NBA Rumors: 3 Downward trending teams with future-defining decisions to make

The Atlanta Hawks, Phoenix Suns, and New Orleans Pelicans had disappointing exits in this year's playoffs. Now they are faced with some difficult decisions heading into the offseason.
Atlanta Hawks v Minnesota Timberwolves
Atlanta Hawks v Minnesota Timberwolves / David Berding/GettyImages
2 of 3

Phoenix Suns

Before the season began, the Phoenix Suns were one of the favorites to win an NBA championship. Wow! I bet they had a great season right? Well…not quite.

The Suns were one of the more disappointing teams in the NBA this season. They weren’t bad, finishing the regular season with a record of 49-33 and ranking top ten in net rating, but they were not an elite team, which they were probably expecting after trading for Bradley Beal during the offseason.

Despite being considered a championship contender by betting markets before the season, the Suns finished second in their own division and ranked ninth in offensive rating. On top of this, they also got swept by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first round of the playoffs. Failing to have an elite offense and getting destroyed in the first round of the playoffs was shocking for a team with a trio of stars in Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, and Bradley Beal.

Where do the Suns go from here? Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy answer because the Suns have some serious roster construction issues and they have to worry about the luxury tax. One thing they have to consider is trading Bradley Beal. They need more depth and pairing Booker and Durant with Beal didn’t have the results they wanted.

When these three players were on the floor together, the Suns had a net rating of 6.71, which is a very strong mark. With just Booker and Durant on the floor, they had a net rating of 5.32, with just Durant on the floor they had a net rating of 6.51, and with just Booker on the floor, they had a net rating of 5.49. The Suns performed much worse with just Bradley Beal on the floor without Booker and Durant, as the Suns had a net rating of -2.21 in these minutes.

The idea of pairing these three players together is you would potentially perform at a historic level when all three players are on the floor and you can still have good lineups when just one of these guys is on the floor. 

Unfortunately, lineups with these three stars on the floor were great, but not historic, and lineups with Beal but without Durant and Booker were awful. Considering this lineup data, it would make sense for the Suns to trade Beal to get a backup center and other role players who can raise the floor of the team when Durant and/or Booker are on the bench. 

Unfortunately, this will be hard to do because Beal’s contract is massive and includes a no-trade clause. This means there likely wouldn’t be many teams interested in trading for him and he would have to approve of any deal the Suns wanted to make. It’s going to be hard for the Suns to solve the issues with their roster. There is no easy answer for their problems, but they have to make some big changes if they want to get over the hump and make another run to the Finals like they did in 2021.