Suns' firepower can't overcome 'details' in playoff sweep

Windhorst: Suns looking for answers after getting swept (1:40)

Brian Windhorst joins "SportsCenter" to explain where the Suns go following a sweep at the hands of the Timberwolves. (1:40)

PHOENIX -- The Phoenix Suns began the season with championship aspirations, buoyed by the collective offensive firepower of Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal -- the latest iteration of an NBA superteam led by an ultra-talented big three.

But the team could never quite stay healthy, could never quite find a rhythm and never did appear as potent a threat as the Suns hoped to be.

On Sunday, their underwhelming campaign concluded in disappointing fashion, as the Suns were swept out of the first round on their home floor by the Minnesota Timberwolves, who closed out the first-round series with a 122-116 win at Footprint Center.

"Roster-wise, everybody talks about the firepower, but you look around the league: It comes down to the details," said Booker, who finished with a game-high 49 points. "I don't want to keep saying that, but it's a super important thing. You can't just go out there and think you're going to win off talent. The game is more complicated than that."

The Suns were minus-51 when Booker, Durant and Beal shared the floor in this series, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That is the worst plus-minus for any trio this postseason.

The Suns beat the Timberwolves in all three regular-season matchups but were swept in a best-of-seven series for the first time since the 1989 Western Conference finals.

"It's disappointing," Suns coach Frank Vogel said. "There's no other way to put it. There's no worse professional feeling in the world than getting swept in the NBA playoffs. I've never been a part of it. I feel pretty low right now. I want to speak to our fans directly and say, I share your passion. I'm as disappointed as y'all are. I share that with you all. But we got beat by a better team this year.

"And we put this team together with the mindset that we have a three- to five-year window where every year we're going to have a chance to have a team with the firepower to compete for it. But this league is loaded with firepower. We've got a talented group; so do the Timberwolves. The top 10 teams in the Western Conference are loaded with talent as well. We've got to evaluate and figure out ways we can get better."

Durant, who scored 33, said the Suns needed to be better in all areas and credited the Timberwolves, especially superstar guard Anthony Edwards, who scored 40 points, including 31 in the second half, to seal the Timberwolves' first playoff series win since 2004.

Edwards dropped a thunderous dunk over Durant in the second half, and the two players shared a long embrace after the game.

"So impressed with Ant," Durant said. "My favorite player to watch. Just grown so much since he came into the league. At 22, just his love for the game shines bright. That's one of the reasons why I like him the most. He just loves basketball. He's grateful to be in this position. He's grateful to take advantage of every opportunity he's gotten. Love everything about Ant. Everything. Will be watching him going forward and you know he's going to go out there and play extremely hard every single night. But [I] was really impressed with him and he's going to be somebody that I'm going to be following for the rest of his career."

"Hopefully everybody is feeling the same type of hurt. I have to be better. Kevin has to be better. Brad has to be better. Coach has to be better. We're the leaders of the team. We can't be out there unprepared."
Devin Booker

Booker continued to harp on the team's poor communication -- a season-long issue, he has said throughout the series.

"I think everybody would say that the details matter and it's something that we kind of passed by and didn't think was a big deal but kind of came back and bit us in the ass," Booker said.

Booker later added, "Hopefully everybody is feeling the same type of hurt. I have to be better. Kevin has to be better. Brad has to be better. Coach has to be better. We're the leaders of the team. We can't be out there unprepared."

Booker, Durant and Beal played together for exactly half of the regular season, with the team posting a 26-15 record in those games -- a 52-win pace that would have been good for fourth place in the Western Conference.

The three players ultimately shared the floor for 862 minutes during the regular season, the sixth most of any Suns three-man lineup. In those minutes, the Suns posted a 120.5 offensive rating, a 114.0 defensive rating and a plus-6.6 net rating, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

But the Suns' depth proved an issue. And their flexibility to maneuver going forward is bleak, as owner Mat Ishbia, the head of a mortgage giant in Michigan, quite literally mortgaged the Suns' immediate future with all-in acquisitions soon after he took over the team in February 2023.

That month, along with players, the Suns traded first-round draft picks in 2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029 (and a 2028 swap) to Brooklyn for Durant.

Then, a few months later, the Suns shipped out several second-round picks (2024, 2025, 2026, 2027, 2028 and 2030) and several pick swaps (2024, 2026, 2028 and 2030) to Washington for Beal.

Those moves leave the Suns with little in the way of future assets to deal. The Suns can trade their No. 22 overall first-round pick in June's NBA draft and their 2031 first-round pick starting on the night of the draft. Phoenix also has two second-round picks available to trade.

And, for now, that's it.

Taking back Beal's outsized deal -- he had $207.74 million and four years left on his contract when they acquired him -- also vaulted the Suns above the so-called second apron of the luxury tax for at least the next three years if they keep their core together. That position will lead to punitive consequences, hampering their ability to add to their roster.

Now, a team built around superstars and with little depth will largely be able to add only minimum contracts.

Meanwhile, the Suns enter this offseason with $209 million in salary, the biggest payroll of any NBA team, and face a projected luxury tax penalty of $116 million.

Beal, who turns 31 in June, has three years and $161 million remaining on his deal, along with a no-trade clause. Durant, who turns 36 in September, has two years and $106 million left on his deal.

And Booker's projected four-year, $221 million supermax extension starts in July.

The three players are owed $150 million next season -- a figure that is more than 14 teams' total payroll in 2024-25. By themselves, those players' salaries are enough to exceed the salary cap next season.

ESPN's Bobby Marks and Matt Williams and Michael Schwartz of ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report.