The Kevin Durant trade saga was easily the biggest story to emerge during the 2022 NBA offseason. Durant's star status and on-court production made him the most sought-after player in the league, and one of the teams Durant was looking to join was the Phoenix Suns. The Suns couldn't give the Brooklyn Nets a trade package that satisfied their demands, and Durant ended up staying with the Nets for the upcoming season.
The Suns may have gotten in their own way when it came to a Durant trade
The Suns were considered a frontrunner to land Durant because they had the assets to pull off a deal and were one of the teams Durant wanted to go to. Considering how Phoenix flamed out of the Western Conference semifinals last season, it would have made sense for them to explore a blockbuster deal for Durant in the hopes that it would lead to a title.
Phoenix pursued Durant, but they weren't interested in giving up too much to get him. That mindset resulted in Cam Johnson, the Suns' backup power forward, being one of the players Phoenix labeled as untouchable in a trade for Durant. If that truly was the case, it's not surprising that the Suns weren't linked to a trade for Durant more than they were.
"During the team's trade pursuit of Kevin Durant this summer, sources said, Suns officials remained steadfast that Johnson was off limits — although one source said Phoenix did ultimately include him in an offer. Johnson is extension-eligible himself, and early indications suggested the Suns had hoped to re-sign the 26-year-old sharpshooter in the ballpark of four years and $72 million. Every dollar more will add to Phoenix's already pricey luxury tax bill, which is surely coloring the Suns' ongoing trade talks regarding Crowder." - Jake Fischer, Yahoo Sports
Why would the Suns not be willing to trade Cam Johnson for Kevin Durant?
The Suns handling of this situation is quite strange and raises a very obvious question; why on earth would you not include Johnson in a deal that would potentially land you a superstar player in Durant? Johnson is a solid player, but he's 26 years old, is nearly ready for an extension, and isn't the same caliber of player that Durant is.
There are things to like about Johnson, but the pros heavily outweigh the cons when it comes to a deal that would land Durant. This is a pretty mind-boggling revelation, but it also shows how high the Suns are on Johnson heading into the season. Maybe they know something we don't.
Phoenix has had a lot of confusing dealings regarding their roster construction this offseason (just look at their management of the Jae Crowder situation). But their unwillingness to include Johnson in a deal for Durant is the most confusing of them all. The Suns have a strong roster, but adding Durant would have made it ten times better. Johnson likely wouldn't have changed things entirely in a Durant trade, but it's certainly a confusing decision from Phoenix in an offseason that has been full of them.