Suns reportedly plan to keep all three stars, tweak roster around them

A disappointing Phoenix Suns season — a team deep into the tax that won a good but not elite 49 games in the regular season and then was swept out of the playoffs by the younger, more athletic Timberwolves — has led to plenty of fan and media speculation about breaking up this team. Would Phoenix consider trading Kevin Durant?

They are not. The Suns plan to run it back, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on the Rich Eisen Show (hat tip Real GM).

"Do people in the league say [they may have to break up the Suns]? Yes, they do. I talk to multiple people who think that's what they're going to have to do that. Do the Suns say that? No, they do not. I think the Suns' intention is to keep all three of these star players. Tweak the roster, tweak some of their systems and processes and try to be better next year."

Good luck with that.

These playoffs have shown the importance of depth and role players, not just stars. Oklahoma City always has shooters on the court, which makes Shai Gilgeous-Alexander tougher to guard. Minnesota is deep with good defenders and athleticism around Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns. Denver won a title partly because of guys like Aaron Gordon and (last year) Bruce Brown around Nikola Jokic. No team is deeper than Boston and they remain the betting favorite to win the title.

Phoenix could be better with more health and continuity among Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and Bradley Beal, but the team lacks defenders and depth. The problem is they have no good way to add those players.

Beal, Booker and Durant are all under contract for next season for a combined $150.6 million — the salary cap is expected to be $141 million. The Suns already have an estimated $206 million payroll for next season, well over the estimated $171 luxury tax line and about $16.3 million above the second apron (and they haven't filled out the roster yet). Being over the second apron means Phoenix does not have a mid-level exception to use this summer, it cannot aggregate multiple contracts in a trade, it cannot take back more money than it sends out in a trade, it cannot send out cash in a trade, and once the season starts it cannot bring in players on the buyout market who made more than the league average salary. Also, the Suns don't control their own first-round draft picks for the next six years, so nothing to trade there.

However, it sounds like the Suns will run this back for a year. Then they may have some hard choices to make.