The Phoenix Suns have emerged as the top team in a Western Conference that hasn’t seen many teams look interested in winning this season. It’s no surprise that once again, Phoenix’s top-end talent and strong depth have allowed them to emerge as a title contender, and they should continue to contend as the season progresses.

Despite all the off-court drama, whether it be team owner Robert Sarver being accused of creating a toxic work environment and working on selling the team or Deandre Ayton’s tension-filled relationship with head coach Monty Williams, the Suns haven’t let it affect them on the court. As a result, the Suns have quietly sauntered into first place in the West through the first quarter of the season.

Not everything is perfect in Phoenix right now, though, and it’s clear they have to figure out how to execute a trade involving one of their key players from their last two deep playoff runs. Let’s take a look at who that player is and see why it would be better for the Suns to unload him sooner rather than later.

Suns player who must be traded: Jae Crowder

You thought we forgot about the Jae Crowder drama too? Of course not! Crowder has quickly become one of the most popular trade targets on the market early on this season, and it’s been strange to see the Suns not find a deal for him yet. That should change soon, though, as Phoenix could use the reinforcements that would come over from trading Crowder.

By now, the story with Crowder should be common knowledge. Crowder wanted a new deal that Phoenix wasn’t interested in giving him, so he has refused to suit up for them this season. The Suns have been exploring trades for Crowder while they handed the starting power forward role over to Cameron Johnson.

Even with Johnson dealing with a meniscus injury, Crowder hasn’t returned, showing that it’s only a matter of time until he will get traded. The Suns have reportedly been close to pulling off a deal involving Crowder on a couple of occasions now, but have still not found a deal that they are willing to pull the trigger on.

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It’s not hard to see why Crowder is such a desired asset on the trade market. He’s a strong three-and-d player on the wing, and that type of player is tough to come by nowadays. Crowder isn’t the most reliable player on both sides of the ball, but he plays hard, and that usually results in good things for whichever team he finds himself with.

Considering how the Suns have dealt with injuries to key players like Johnson and Chris Paul in the early going, it would make sense for their front office to have a sense of urgency to get a deal done for Crowder. Their team could certainly benefit from bringing in some more talent, but as of right now, there doesn’t seem to be a deal imminent for Crowder.

There certainly aren’t a lack of teams interested in Crowder, as there have been several different teams who made their interest for Crowder known. The Suns may be playing it smart by allowing opposing teams to become more desperate, but at this point, it wouldn’t hurt to add some talent to their roster, and there’s no sense dragging the situation out when you don’t really have to.

The Suns have already replaced Crowder, even with Johnson out for the time being, so now all that’s left is they have to move him. Phoenix clearly has a need for some added frontcourt depth, and maybe even another guard to shore up their backcourt, or if they don’t land a player, draft assets don’t hurt either.

Whatever the return may be, the Suns need to unload Crowder, and soon. They aren’t really losing value, but considering the state of their roster currently, and the strange build of the Western Conference, the Suns need to capitalize on the rest of their conference’s slow start to take control of things while they already have the lead.

Holding onto Crowder in an effort to extract more trade value out of him could end up inadvertently tanking Phoenix this season. The Suns need to acquire some more talent and integrate them into their system throughout the remainder of the regular season. And while they are in a good spot right now, they will need to pull the trigger at some point. And that point should come as soon as possible.