Should Phoenix Suns 'blow it up'? Charles Barkley thinks so
Charles Barkley will rejoin his Phoenix Suns teammates from the 1992-93 squad that reached the NBA finals this weekend as they’ll be honored at halftime of Saturday’s game against Indiana at Footprint Center.
He recently said the current Suns (21-24) shouldn’t remain intact.
“My Phoenix Suns need to blow it up,” said Barkley on TNT’s ‘Inside The NBA’ earlier this month. “The Suns are not going to win a championship.”
The Hall of Famer initially started a conversation about teams he thought needed to be ka-boomed starting with the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat.
“When you look at this season, I got zero idea who is going to win the championship,” Barkley said. “There’s some teams that are going to have to make some trades.”
At the time, Chicago was 17-21 while Miami stood at 20-19. The Bulls split their next six games, but the Heat are now 25-21 after Wednesday’s win over New Orleans.
With pen and paper, Kenny Smith asked Barkley if there are any Western Conference teams who should blow up their squads.
Barkley quickly named his Suns.
At the time, Phoenix was 20-19 and coming off a 90-88 loss at Cleveland to end a season-long six-game road trip. The short-handed Suns have gone 1-4 since and were on a three-game losing skid heading into Thursday night’s game against the Nets.
The Suns are looking to get healthy as Cam Johnson was set to return Thursday, having missed 37 games after tearing his right meniscus Nov. 4 against Portland, but they still are without five players.
- Chris Paul (sore right hip)
- Josh Okogie (nasal fracture)
- Landry Shamet (right foot soreness)
- Cameron Payne (right foot sprain)
- Devin Booker (left groin strain)
Paul was listed as questionable Wednesday after missing five games with a sore right hip. Monty Williams said Paul practiced “full bore” Wednesday, but the All-Star point guard remains out.
Okogie suffered a broken nose Monday against the Grizzlies when he took an elbow from teammate Deandre Ayton, who was fouled on the play by Steven Adams.
Shamet had just returned Monday after missing three games with a sore right hip. He now has a sore right foot.
Booker and Payne are scheduled for re-evaluations later this month.
On top of that, the Suns have yet to move Jae Crowder, who hasn’t played one game this season as the two sides “mutually agreed” he wouldn’t attend training camp.
He’s been missed, but the Suns were once 16-7 without Crowder.
If the Suns can get healthy by, say, the first of February and move Crowder by the Feb. 9 trade deadline for a player who can contribute, they could not only make a run into playoff contention, but a deep one in the postseason.
Once atop the West in early December, the Suns now are 12th in the conference. They wre 12½ games out of first place heading into Thursday's games, but just 1½ behind the sixth spot that’s being held by Golden State.
Phoenix is 3-0 against the defending NBA champion Warriors this season, winning the three games by an average margin of 17.3 points.
The top six playoff teams avoid the play-in tournament to make the postseason.
Is there still a trade possibility for Phoenix?
The Suns have had 16 different starting lineups going into Thursday’s game.
With the injuries and lack of chemistry, Phoenix has yet to discover how good it can be, but Barkley’s assessment can’t be dismissed, either.
They aren’t playing well, don’t have to same edge that fueled their franchise-record 64-win season last year and have matchup problems against Denver, Memphis, New Orleans and Dallas.
Phoenix doesn’t look like a championship contender, but it may not be in the position to change that with a game-changing trade.
With interim team governor Sam Garvin unable to make a major move without Robert Sarver’s approval and the NBA having yet to approve billionaire mortgage lender Mat Ishbia's purchase of the team from Sarver, the Suns appear to be in a holding pattern that won’t allow them to make a colossal trade.
However, Phoenix has tradeable assets if it is looking to drastically change its structure starting with Ayton, who is on a max deal of four years, $133 million.
The Pacers made an offer sheet this summer the Suns matched. A key component to the deal is Ayton can veto any trade for a year. The contract also included a provision that prevented the Suns from trading Ayton until Jan. 15.
Yahoo’s Jake Fischer reported Ayton and Pacers’ big Myles Turner have been on Toronto’s radar. While he’s been inconsistent, especially with Paul and Booker out, and dealt with nagging left ankle injury, Ayton is a big who averaged a double-double through his first four seasons, can shoot, is athletic and can rebound.
In return, the Suns could get players and picks.
Then there’s Paul.
He’s one of best point guards to ever play the game, but between his age (37) and the injuries, the Suns could look for a younger point guard who can consistently play at a faster pace. Paul has two years left on his four-year, $120-million deal, but the last year of his deal is non-guaranteed.
Booker is clearly the franchise player. He signed a four-year supermax deal last summer for $224 million that kicks in the 2024-25 season.
Mikal Bridges is a two-way player who has yet to miss a game in his NBA career, now in its fifth season, and led the league in total minutes played last season.
After those two, Phoenix could shake up its roster as teams could use a shooter like Johnson, who started the season connecting on a career-best 43.1% of his 3s through eight games before suffering the knee injury.
Johnson is in the final year of his rookie contract. He and the Suns couldn’t agree on a rookie extension this past summer, so he will be a restricted free agent this upcoming summer.
Shamet did receive a rookie extension and will be an unrestricted free agent in 2026. He’s a player who could be part of a package deal.
The Suns have several more players who will be unrestricted free agents in the next two seasons, including Cameron Payne after the 2023-24 season.
Dario Saric, Torrey Craig, Bismack Biyombo, Damion Lee and Josh Okogie will all be unrestricted free agents after this season while Jock Landale will be a restricted free agent.
The roster will change after this season, but right now, Phoenix appears to be waiting to get healthy and make a run. If the playoffs started today, the Suns wouldn’t even make the play-in, let alone the playoffs.
That’s probably part of Barkley’s thinking about blowing up his current Phoenix Suns.
Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at email@example.com or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.
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