Stephen A. Smith Detailed Why The Suns Have A Kevin Durant Problem

After getting swept by the Timberwolves in the first round, the Phoenix Suns were sent into an offseason with very little in the way of optimism for the future. They fired Frank Vogel after one year as head coach and hired Mike Budenholzer to try and turn things around, but without many pathways to upgrading their roster, one wonders how much a coaching change will help.

That’s especially a question with this Suns team, as Budenholzer has historically asked his teams to fire away from three and attack the rim, while the Suns feature two of the NBA’s best and highest volume midrange shooters in Devin Booker and Kevin Durant. Navigating that potential clash of styles will be fascinating, and the only way the Suns will make improvements next year is to get more buy-in from their stars to play within Bud’s system (who, to be clear, will have to also figure out how to adapt that to the strengths of his stars).

Cohesion wasn’t exactly a word you threw around a lot while watching the Suns play, and that gives plenty of pause for concern when it comes to them making changes with this group next season. On Monday’s episode of First Take, Stephen A. Smith laid out why one of the big problems the Suns have (and had last year) was Kevin Durant.

As Smith notes, Durant isn’t actively sabotaging the Suns or even doing anything in particular wrong, he just prefers to show up, hoop, and go about his business. He’s obviously extremely good at doing just that, but as Smith explains, the Suns need more from him in terms of leadership and bringing the team together if they’re going to be a real contender. Without it, there’s a void others need to pick up and in Phoenix, there’s not really anyone capable of doing so.

Durant will likely brush this aside, but Smith points out this has been an issue elsewhere, highlighting how it was a big contributing factor in his exit from Golden State. It is a difficult thing to really discuss because it’s not that Durant’s a bad teammate, Smith makes sure to point out that’s not what he’s saying, it’s just he’s a guy that plays a role that typically needs to also shoulder a larger leadership burden. Stephen A. doesn’t seem to think he wants to embrace that part of the job, and that ends up being to the detriment of his teams. That can work in a place with a defined culture in place (like Golden State), but with a Suns team where they’re trying to establish that kind of culture, your best players usually have to be the ones creating that.

The “not happy” element will likely be what Durant pushes back on. He’s not exactly a bubbly personality so I wouldn’t be surprised if his day-to-day demeanor is read as unhappy when in reality it’s probably just his baseline. However, the rest of Smith’s points certainly seem like they have some credence to them, and it’ll be up to Durant and the Suns to make the requisite changes to turn things around next year to avoid a repeat performance.