After buying the organization just a few short months ago, Ishbia now enters his first-ever Phoenix Suns offseason — and how he chooses to operate will determine the future of the franchise.
Nobody buys something for $4 billion without some level of desire to tailor things to their liking.
That will surely hold true for new Phoenix Suns and Mercury governor Mat Ishbia. We saw it in February the week his purchase was approved with the team’s blockbuster acquisition of Kevin Durant from the Brooklyn Nets. We saw it right after the end of the NBA regular season when Ishbia struck a deal with Gray Television and Kiswe to provide regional Suns TV coverage for free with a direct-to-consumer product yet to be built, spurning bankrupt Diamond Sports Group in a bold move currently being held up in court.
With Ishbia now entering his very first Phoenix Suns offseason after the team was blown out and eliminated at home Thursday in a 125-100 Game 6 loss to the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Semifinals, one big summertime question emerged: to what extent will Ishbia want to make ambitious changes in order to mold the Suns to fit his vision?
Aside from Durant, who has three more guaranteed years left on his contract, and the excellent Devin Booker (under contract through 2027-28), is anyone 100% safe on this roster? Point God Chris Paul, who missed the final four games of the Denver series with an injured groin, has two years and $61.6 million left on his deal and would be difficult to move at 38 years of age without giving up additional assets. Center Deandre Ayton, who missed Thursday’s game with a rib contusion, signed a four-year, $132 million restricted free agent offer sheet with the Indiana Pacers last summer that Phoenix matched despite being vocally disappointed in his play following an ugly playoff exit to the Dallas Mavericks.
(As to whether Phoenix would entertain the idea of a new home for the top pick in the 2018 draft, there’s been nothing to report, but the rumor mill nonetheless started turning months ago.)
All told, no NBA team has more guaranteed payroll obligations in both 2024-25 and 2025-26 than the Suns. With four first-round picks and one swap going to Brooklyn through 2029 as part of the Durant trade, Phoenix doesn’t have the most flexibility out there. More than $150 million is already on the books for next season as the Suns consider the best ways to address a lack of rotational depth that greatly contributed to their downfall against Denver.
Torrey Craig, Bismack Biyombo, TJ Warren, Damion Lee, Josh Okogie, Jock Landale, and Terrence Ross are all unrestricted free agents; it’s a big offseason for GM James Jones and head coach Monty Williams on the path toward rebuilding the back end of a rotation that ultimately wasn’t sturdy enough for a championship run the team’s sheer level of top-level talent more than simply suggested was possible.
Then, there’s the possibility of Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas coming on to have a say in future basketball decisions, something that hasn’t exactly panned out as intended for other teams in the past. Thomas was seen courtside with Ishbia during the Denver series and is a board member of Ishbia’s business, United Wholesale Mortgage. As the Ishbia era takes shape, consider Zeke a major wild card amid all these personnel proceedings.
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