The Phoenix Suns are one of the teams worth watching when the San Antonio Spurs begin making trade calls about Kawhi Leonard this offseason.
They’re not one of the leading candidates, but they could be considered a legitimate sleeper to land the 2014 NBA Finals MVP. Kevin O’Connor wrote about why the Suns could be interested in Leonard (via The Ringer):
“Several league sources told me they anticipate Suns general manager Ryan McDonough to probe a Leonard deal using the No. 1 pick. Phoenix explored Kyrie Irving trades last summer but was reluctant to deal Josh Jackson, whom they selected with the fourth overall pick. Leonard is better than Irving, so perhaps it’s time for the Suns to strike now, when they’re armed with assets and an opportunity to trade for a transcendent player. There’s also a sense from league sources that the Suns presumed selection of Arizona big man Deandre Ayton at No. 1 isn’t a guarantee because of the outside possibility that they’ll get a good enough deal to trade down or out of the draft entirely. Now that Leonard reportedly wants out, anything is possible.”
Perhaps a deal involving the No. 1 overall pick, Jackson and another asset would be enough to persuade San Antonio to trade their best player.
San Antonio could pick someone like Ayton, a big man to follow in the footsteps of David Robinson and Tim Duncan as their marquee players. Or they could pursue international star Luka Doncic and make him the face of their franchise if they do inherit the top pick in the upcoming draft.
It could be risky for the Suns to make a deal for Leonard. If they don’t get a long-term assurance from him and he decides to leave next summer (when he can hit unrestricted free agency by opting out of his contract), they would’ve given up the No. 1 overall pick and other attractive assets for a one-year rental of Leonard.
But as noted by Sam Vecenie, it could be a move meant to save jobs in the front office (via The Athletic):
“they have a legit young star in Devin Booker who wants the team to start winning sooner rather than later. Also, general manager Ryan McDonough needs to show growth in the wins and losses column this year or otherwise risk losing his job. Maybe that’s enough for the Suns to put the No. 1 pick on the table.”
Their ownership has been interested in many of the top forwards when they’ve hit free agency or become available on the trade market.
The Suns targeted LeBron James in 2014 and got a meeting with his agent Rich Paul. They also targeted Carmelo Anthony that summer, in an attempt to team him up with James. That offseason, they also expressed interest in Luol Deng and Gordon Hayward, who was a restricted free agent at the time. Then, they reportedly tried to trade for Hayward in the summer of 2016, offering Eric Bledsoe and a lottery pick.
Rudy Gay is another forward they’ve targeted over the years, as they tried to acquire him in a trade from the Memphis Grizzlies in 2013 and then when Gay hit free agency. They also have been linked to Andre Iguodala over the years, most recently showing interest last offseason.
They’ve made a run at some power forwards too, notably finishing as the runner-up in the LaMarcus Aldridge sweepstakes and trying to land Kevin Love with the No. 4 pick in last year’s draft (in a failed three-team deal that would’ve netted the Cleveland Cavaliers Paul George or Jimmy Butler).
The Spurs have other draft prospects to evaluate in the meantime, as they currently hold the No. 18 pick in the first round. Players they’ve worked out include Oregon’s Troy Brown and recent NCAA champion Donte DiVincenzo.
It’s unclear if Leonard would be interested in re-signing with the Suns when his contract is up. And it remains to be seen if Phoenix’s interest in Leonard would cool off is he’s not willing to give a long-term commitment.
But if the Suns do make the trade, a one-two punch of Leonard and Devin Booker would certainly be interesting and the Suns could become an emerging contender in the Western Conference if Leonard re-signs. There are several other teams worth watching as trade talks get underway, but the Suns are absolutely worth monitoring.