ALMOST EXACTLY TWO years ago, the Phoenix Suns came within two wins of their first-ever championship with one aging superstar, four core young players, and a hodgepodge of transients who all somehow made sense together.
Only two members from that team remain: Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. The Suns traded the other half of that young core four -- Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson -- plus every available first-round pick to the Brooklyn Nets for Kevin Durant last season.
The Durant deal was a line of demarcation. The Suns' brain trust and new governor Mat Ishbia decided the 2021 holdovers, including an aging Chris Paul, were no longer good enough to win the title -- and would never be so again. Once the Suns had gone all-in for one superstar import, flipping Paul and leftover second-round picks and swaps for another -- Bradley Beal -- was almost an inevitable denouement. In two linked transactions, Phoenix bet on superstar talent over continuity and chemistry.
Beal is now the nominal starting point guard, alongside Booker, Durant, Ayton and a fifth starter to be named later, with Keita Bates-Diop and Josh Okogie probably the leading candidates from Phoenix's army of minimum-salary signings. Another minimum signing -- Eric Gordon -- might close games as part of an all-offense lineup that will be very hard to contain for any length of time.
Point guards typically have the ball the most, and hold it the longest. That is one potential structural flaw skeptics see in this tossed-together would-be superteam: all three of its central stars are good at running an offense, and there are diminishing returns in shifting too much control of it to the Suns' third-best player -- Beal -- at the expense of Booker and Durant.
It's easy to overthink these things. If Durant, Booker and Beal are reasonably healthy, the Suns' offense will almost certainly be awesome. When all three stars can shoot, dribble, and pass at high levels, their combined talent tends to overwhelm any issue of overlapping skill sets. Durant is perhaps the most malleable superstar in league history, capable of dominating games without dominating the ball. For all the attention on the decline of Beal's 3-point shooting, he has been consistently at 38% or better -- and often over 40% -- on catch-and-shoot looks. He should get many more in Phoenix than he did on moribund Washington Wizards teams -- more than at any time since John Wall was spraying passes around D.C.
If the Suns ever feel like they are succumbing to the dreaded "there's only one ball!" problem -- if the offense feels stagnant or somehow out of balance -- they should tap into one way the Washington Wizards deployed Beal last season more (by far) than ever before: using him as an on-ball screener instead of an every-possession ball handler.