If Kyrie Irving isn’t taking a significant pay cut, he ain’t going to the Phoenix Suns.
News broke on Thursday that the former Nets All-Star — as expected — intends to meet with the Suns when free agency begins on Friday at 6 p.m. Given the financial restraints the Suns already face after trading for Bradley Beal, and the more restrictive handicap looming if they do trade for Irving, it’s hard to see Thursday’s news cycle as anything more than a negotiation tactic.
Unless Irving is willing to forego the bag and take a pay cut north of $10M to give the Suns flexibility to fill the roster out with veteran’s minimum contracts, a reunion with Kevin Durant out West is difficult to envision.
Acquiring a player via sign-and-trade hard caps a team at the tax apron, which is $171M this summer. The Suns are already set to pay Beal, Devin Booker and Durant a combined $130 in salary next season.
Irving earned $36.5M in salary last season, and the minimum player salary — the only mechanism the Suns have left to sign free agents this summer — will see about a 10% bump in lockstep with the year-over-year increase in salary cap.
That’s $130M for Beal, Booker and Durant, plus an average of about $2.5M spread across 10 minimum players on the roster.
Simple math gets us to a $155M payroll — without Irving’s cap figure in a sign-and-trade.
It makes the pathway to a deal not worth the effort when you consider the roster shortcomings that will plague a team built around three score-first guards standing 6-5, 6-4 and 6-2. The Suns would become the NBA’s Harlem Globetrotters, and maybe that’s what new owner Mat Ishbia wants. The same team that got annihilated by the Denver Nuggets due to a glaring lack of size somehow is finding a way to get smaller.
It doesn’t make much sense — though it would be tons of fun to watch at The Rucker — which is why this could be more of a negotiation tactic than anything else.
Irving has all the leverage as an unrestricted free agent who could leave the Dallas Mavericks this summer for nothing. The Mavericks just let Jalen Brunson walk to the New York Knicks in free agency, then traded Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith and draft compensation to the Nets for Irving in February.
They can’t afford to let Irving walk, let alone walk for nothing. Especially if they intend on keeping Luka Doncic in town for the rest of his career.
The Mavericks can offer the All-Star guard a five-year deal worth north of $270M. It’s unclear what other suitors are willing to pay the premium for Irving after the dumpster fire he created in Brooklyn — but it sure seems someone out there wants you to believe the Suns are willing to kneecap themselves to get him.
The better move for Phoenix, quite frankly, is moving off of Deandre Ayton for depth at other positions on the roster — especially if the Suns are high on Jock Landale, the 25-year-old big man who played well when given the opportunity last season. If the Suns are running Booker at the one, Beal at the two and Durant at the three or four, they need size and shooting on the perimeter and a strong rebounder and rim protector — which Landale is not — at center.
Phoenix has enough roster questions as it is, and as tempting as creating an all-time superteam may seem, chefs call it “too many cooks in the kitchen” for a reason. An Irving trade would make the Suns the best NBA team in video game history by far.
Would it win them a championship? Talented teams miss the playoffs every season when the pieces don’t fit together.
Source: Berkshire mont