Winners and losers from Bradley Beal trade to Phoenix Suns
Suns fans have one core thing that should make them both happy and optimistic for the future: After decades under Robert Sarver’s penny-pinching ownership, they have a new owner — Mat Ishbia — willing to go for it, price be damned.
Whether Ishbia’s latest gambit will work out is another question, but the Suns have gone all-in and formed their own “big 3" by trading for Bradley Beal. To make it work they are sending Chris Paul and more to the Wizards. It’s a bold stroke, an all-in move. Let’s look at the details of the trade, such as they are right now:
Phoenix receives: Bradley Beal (and likely Jordan Goodwin and Isaiah Todd, although that is not finalized)
Washington receives: Chris Paul, Landry Shamet, multiple second-round picks, multiple pick swaps.
(The details of the picks and swaps, and players such as Goodwin and Todd, being in the deal have not been finalized and will reportedly depend partly on what Washington can get in flipping Chris Paul in another trade).
Who won and who lost? It’s not simple, but let’s break it down.
WINNER: Phoenix Suns… if everything goes perfectly
No one can fault the Suns for the mechanics of this trade: They are getting Beal for an absolute steal compared to recent trades for other All-NBA level players (Rudy Gobert cost the Timberwolves five first-round picks, including Walker Kessler, plus four players and a pick swap). Beal’s no-trade clause weighed down the price, but this is still a great trade for the Suns in a vacuum, and they will get it done before July 1 and the new CBA kicks in, which would have made it much more difficult.
This trade makes the Suns contenders if everyone is healthy and things come together for them during the playoffs. Under any circumstances they should be one of the top teams in the West.
Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and a healthy Bradley Beal would be the best trio in the NBA and the Suns should have one of the top offenses in the league next season, able to score at all three levels. That attack should grow sharper and more focused as the season progresses and the trio discovers its chemistry. If Beal can find his form of five years ago again (which is how many fans picture him, not the lesser player of the past couple of seasons), that’s a lot of shot creation and shooting rolled up in three players.
Add to that a defensive-minded coach in Frank Vogel coaching up Deandre Ayton in the paint (assuming the Suns keep him and don’t trade him for defensive depth), and the Suns can get enough stops to make it all work.
These Suns at their peak have to be considered title contenders. Any trade that puts a team in that category has to be considered a win.
LOSER: Phoenix Suns… in reality
Putting together a “big 3" with a new CBA about to start specifically designed to undercut that kind of spending — and with three stars where their fit raises questions — leaves these Suns with no margin for error. Teams riding the “if everything goes just right” train rarely get that lucky. Here are my issues with this trade for the Suns.
• Beal is an older, more expensive, more injury-prone version of Booker and their fit isn’t natural (although, great talents tend to work things out and they will find an equilibrium). Plus, with CP3 gone, Booker will be forced to play more of a point guard role — which he can do and do well, but it’s not his natural state.
• Who is the point guard for this team? Booker? Cameron Payne? Ish Smith?
• Health is a serious concern. Can the Suns get at least 60 games from each of Beal and Durant, who have battled injuries in recent years (Beal has played 90 games across the past two seasons)?
• This is the big one: The Suns got knocked out of the playoffs last month in large part because of depth issues, the team was too top heavy. This trade makes things even worse.
Beal, Durant, Booker, Ayton and Payne — the only five Suns guaranteed to be on the roster after this trade — combine for about $169 million in salary next season, which is about $7 million into the luxury tax and just $10 million short of the draconian second apron (taking away the mid-level exception this year, and more in future years). The Suns still need to add a dozen players to fill out the roster, and they will do that by re-signing players from last season’s underwhelming playoff team — Torrey Craig, Josh Okogie, Damion Lee, Jock Landale — and minimum players.
After they acquire Bradley Beal, the Phoenix Suns will have nearly 3/4 of a BILLION dollars in guaranteed money on their books for Beal, Deandre Ayton, Devin Booker and Kevin Durant.— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) June 18, 2023
Those four players combine for $723,533,041 in guaranteed salary through the 2027-28 season.
• This is not shaping up to be a good defensive team. Durant is the best perimeter defender still on the roster, and he could have some rim-protecting duties too. Vogel is a great defensive coach, but as we saw with the Lakers that only matters so much if you don’t give him players who can do the job.
WINNER: Bradley Beal
He is finally out of Washington and lands on a contender — Beal has a chance to revive his reputation, and now he’s next to teammates who can help him get there. Beal was a top 15 player in the NBA a few years back, but injuries have limited him. Maybe a new home and the chance to compete for a ring will light a fire under Beal and we will see his vintage self. The Suns are banking on it.
LOSER: Washington Wizards (at least in the short term)
Utah received five first-round picks, four players and a pick swap for Rudy Gobert. Then when the Jazz traded Donovan Mitchell they received three unprotected first-round picks, two pick swaps, plus quality players in Lauri Markkanen, Ochai Agbaji and Collin Sexton. To get Durant out of Brooklyn, these very Suns sent four unprotected picks, Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, and Jae Crowder.
The Wizards lose because they let Beal go so cheaply. They just traded their best asset and didn’t get the pieces that can help jumpstart a rebuild.
That’s not the fault of Michael Winger and the Wizards’ new front office — and they made the right move starting the rebuild anyway. It is something Washington should have done years ago. The Wizards lost this trade long before Winger even came to town — they lost it when the previous administration (and owner Ted Leonsis) gave Beal a no-trade clause with his max extension. Washington didn’t have leverage in trade talks and it showed.
WINNER: Chris Paul
CP3 said he wanted to stay in Phoenix, and no doubt he did (and no doubt that roster could use him). But this trade made him a lot of money and likely will land him even closer to his family in Los Angeles.
First, to make the trade work the Suns will have to guarantee about $12 million more of Paul’s salary for next season to make the math work. (Keith Smith has a great explainer here on what is not a simple trade.)
Second, Paul was in Phoenix partly because he wanted to be closer to his family in Los Angeles. Now the Wizards are going to try and trade him — with the Clippers being the reported frontrunner, they need a point guard — and, failing finding a deal, the Wizards will waive him. (A third possibility: Paul gets traded to a third team that wants to waive him for the cap savings, although that is a longer shot now.) If waived, CP3 will almost certainly sign with the Lakers. However this shakes out, Paul ends up back in Los Angeles with family on a team in the “if everything goes right we can contend” tier. Things worked out for Paul.
LOSER: Miami Heat (unless Portland changes its mind)
The NBA Finals showed the need for Miami to add more shot creation around Jimmy Butler. To do that the Heat are going big game hunting this offseason.
Strike one. They did not land Beal (which, again, is largely on Beal, he controlled the process).
The pitch the Miami Heat really want to hit is if Damian Lillard becomes available in a trade. The Heat are hoping that the Trail Blazers can’t find a taker for their offer of the No. 3 pick plus Anfernee Simons for another star and they have to draft Scoot Henderson or Brandon Miller. At that point maybe Lillard sits down with the Portland front office to discuss the future.
To be clear, right now Lillard is not available via trade and Plan A in Portland continues to be building a title contender around him and to keep the franchise icon in the Pacific Northwest. The Trail Blazers do not plan to make Lillard available. Miami is just hoping that the situation changes, in which case missing out on Beal will not be viewed as a loss.