A Post-Season Debrief With The World’s (Still) Most Pessimistic Suns Fan

Before the most recent NBA season, I spoke with one person—let’s call him Anonymous Phoenix Suns Fan, as you will never guess who he is—and he said, despite Phoenix’s offseason roster moves that generated positive buzz, “they’re cursed, so none of the above matters.”

The Suns entered this year’s NBA playoffs as the sixth seed in the West, and they proceeded to get bounced in the first round by the Timberwolves in a clean sweep, a fairly unceremonious exit for the once-hyped team. NBA prognosticators will move on, because there’s always more basketball to discuss, and maybe this is evidence that the Wolves could go on a run.

But with the Suns having, uh, set, and quite early in the postseason, it only seemed right to check back in with the Cassandra of the Suns and ask what he sees coming for next season. 

First, would you like to take a moment to gloat about being right? 

Hello! It’s great to be back.

It is true that I was correct that this Suns team would surely not win in the end. But it’s hard to take too much credit for something that has been true in 56 out of 56 seasons. And, in additional fairness, at the beginning of the season, even I didn’t see this team’s season ending this badly.

But I suppose, given the level of positive preseason talk coming from both national observers and, strangely, many Suns fans—the Suns internet is weirdly populated with aggressively positive people who, to the final day, thought the team could “go on a run” and referred to realists as “doomers”—I should allow myself a small, muted, mostly humble “I told you so.” It’s the only currency I and other clear-headed Suns fans have. 

The general consensus seems to be that the Suns, with former MVP Kevin Durant and All-NBA players Devin Booker and Bradley Beal, are one of the biggest failures, or are perhaps even a singular failure, of the “Super Team” model. Do you think that’s true? 

I guess it depends on what you mean by “failure.” In pure terms, and I might be forgetting a team or two, this would probably rival the 2012-13 Lakers as the most unsuccessful “superteam” season ever (though I should pettily point out that those Lakers got handily beaten in every game of their first-round sweep; at least these Suns made Game 4 close).

If we’re talking about relative to expectations, then everyone’s mileage may vary—even when you removed emotion from my preseason prognostications, I and other astute observers feared that this team, and its famous stars, might not be as good in 2023–24 as their reputation suggested.

And of course, some people (certainly new owner Mat Ishbia) would tell you that this superteam’s story hasn’t been written yet. They could go on a run next year! This is basketball, you never know what’s going to happen! (Except, in the NBA, you usually do.) So because there might be more games yet to play, in literal terms, we do not know whether this team is a failure yet.

That is, unless the Suns decide to do the right thing…

Which is…? 

Many will tell you that because the Suns traded so, so much of their future, they have no choice but to stick it out with this group. But that is Sunk Cost Fallacy 101. 

Sure, this team could theoretically improve with more continuity on the court and a better-matching coach off it. But betting on a group led by players who will be 36, 28, and an injury-prone 31 to go from first-round sweep to championship contender—and after 56 years without a title, championships are all anyone associated with this team should care about basketball-wise—seems ill-advised in any version of the NBA, let alone one where so many younger teams are better already

And that’s before we get to the new CBA rules, which harshly punish teams that keep payrolls as high as Phoenix’s for too long. Is it really worth further risking several years of the future to chase this ghost?

All of this is to say that the Suns should start by making a big trade. Beal’s contract is virtually impossible to move, so probably not him. Booker is still too young to trade just yet. But Durant is just right. The Suns won’t get what they gave up for him, but they would get more now than they would at the deadline, or next offseason, or whenever they eventually face the reality of their situation. Some good teams (Philly?) will have cap space this summer. And this is the only way to recoup picks.

(While we’re at it, the Suns should also stop being draft truthers and realize that the draft is a very smart, economical way to build a team, even if you aren’t picking in the high lottery. The whole reason they’re in this mess is because of decisions they made in 2018 and 2020. Do the right thing on just one of those draft nights and Phoenix could have a young, exciting core that rivals Boston’s right now.)

Gutting a team is always a choice. It still hasn’t all come together for the Sixers, after all. And, I’d also ask, if they are as cursed as you have said, what’s the point? 

Wow. Umm…

You know, I—

I think I need to go for a walk.

Wait, I had more questions! Hello … hello?

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