Bradley Beal injury a testament to the pitfalls of a top-heavy roster

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Highlights The Phoenix Suns are struggling in the early part of the season due to the influx of new players, key injuries, and a lack of cohesiveness.
The Suns’ current record and rankings fall short of expectations, considering the investments made to create an offensive powerhouse.
Bradley Beal’s extended absence due to a lower back strain highlights the risks of relying solely on a handful of elite-level talents to compete for a title.
The Phoenix Suns entered the 2023-24 NBA season as the team with arguably the best shot at unseating the defending champion Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference. Alas, we’re about a month into the campaign already and the Kevin Durant-led squad feels like it’s still stuck in the starting gate. Thanks to the mass influx of new players, the difficulty that comes with integrating so many fresh faces, and some key injuries, the super-team Suns have looked pretty average in the early going.
Entering Friday’s games, the team was sitting in ninth place in the conference table with a 6-6 record. Meanwhile, the team ranks 13th league-wide in net rating (1.6) and eighth in effective field-goal percentage (54.8). Considering the price in both assets and money that was paid in order to transform the Suns into an offensive juggernaut, those results fall well short of what was expected by the team and its fans alike.
And thanks to the latest Bradley Beal development, the doldrums could continue for the next several games (and beyond). It’s a series of events that spotlights one of the major drawbacks of pinning your hopes exclusively on a small number of elite-level talents.
Beal is expected to miss more time for the Suns
As announced by the Suns via X on Friday, Beal is out of commission again (and won’t be re-evaluated for another three weeks) due to his lower back strain. That’s the same injury that has limited the former Washington Wizards star to just three appearances for Phoenix this season, and its persistence has tested the club’s depth in a significant way this season.
Therein lies the rub with having jettisoned several quality role players — not to mention a whole slew of assets — to bring Durant and Beal in over the last year to team up with Booker. If anyone gets hurt or things go otherwise askew, you simply don’t have the horses on the bench behind them to remain on schedule in the race that is an NBA season. Not only that — you’ve sacrificed the financial flexibility to pivot or bring in additional support.
Phoenix has quite literally put all of its eggs in the KD-Booker-Beal basket, and as with a number of other teams over the years, it’s not panning out quite as its decision-makers had hoped (not yet, anyway).
There’s also the issue of what will happen when the three are finally in there together on a regular basis. Fans may think that it will ignite an instant turnaround, but not every super team coalesces as beautifully as, say, the 2008 Boston Celtics or the Big 3-era Miami Heat. Sometimes, the whole thing devolves into a “my turn, your turn” scenario where players simply can’t function in a way that’s conducive to winning (the Los Angeles Clippers are going through that now with James Harden’s arrival).
Whatever happens, though, it looks like the Suns can bank on KD doing KD things at the absolute least.
The Suns may be in a tough spot, but Durant hasn’t let it affect his play
Make no mistake, Durant is getting up there in years, and he has had some issues physically, but none of that — nor the injuries the Suns have dealt with — seem to be impacting his play in a negative way. On the contrary, as a 35-year-old in his 16th year in the Association, Durant is well on his way to having one of the more impressive campaigns of his career.
Phoenix Suns Payroll (By Year) 2021-22 $136.5 million 2022-23 $176 million 2023-24 $188.4 million 2024-25 $195.5 million
Make no mistake, Durant is getting up there in years, and he has had some issues physically, but none of that — nor the injuries the Suns have dealt with — seem to be impacting his play in a negative way. On the contrary, as a 35-year-old in his 16th year in the Association, Durant is well on his way to having one of the more impressive campaigns of his career.
Over his first 12 games, Durant is averaging 30.8 points per game. Not only is that the fourth-best mark league-wide currently, it’s also on pace to be his best number in more than a decade. He’s ripping the nets at a 52.9 percent clip overall and 50.0 percent from three-point range as well. If those numbers hold true until the end of the season, he’ll go down as the only player age 30 or older to put up 30 a night while converting at those rates.
Read more: Alarm bells are premature amid Phoenix Suns’ ho-hum start

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