When Kevin Durant brought chaos to the NBA offseason with his trade request, he wanted to go to one of two teams: The Suns or Heat.
While speculation flew around about the Suns and a possible Deandre Ayton sign-and-trade for Durant, the sides were never really close to a deal, Suns GM James Jones told Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. Jones’ impression was like that of many others around league front offices: The Nets didn’t really want to trade Durant.
"We had discussions with Brooklyn about their desires and what they were trying to do, but ultimately, I would say like most teams, there was nothing to it.”
"Not much discussion, in-depth discussion."
— Duane Rankin (@DuaneRankin) September 9, 2022
“Brooklyn wanted to keep Kevin Durant in Brooklyn. And that’s why he’s in Brooklyn and not on some other team, but as far as with us, I get it.”
Brooklyn got its wish, Durant is still a Net and is all-in for the season.
Ayton kept hearing his name in trade rumors, and the Suns would not offer him a max contract extension, so he went out and got the Pacers to give him the max. The Suns almost instantly matched it. In the second part of his Q&A with Rankin and the Arizona Republic, Jones says things are good with Ayton.
“The contract stuff is behind us, and our focus now is how do we help him improve and continue to improve. We have ideas and plans to do that… He’s good. He’s in great shape. He’s really been in the gym working on what I’d say are ‘second-level things’ and I know he’s excited to prove that he’s better than he was last year.”
The Suns are essentially running it back this season with a team that won a league-best 64 games last season but were bounced by Luka Doncic and the Mavericks in the second round of the playoffs. The Suns enter the season as contenders (they made the Finals a couple of years ago) but in a deeper West this season they need to be better to get back to the Finals. Ayton needs to be better and more consistent. Cam Johnson needs to take a big step forward. Chris Paul cannot have any fall-off. A lot of things have to go right.
Kevin Durant would have helped with that, but his landing on the Suns was apparently never close.