Phoenix Suns superstar Kevin Durant isn’t happy with how the Phoenix Suns are doing. Are we about to hear a trade request again?
“You talk to people in Phoenix, they can feel the frustration with Kevin Durant. Part of that is the missed games with Bradley Beal. Having Kevin Durant still playing at an All-NBA level, and a healthy Kevin Durant, there’s a lot at stake for this organization… It’s gotta change soon.”
It hasn’t been a year since Durant arrived in Phoenix. He was traded to the desert from the Brooklyn Nets a mere nine months ago, and it had the Suns unloading a ton of assets, including three first-round picks and two key rotation players in Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson, both of which are currently performing nicely for the Nets.
The Suns, who were already contenders, went up a notch further considering they’ll get a superstar to add alongside Devin Booker and Chris Paul. It was expectedly good at first, but injuries hindered the run, and it ended with them getting bounced in the second round by the eventual 2022-23 NBA Champion Denver Nuggets. Paul got hurt early in the series and was soon traded away for scoring machine Bradley Beal.
With a third star and a new coach in defensive-minded Frank Vogel on deck for the 2023-24 campaign, a bright outlook was put on Phoenix. It was (again) good initially as they looked fine and even went on a seven-game winning streak in late November, where they put up 124.7 points per game on 51.6% shooting (43.9% from three), topped off by having an average winning margin of 9.8 points. Durant lit up defenses for an astounding 34.2 PPG on 60.6% clip, while Booker backed him up for 28.9 PPG. The exciting part is the star trio never played together in that stretch. Beal was actually sidelined throughout all of that.
As we know now, though, the absence was both good and bad – good that it gave confidence at that time, and bad because they soon realized it wouldn’t hold up for long.
Since that hot run, the Suns have only gone 3-9, which included blown leads and losses to the rebuilding Portland Trail Blazers and the struggling Toronto Raptors. Durant’s 28.9 PPG and shooting split of 49.5/39.1/85.0 in all of that was basically wasted, as well Booker’s 27.4 PPG and 8.0 APG.
Beal was still mostly out in that frame as he has missed 23 of 29 games thus far. He’s still without a timetable. At the same time, questions about the supporting cast are starting to get more steam. While Jusuf Nurkic, Grayson Allen, and Eric Gordon, among others, all have good resumes as complimentary pieces, they average almost half less than Durant and Booker, and even if you look past that, the late-game collapses are proving that something’s missing, particularly in the second unit. The bench currently ranks just 26th in PPG and offensive rating, and four of those in the regular bench rotation, namely Josh Okogie, Archie Goodwin, Keita Bates-Diop, and Yuta Watanabe, are all shooting below 40% on the season.
Whether his frustrations are hearsay or not, it seems like it overflowed in Tuesday’s 128-114 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. On the day news broke that Durant is unhappy with his team’s roster, he played lethargic all game, shooting just 4-of-11 for 16 points with six turnovers, while two of his teammates basically had career games: Allen had 32 points with a Christmas Day record eight threes and Chimezie Metu added 23 and pulled down 19 boards.
Also, at a crucial part of the fourth quarter, Durant missed an easy assignment that led to an easy two points.
In any case, losing despite high-scoring outputs, teammate injuries, and/or other team issues are reminiscent of what Durant experienced in his former teams before wanting out, so if things don’t get better anytime soon, who’s to say he can finish the season as a Sun?
Phoenix is one game below .500 at 14-15, ranked just 11th in the Western Conference. Next on their calendar are the Houston Rockets, who are second in points allowed and defensive rating.