The state of Arizona is on a week-long bender hosting the Super Bowl and Phoenix Open, and now getting news of the blockbuster trade for Kevin Durant.
One of the greatest NBA players of all time is suiting up with the Phoenix Suns.
That’s not just news – that’s free beer and rum on tap for every sports fan in the Valley. That’s a bacchanal that won’t be seeing straight for the next several weeks.
That’s why I’m here. I’m your designated driver.
Analysts love the Kevin Durant trade
Someone needs to stay sober while all the Kevin Durant excitement moves from hoopla to hype to cultural takeover.
“Phoenix is on fire right now,” Charles Barkley said.
The oddsmakers in Las Vegas are picking the Suns to win the NBA Western Conference and challenge the Boston Celtics or Milwaukee Bucks for the title.
Much to learn:New Suns owner Mat Ishbia’s trial by fire
All across sports media, analysts are handing out As and A-pluses to the Suns for electrifying the league with their spectacular trade.
That’s not the letter grade I give the hometown team. I give them an “F” and not for “failed.”
It may be the worst trade in Arizona history
This may be the worst trade in Arizona sports history, and that’s a very high bar.
This is the city that traded pitcher Max Scherzer and three other players to the Detroit Tigers for Ian Kennedy and Edwin Jackson. You may have heard of Scherzer. He went on to win three Cy Young Awards, pitch two no-hitters and win a World Series.
What qualifications do I – an editorial page columnist – have to judge the Suns trade?
I’ll show you my qualifications: Fifty years of suffering. Fifty years of watching Arizona arenas become the Leisure World for aging superstars.
We have done this so many times before it has become almost seasonal, the thing we do along with Thanksgiving and Christmas.
We roast the turkey, we hang the mistletoe and we sign a beyond-his-prime sports legend to ride his last big contract into the sunset.
We have a long line of past-prime superstars
The Arizona Cardinals did this with Emmett Smith, the great Dallas Cowboys running back. He came here when he was 33. He retired at age 35. In between he broke his shoulder blade.
J.J. Watt, the hulking defensive lineman with the Houston Texans became a Cardinal at 32. He retired at 33. He was injured much of the time he was here.
In 2011, the Cardinals signed Todd Heap, a great NFL tight end. His tank was nearly empty. He played two-injury plagued seasons before he was released in 2012.
The Arizona Diamondbacks signed World Series legend Madison Bumgarner past his prime for $85 million. He has never returned to his former glory.
Some will say, what about Charles Barkley? He played a lot of good years in Philadelphia, then came to Phoenix and transformed the Suns. Charles Barkley was 29 when he came to Phoenix. He retired with the Houston Rockets at 36.
Kevin Durant is 34. He has a recent history of injuries and many missed games. Though paired recently with two other superstars, he was not able to get the Brooklyn Nets beyond the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Brooklyn triad was a bust.
Phoenix Suns have mortgaged their future
On Thursday, we learned the Phoenix Suns traded Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder and unprotected first-round picks in 2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029 for the superstar Durant and former Suns draft pick T.J. Warren, who has been injury prone his entire NBA career.
Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson were exceptional draft-day additions. Both have soared well above expectations. At age 26, with many prime years to go and maturity well beyond their years, both are cornerstones you can build a team upon.
They not only perform at a high level, but they help set the tone in the locker room. They are valuable athletes and exceptional human beings, and to understand how deeply their loss is felt in the Suns organization, watch the clip of Suns coach Monty Williams talk about their departure.
He does so with real sadness: “Those two are near and dear to my heart. They literally are like my family.”
Four unprotected first-round draft picks? Talk about living for today and the future be damned.
Now we have neither defense nor depth
These are the prices you pay for a 28-year-old Durant, not an injury-prone 34-year-old.
The Phoenix Suns are one tendon tear from auctioning off their next decade. If Durant declines quickly like Heap and Watt and Baumgartner, the Suns will be far diminished from what they were before the trade.
Many say you have to go for it when a championship window opens. But if the Suns have learned anything over their last two years of success, the NBA playoffs are an endurance test. You better go with defense and depth.
The Suns now have neither. They may remedy that in the free market, but why are we to believe that Durant, Devin Booker and Chris Paul (not even the same Chris Paul he was two years ago) will fare better than Durant and Kyrie Irving and James Harden?
I hope I’m wrong about all of this
This is not a screed about the new Suns owner, Mat Ishbia. He’s a highly accomplished athlete and businessman with a passion for NBA basketball. I like that he’s the new owner. But I think he made a rookie mistake.
If I’m wrong and the Durant-led Phoenix Suns hoist the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy, I will gladly eat this column with the same enthusiasm and tangy barbecue sauce that Billy Bob Thornton used to eat the Massey prenup. (See Cohen Brothers, “Intolerable Cruelty”.)
But I’m not wrong.
I’m 50 years of cold, hard Arizona sports reality staring you in the face. And I’ve got the keys to your car.
Phil Boas is an editorial columnist with The Arizona Republic. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Kevin Durant to Phoenix Suns is the worst trade in Arizona history