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If the Suns win a championship soon, they should gift Trevor Ariza with a ring.

Back when they were still horrible, the Suns signed Ariza in the 2018 offseason on a massive one-year, $15 million contract. However, the move looked bad immediately after the season started. Ariza was a solid player, but he seemed to show absolutely no effort on his new team. This led to him being absolutely despised by the Sun’s fanbase.

So how did Ariza cause the Suns to become contenders?

The Suns traded Ariza at the 2018-19 trade deadline after seeing no good reason to keep him. They sent him to Washington and got Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers in return. The Suns waived Rivers immediately, but Oubre Jr. truly blossomed in Phoenix. He went from a bench player to a quality starter in his one-and-a-half years on the Suns.

However, Oubre did not perfectly fit coach Monty Williams’s system in Phoenix. Although he put up good stats, his lackluster off-ball play led to touches being taken away from star player Devin Booker. The Suns also had a player that could replace him in Mikal Bridges.

In the 2020 offseason, with the Suns just having gone a perfect 8-0 in the bubble, GM James Jones chose to make a move that would turn the team into a true force. Packaging Oubre, point guard Ricky Rubio, a couple of young guards (Ty Jerome and Jalen Lecque), and a first-round pick, Jones was able to trade for Oklahoma City point guard Chris Paul.

We all know what happened next. Chris Paul fit perfectly into the Suns’ system and helped the team reach the next level. They finished the 2020-21 regular season as the second seed in the Western Conference and went all the way to the NBA Finals. Although they lost, the Suns have continued to be excellent this season (second-best record in the NBA) and have cemented themselves as championship contenders for the foreseeable future.

Without Trevor Ariza’s stint on the Suns, there is a good chance none of this would have ever happened.


Photo: Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY