists in 21.4 minutes per night and had made 37.7% of his three-point attempts in in 30 games.

Shamet has previously suffered stress fractures in both of his feet and said that this injury – which the Suns referred to as “right foot soreness” – could have had the same result if he had continued playing.

“Caught things right before a stress fracture,” Shamet said, per Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. “The buildup process of the discomfort and it’s sore, but you can kind of play through it and then it’s sore. Then it gets worse and worse and worse and worse and then it eventually it just breaks. Luckily we caught that early enough, which is a great thing. So that cleared up.”

Even after averting a stress fracture, Shamet dealt with nagging issues in the foot that delayed his return, as he explained on Saturday.

“Soft tissue, inflammation type situations,” Shamet said. “We worked through it. It was frustrating, very frustrating at times. Very gray. Not knowing what exactly the situation was, but our training staff did a good job of trying to identify things and collaborating with me and my team. Trying to figure it out. So we did a good job and here we are.”

According to head coach Monty Williams, Shamet won’t play a “crazy amount of minutes” immediately upon returning. The Suns have other options on the wing, including Terrence Ross and Damion Lee. Determining which of those players will be part of Phoenix’s playoff rotation will be a major consideration during the final three weeks of the regular season, notes Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports (via Twitter). In the meantime, Shamet’s teammates are just looking forward to seeing him back in action.

“Hell yeah, we’ve been waiting on it,” Devin Booker said, according to Rankin. “He’s been rehabbing. I always say how tough that can be. We want everybody healthy at the right time and it’s a good time to be coming back and getting ramped up.”