Latest NBA Rumor Is James Harden To The Suns. Haven’t Owners And GMs Learned Anything?

In the wake of Turner’s Chris Haynes reporting that the Phoenix Suns intend to waive Chris Paul, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne wants you to “keep your eye” on James Harden going to Phoenix. Do Suns owner Mat Ishbia and general manager James Jones not see what’s going on in the league?

“I want you to keep your eye on James Harden [going to Phoenix]. I don’t want to report anything, but that was in the wind for the past month or so,” Shelburne said on ESPN Radio Los Angeles. “Everybody thinks it’s Philly or Houston, but I don’t know, there have been discussions in the wind.”

Where Does Harden Make The Most Sense?

Harden is expected to decline his player option for next season and hit the free agency market this summer looking for a four-year deal. His old team, the Houston Rockets and his current team, the Philadelphia 76ers, and now the Suns all appear to be players.

If you’re the 76ers it makes sense to run it back as you are in championship win now mode with Joel Embiid. But bringing Harden back at more money limits your ability to continue to tinker around the edges of your roster, which you need to win a championship.

The Rockets are in rebuild mode with young talent, why lock yourself to an aging, in-decline player who will be 38 at the end of this deal and making somewhere around $40 million per year?

The Suns are in win now mode as well because they have Kevin Durant. But Devin Booker is 26 and Deandre Ayton is 24. They’ve already given away control of their draft for the next several years to add Durant. Why add a third max salary level player who will put you above the second tax apron, which will hammer Ishbia with luxury tax and severely limit building the rest of the roster?

Building A Championship Team Isn’t Easy

It’s almost as if owners and general managers don’t pay attention to what’s happening right in front of them. Assembling old superstar talent almost never leads to an NBA championship. Ask the Brooklyn Nets.

The two teams in the NBA Finals, the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat, between them signed one big name free agent. Jimmy Butler. Everyone else was drafted — or in many of the the Heat’s players’ cases undrafted — developed, and moves were made at or around the margins.

Building a championship-caliber team is hard work. Old injury-prone superstars, no matter what their names are, are not a strategy for short- or long-term success.

In any world where the Suns acquired Harden, that means they’d have to trade Ayton. Admittedly, he’s underwhelmed lately, but he is young and has shown strong defensive ability in the past. In a Western Conference that goes through Denver and Nikola Jokic, you want to trade a young center who has a lot of room to improve for a guard who was never an elite defender, and who is getting worse overall each year?

Not sound logic.

Ishbia is operating right out of the new owner playbook. Splashy moves and championship talk. Titles are won in the mud and in the summer when players we haven’t heard of yet are working on their games and developing ways they can help teams win.

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