Grading the Bradley Beal to Phoenix trade

Wherever Kevin Durant goes, a super team label will follow. We just have to figure out whether the super team can keep it together and make a deep run toward a championship. We saw a couple of titles go his way when he joined the powerhouse Golden State Warriors in 2016. We did not see that same success when KD joined Kyrie Irving on the Brooklyn Nets and eventually saw the team trade for James Harden. That quickly broke up. Durant found himself on the Suns at the trade deadline earlier this year, and the combination of him, Devin Booker and Chris Paul only yielded a second-round exit.

Adding Beal to the mix in exchange for two guards the franchise didn’t want anymore seems to be a good swap on the surface. Beal is one of the most talented scorers in the NBA. He’s also an underrated playmaker for others, averaging 5.5 assists per game over his last five seasons. In two of those seasons, he averaged 6.1 and 6.6 assists per game. He’s had a 25.9 percent assist rate and an 11.6 percent turnover rate over those five seasons. To put that into perspective, another underrated playmaker, his new teammate Booker, has a 26.9 percent assist rate and a 12.6 turnover rate during this same five-year stretch.

Beal and Booker can exist in the same backcourt, likely with Booker taking the role of lead guard most of the time, because both are exceptional scorers and willing playmakers who take care of the ball. As we saw in the little time Durant and Booker spent on the court together, the offense was running a lot through them anyway. They didn’t need a more traditional point guard to get the ball up the floor and get the offense into its spots. Beal will fit into that dynamic pretty well, and as with any big three, you expect to have at least one of these guys on the court at all times.

That will be the challenge for new coach Frank Vogel: figuring out the right rotation and combination of guys to stagger minutes throughout the flow of a game. Luckily for Phoenix, he and his coaching staff have an entire summer and training camp/preseason to do that.

This isn’t all gravy for the Suns, though. This is going to be a highly expensive trio that makes it difficult to add significant role players. Starting in 2024-25, Durant, Beal and Booker will each make over $50 million per season. The luxury tax for next season is expected to be around $162 million. It will likely be higher than that, but the super punitive second apron for luxury-tax thresholds is going to be in the $180 million to $190 million range down the road. Maybe a little higher depending on how much the cap numbers jump.

Phoenix is already at the projected luxury-tax number for 2023-24 with just the Beal, Booker, Durant and Ayton contracts.

The Suns simply won’t have flexibility in adding many players beyond veteran minimums. That makes this summer super imperative for adding role players on a discount. It’s safe to wonder whether Ayton could be moved in exchange for spreading that $30 million-plus per season over the next three seasons across multiple role players if they can get two or three guys back in exchange. Then maybe the Suns just hope guys such as Jock Landale and Bismack Biyombo can man the middle enough.

Most of Phoenix’s valuable picks were already gone to Brooklyn in the Durant trade. There are a lot of complications with filling out the roster for this salary setup, but the Suns didn’t give up much to test the waters.

As for Washington, what are you doing?

Washington acquires Chris Paul, Landry Shamet, multiple second-round picks and first-round pick swaps.

That’s … it?

They rerouted CP3 to Golden State for Jordan Poole and a 1st round pick, but still. This rebuild was long overdue so they get credit for finally cutting the cord on the Beal era. But they’re not jump starting their rebuild with much of anything.

Beal is an elite scorer in an offensive league. If Rudy Gobert on possibly the worst contract in the league can land 4 1st round picks, Beal should have been able to land you at least 2.

The organization was not very successful in the Beal era, and he decided to clear the books and take some draft capital scraps in exchange for an All-NBA and All-Star-level talent. I have no problem with deciding Beal isn’t your franchise guy. There hasn’t been an overwhelming level of success in trying to put a team around him so far.

This just doesn’t seem like an alluring haul for such an incredible talent, regardless of lack of team success in the past. Picks swaps and second-round picks don’t feel like a sexy haul, but at least the Wizards move on and start to rebuild. We’ll have to see what the next step of the plan is for the organization.

For the Suns, its championship or bust for the foreseeable future. This is the roster going forward. Win or drown in these massive salaries.

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