Charles Barkley will join his Phoenix Suns teammates from the 1992-93 NBA Finals team this weekend as they are honored at halftime of Saturday’s game against Indiana at the Footprint Center.
He recently said that the present Sun (21-24) should not remain the same.
“My Phoenix Suns need to blow it,” Barkley said 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 which teams he thought needed ka-boomed starting with the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat.
“When you look at this season, I had no idea who was going to win the championship,” Barkley said. “There are some teams that are going to have to do some deals.”
At the time, Chicago was 17-21 while Miami was 20-19. The Bulls split their next six games, but the Heat is now 25-21 after Wednesday’s win over New Orleans.
With pen and paper, Kenny Smith asked Barkley if any Western Conference teams should blow their own.
Barclay soon gave his name to Suns.
At the time, Phoenix was 20-19 and lost 90-88 in Cleveland to end a six-game road trip. The Suns have gone 1-4 short-handed since then and have been on a three-game losing streak heading into Thursday night’s game against the Nets.
The Suns are looking to recover as Cam Johnson was set to return Thursday, after missing 37 games after tore his right meniscus on November 4 against Portland, but they are still without five players.
- Chris Paul (right hip sore)
- Josh Okoji (broken nose)
- Landry Shammit (right foot ache)
- Cameron Payne (right foot sprain)
- Devin Booker (left thigh strain)
Paul was listed as a suspect on Wednesday after missing five games with a sore right hip. Paul trained to “full endurance” Wednesday, Monte Williams said, but the All-Star guard is still out on the field.
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.
And Chamett had just returned Monday after missing three games with a sore right groin. He now has pain in his right foot.
Booker and Payne are scheduled to be reassessed later this month.
Moreover, the Suns have yet to move Jae Crowder, who hasn’t played a single game this season as “both sides agreed” he wouldn’t attend training camp.
He missed it, but the Sun was one day 16-7 without Crowder.
If the Suns can recover on, say, February 1st and move Crowder by the February 9th trade deadline for a player who can contribute, they can not only get into playoff contention, but also the postseason.
Once atop the West in early December, the Suns are now ranked 12th in the conference. They’re 12 games out of first place heading into Thursday’s games, but they’re only behind sixth place held by Golden State.
Phoenix is 3-0 against the defending NBA champion Warriors this season, winning three games by an average margin of 17.3 points.
The top six playoff teams avoid playing in the tournament to move into the postseason.
Is there still commercial potential for Phoenix?
The Suns had 16 different starting lineups going into Thursday’s game.
With injuries and a lack of chemistry, Phoenix has yet to figure out how good he can be, but Barkley’s assessment can’t be ignored either.
They don’t play well, they don’t have to have the same edge that fueled the franchise’s 64-win last season and they have trouble facing off against Denver, Memphis, New Orleans and Dallas.
Phoenix doesn’t look like a championship contender, but they may not be in a position to change that with a game-changing trade.
With interim team governor Sam Garvin unable to make a big move without Robert Sarver’s approval, and the NBA yet to approve billionaire Matt Ashby’s purchase of the team from Sarver, it appears the Suns are in a holding pattern that won’t allow them to make a blockbuster trade.
However, Phoenix has tradable assets if it looks to drastically change its structure starting with Ayton, who is on a four-year, $133 million maximum deal.
The Pacers made an offer sheet this summer identical to the Suns. A key component of the deal is that Ayton could veto any deal for a year. The contract also contained a clause preventing the Suns from trading Ayton until January 15th.
Yahoo’s Jake Fisher reported that Pacers senior Ayton and Miles Turner were on Toronto’s radar. While he’s been inconsistent, especially with Paul and Booker out, and has dealt with a nagging injury to his left ankle, Ayton is senior and has averaged a double-double over his first four seasons, can shoot, is athletic and can rebound.
In turn, the Suns can get players and pick.
Then there is Paul.
He’s one of the best point guards to ever play the game, but between his age (37) and injuries, the Suns could be looking for a younger guard who can play at a faster pace consistently. Paul has two years left of his $120 million four-year deal, but the final year of his deal is not guaranteed.
Booker is clearly the franchise player. The Supermax signed a four-year deal last summer for $224 million starting in the 2024-25 season.
Mickal Bridges is a two-way player who has never missed a game in his NBA career, is now in his fifth season, and led the league in total minutes played last season.
After those two, Phoenix can shake up its roster as teams can use a shooter like Johnson, who started the season connecting for a career-best 43.1% from 3 games over eight games before suffering a knee injury.
Johnson is in the final year of his rookie contract. He and the Suns couldn’t agree on an extension for the starter last summer, so he’ll be a restricted free agent next summer.
Shamet was given 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 other players who will be free agents with no strings attached in the next two seasons, including Cameron Payne after the 2023-24 season.
Dario Sarek, Tore Craig, Bismac Biombo, Damion Lee and Josh Okoji will all be unrestricted free agents after this season, while Jock Landal will be a restricted free agent.
The roster will change after this season, but for now, it looks like Phoenix is just waiting to recover and run. If the playoffs started today, the Suns wouldn’t be in play, let alone playoffs.
Perhaps this is part of Barkley’s thinking about blowing up the current Phoenix Suns car.
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