NBA Trade Deadline: The Phoenix Suns Might Not Need to Make a Move, but a Couple of Players Could Push Them Over the Top
The only thing hotter right now than the Phoenix Suns may be the actual one at the center of the Milky Way galaxy. After completing a home-and-home sweep of the Utah Jazz, Phoenix leads the Western Conference by 3.5 games and has eight straight wins. With the Feb. 10 NBA trade deadline two weeks away, the Suns might be the only team in the league that could legitimately look at their roster and say, “Nah, we’re good.”
Are they playing without injured center Deandre Ayton? No problem. Phoenix is 16–3 without him. Backup JaVale McGee missed the Suns’ 105–97 win at Salt Lake City on Jan. 26. Bismack Biyombo and Jalen Smith combined for 20 points, 13 rebounds, and five blocked shots.
There are some moves Suns general manager James Jones could explore. Title windows don’t open often, and Phoenix is proof: Since the franchise’s debut in 1968, the Suns have reached the NBA Finals only three times and are still pursuing the club’s first title. What could the team do before the deadline?
1. Add bench shooting at the NBA trade deadline by getting Eric Gordon
Given his injury-plagued early career, it’s somewhat stunning that Eric Gordon is still doing his thing in his 14th NBA season. But not only is The Hobbit rolling along, but he’s also doing it with never-before-seen efficiency.
At 33, he’s hardly a demographic fit for a Houston Rockets franchise deep in rebuilding mode. But he’s not missing a beat, scoring 14.6 points a night while shooting 55.5% from 2-point range and 44.5% from deep. Both of those marks are the second-highest of his career. Gordon’s 63.6% True Shooting is a career-high by a landslide.
While he’s started 30 of the 41 games he’s played, the veteran is a former Sixth Man of the Year winner and could easily slide into a full-time reserve mode behind Devin Booker and Chris Paul in the backcourt.
Jones could get Gordon for his 2024 first-round pick (the earliest one available to trade). The Phoenix Suns owe their 2022 first-round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder from the November 2020 Paul trade. While the selection is protected, it’s fair to assume the Suns won’t be in the top 12 of this year’s draft. The Stepien Rule prevents Phoenix from trading its 2023 pick.
The Suns’ greatest need approaching the NBA trade deadline isn’t on the wing, but Abdel Nader hasn’t played since November, and backup point guard Cameron Payne is nursing a sore wrist.
Still, if you’re chasing a championship, a veteran like Gordon isn’t a bad option.
2. The Phoenix Suns could get some grit and acquire Kenrich Williams
Combo forward Kenrich Williams defied the odds, becoming a valuable rotation player after everyone in the 2018 NBA Draft bypassed him. The 27-year-old averaged 7.1 points and 4.1 rebounds in 20.8 minutes a game for the Thunder. He’s added some range to his jumper, hit6ting 38.2% on 2.3 long-ball attempts per game.
While Williams told Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman that he’s happy in OKC, and the gritty three-year veteran might be hampering the team’s plan to tank and reload. Moving him at the NBA trade deadline might make sense in those terms.
Oklahoma City is 27th in the NBA with a net rating of minus-7.4 points per 100 possessions. But in 813 minutes with Williams on the floor, the Thunder are plus-3.0. In the 1,443 minutes the TCU product has been a spectator, they are a ghastly minus-12.8.
According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, general manager Sam Presti reportedly wants a first-round pick for Williams. If hustle and defense are what Jones is looking for, the 2024 pick isn’t a hefty price to pay.
Williams is a switchy defender at 6-foot-6 and 210-pounds. Thunder coach Mark Daigneault uses him as a small-ball big and lockdown defender. Whatever the team needs, he does. You can’t have too many players like that in a winning organization.
3. The Phoenix Suns could stand pat at the NBA trade deadline
At 38–9, the Phoenix Suns have the best record in franchise history after 47 games. The 1992–93 team that won 62 games and reached the NBA Finals behind Charles Barkley was 37–10 at the same point.
The Suns have survived Ayton’s injuries. They added McGee in the offseason to address a glaring weakness exploited by the Bucks in the NBA Finals.
Plus, the team knows how to close out close games. Phoenix is an NBA best 17–3 in clutch situations (defined as the final five minutes with the score within five points) and has an absurd plus-43.6 net rating in those situations.
While they hold opponents to 35.6% shooting overall and 20.4% accuracy from 3-point range in crunch time, the Suns hit 60.0% and 39.5%, respectively.
It’s understandable if the Phoenix Suns want to tweak the roster around the edges before the NBA trade deadline. But it’s just as plausible they decide they’re the best team in the league already, so why disrupt the flow? It’s an enviable position to be in 14 days out from the deadline.
Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference and NBA.com.
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