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Lowe: Devin Booker has campaigned for D’Angelo Russell, but Suns’ front office may not share his enthusiasm

ESPN’s Zach Lowe explained some of the behind-the-scenes machinations of the Suns’ interest in Russell.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Brooklyn Nets Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

NBA free agency begins in five days. Crazy, isn’t it? One rumor that won’t go away, even as Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro continues to say it won’t happen, is the D’Angelo Russell connection with the Phoenix Suns.

Russell, who just received his first All-Star berth last season averaging 21.1 points and 7 assists for the Brooklyn Nets, is good friends with Suns franchise cornerstone Devin Booker. Both sides have relayed in the past how much they would want to play together, per Newsday’s Greg Logan.

From Booker:

“I would love to play with him. He makes people around him better. He’s a dynamic player. He has the utmost confidence in himself that I don’t think will change ever. That’s why we have the relationship that we do.”

From Russell:

Wow. I mean, you never know. It’s not something I really can control. But no one would ever have thought K.D. and Steph [Warriors stars Kevin Durant and Steph Curry] would be on the same team either. When you come from a long relationship, if you end up on the same team one day, that would be really great.”

The latest tidbit comes from ESPN’s Zach Lowe. After mentioning how Phoenix “openly coveted” Russell on his podcast last week, Lowe had more on the subject in his latest piece discussing the 23-year-old’s market.

If Kyrie Irving ends up with the Nets, Russell will be gone. Where does he wind up, though? The Pacers seem to prefer going the Raptors route, building depth instead of one big piece, according to general manager Kevin Pritchard on Indianapolis radio. Chicago just drafted Coby White as their point guard of the future. Utah traded for Mike Conley last week. Even before June 30 arrives, the teams willing to throw Russell big bucks seems to be dwindling.

That leaves teams such as the Magic, Lakers and Suns as realistic options if he indeed has to pack his bags and leave Brooklyn. (Minnesota has been a team connected to Russell before, but good luck to them on getting off the Andrew Wiggins contract to make a Russell offer possible.)

Lowe mentioned the Suns will sign a point guard, but there’s a twist. It sounds like Booker is pushing the Suns’ front office hard to pursue Russell as his backcourt partner. The question is does James Jones, Jeff Bower and Co. reciprocate the same level of interest?

The Suns will sign a veteran point guard, and Devin Booker has campaigned for Russell — a close friend. But other voices within the Suns may not share Booker’s unabashed enthusiasm, sources say. They only have about $14 million or so in cap space as of now. We’ll see how Phoenix approaches the point guard market.

According to Cleaning The Glass, Phoenix has $14.1 million in space right now. For the Suns to have the money necessary to sign Russell, they must clear more space.

Here are the three most realistic options, if the Russell chase indeed is on within the next few days:

  • Trade Tyler Johnson’s $19.25 million expiring, including draft capital, take back no salary
  • Trade Josh Jackson and stretch Johnson’s deal over the next three seasons at $6.42 million
  • Renounce Kelly Oubre Jr.’s cap hold and either trade Jackson or stretch Johnson

Should the Suns abide by Booker’s wishes and go all-in for Russell? Stay tuned to Bright Side as more free agency news will continue rolling in.

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