Live EventBarstool Sports Picks Central | Thursday, April 25th, 2024Watch Now
RNR 24 - PPV Replay Available to Order Until May 5thBUY HERE

The Kevin Durant Era In Phoenix Begins Tomorrow

Chris Coduto. Getty Images.

The last time we saw Kevin Durant play NBA basketball was January 8th, 2023 (shoutout Papa Greenie's 70th birthday). Since then, you could say a few things have changed across the league, including for Kevin Durant. 

Now, 52 days later, the biggest domino of the entire trade deadline will step back onto the court for the first time as a member of the Phoenix Suns. One of the true potential title alternating moves will be on display for the world to see, and nit comes at a pretty important time. Just 1.5 games separate the 4 seed (Suns) from the 7 seed (Warriors), and if you look at the remaining schedule of everyone around the Suns, having a healthy core for the stretch run is a huge deal. Teams like SAC (3rd), GS (7th), LAC (5th) all have tougher remaining schedules against PHX, and the Suns still have H2H games against the Nuggets (2) Kings (2), Clippers (1), and Mavs (1) left. These are all very, very important for the Suns to win if they want stay in the top 4 or even potentially climb, as they currently trail SAC by 3 games. You beat them head to head, that lead immediately shrinks to 1. 

Part of me kind of wants that to happen and the Mavs to stay in 6th so we get a PHX/DAL opening round, but there's a lot of basketball to be played so who knows how it shakes out.

What I do know is there are a few things I'm very excited to see when it comes to these new look Suns. KD is one of those guys who essentially fits every possible system in existence, so it's not as if the Suns are going to have to change how they play, they just get to add one of the greatest scorers ever into the mix. 

I figured if there are any Suns fans reading this that are feeling great about tomorrow, why not bump it up a few levels with some quality Suns porn. And sorry, I don't mean this video

I mean basketball porn, because you better brace yourself. We're about to get a ton of it out in the desert. 

It's going to take some getting used to when it comes to seeing KD in Suns colors, but once we get past that, here's what I can't wait to see.

KD & Devin Booker

This might top the list for me. Two of the purest scorer the league has, I can't wait to see what they do next to each other. We already know KD looks awesome playing next to an elite shot creator, whether that's Steph or Kyrie, and that is how I would describe Devin Booker. He's an offenive monster, and from the sounds of it you get the sense that KD can't wait either

The thing I always felt Booker never really gets enough credit for is his passing and playmaking. Did you know he's averaging 5.7 assists this year? That's his highest total in 2 seasons and he's never played next to a pure scorer like KD. The space this is going to create for one another on the offensive end is going to be crazy. What do you do? 

Just think of a lineup when you have CP3/Booker/KD/Ayton all on the floor together. Where is the weakness offensively? I can't wait to see what the gravity of KD does for Booker's game both as a scorer and a passer. Defenses can no longer narrow in on Booker the same way they could before this trade, and when you have two guys that don't really have an offensive weakness, that's pretty scary.

Can you imagine some Booker/KD P&Rs? How do you stop that shit given that Booker is such a talented passer? If you play drop, Booker will just pull up. If you switch, OK fine, KD can do whatever he wants. It might take a few games to get used to each other, but the offensive potential between those two is crazy high.

How does Monty Williams stagger his lineups?

To get KD, the Suns gave up some depth pieces. They also added guys like Terrance Ross (and TJ Warren), so I'm interested to see how Monty handles his subs. While we didn't have KD in their game against the Bucks this weekend, we saw Torrey Craid be the first sub for Terrance Ross at the 6 minute mark. The Suns then went with Booker + the bench for a few minutes before coming out with 1 minute left. 

Personally, I think there should be a way to have at least 2 of the 4 core players on the court at the same time, but at the very least have an early sub in the 1st for KD/Booker, and then have that guy come in early in the 2nd and run that second unit. That's basically how Monty subbed Josh Okogie/Torrey Craig this weekend, so I imagine the same will be true with KD. 

With a floor spacer like Damion Lee out there with the second unit, you probably can't choose wrong. I'm just curious to see how cautious they are with KD's minutes and how they find ways to keep their older stars fresh.

Who takes over in the clutch

Some might say this is a good problem to have, and I am one of those people. When you're dealing with elite veteran players who understand what's at stake, this type of stuff isn't usually a problem. I keep going back to that Big 3 interview when they were asked this very question

Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, and Devin Booker are three of the most lethal clutch time players we have. All three are extremely deadly from midrange. All all great in P&R. All are great FT shooters. All are great shot creators. 

It's going to be a pick your poison situation for opposing defenses, and that's what makes this so exciting. One night it could be KD, the next Booker, the next CP3. Whenever we get these power teams like this, I'm always interested in the end of game scenarios. Sometimes, egos get in the way. People want to be THE GUY.

But the ones that see the bigger picture? Those are the teams that usually get over the title hump, which is what the Suns are trying to do. We all know about CP3s playoff struggles, and how he maybe collapses at the end. Well now that person is going to be KD if they choose it to be for that specific game. That's….a bit of an upgrade.

How does the defense look?

Losing an elite on ball wing defender like Mikal Bridges is going to have an impact on your team defense. That's how good he is. But you know what? KD is no slouch either defensively. He's older and maybe a little slower, but he's an elite team defender. 

As of now, the Suns have a top 10 team defense (8th). They only gave up 101 to MIL (no Giannis) without KD, so that's encouraging. If you go back to last season when the Suns were a wagon, they had the 3rd best defense in basketball. The year before, when they were 51-21 in the 71 game season, they had the 6th best defense.

In the playoffs last year, that defense kind of tanked to be 11th in the field of 16 teams. If you remember those Mavs games, they gave up 113 in Game 6 and another 123 in the Game 7 blowout. The year the Suns made the Finals, they had the 3rd best playoff defense. 

So even though they may be an offensive juggernaut, history tells us that in the playoffs, you have to be able to get stops if you want to go deep. In 2020-21, the #1 and #3 defenses made the Finals. Last year, it was the #2 and #6 (GS was the 2nd best defense in the West). Can this team get enough consistent stops to limit the firepower they'll be going up against? I can't wait to find out.

Deandre Ayton

If you look at Ayton's raw numbers, you see 18.7/10.1/2.0 on 59/30% which on the surface seems pretty good. But when you watch the Suns play, he for sure looks checked out way too often. Doesn't play hard, isn't aggressive, shit like that.

I wonder if bringing in KD and the Suns instantly becoming legit contenders brings new life to Ayton's season, which would be a pretty big deal. His offensive win shares are down, but I imagine adding another elite offensive talent might help there, but he's another guy that needs to get back to his 2020-22 level defensively. To me, it's an effort thing, and I wonder if now that the Suns have a real shot if all those issues will melt away.

The Suns are in a win now window, everyone knows that. They went for it, brought in a superstar, and now have enough talent on paper to win the whole thing. The beauty of the NBA though, is it doesn't always work out based on what you see on paper. You gotta show up and execute. Who knows how long this Durant era will last in PHX given his history, but tomorrow could very well be the first step towards the franchise's first ever title. Buckle up.