As the Monday deadline approaches for teams to sign their 2018 draftees to rookie extensions that would kick in a year from now, Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges is sitting on pins and needles like the rest of us.
“We’re humans obviously,” Bridges said of waiting. “I try not to think about it, but at the end of the day we’re human beings and when stuff like this comes up you can’t just push it to the side. But them guys, coach Monty, my teammates and everybody on that staff and in the training room, the chefs, they don’t make me think about it as much. I come in here every day, I’m in the Suns facility, and I think about James and Sarver and everything, but these guys here they keep me down. And my family at home, my mom, they keep the pressure off me and I don’t think about it as much. I just go out here and just have fun, laugh it up, and try to get better every day.”
The Suns have yet to agree to new deals with either of their top young players. Deandre Ayton, the former No. 1 overall pick who anchored their defense in the Finals, and Mikal Bridges, already one of the best 3-and-D players in the game, have been Suns since the bad days in 2018-19. And now they’ve added another extension-eligible player in Landry Shamet, taken 26th that year.
Ayton (currently making $12.6 million) could make $30 million per year to start an extension, with potential for $35 million if he reaches unlikely escalators. Bridges ($5.5 million) could make anywhere from $20-30 million per year on his own extension, while Shamet ($3.7 million) is looking at something a lot more modest in the $8 million range per year. All of those current contracts are on the deflated rookie-contract scale, while the higher numbers better represent their place among veterans in the open market. Paying both Ayton and Bridges those contracts, while also having Devin Booker and Chris Paul’s $30+ million on the books would push the Suns into a luxury tax territory that would ownership even more money in taxes.
The other day, Suns managing partner and holder of the purse strings Robert Sarver said on radio, in response to a question on Ayton’s contract, that the sides were still talking and that an agreement would be made if it works for both sides.
If no agreements are made by end of day Monday, all three will become restricted free agents next July 1. In restricted free agency, other teams can make contract offers but the Suns will still have the right to match any offer that comes in. Additionally, ahead of them signing an offer sheet from another team, the Suns will be able to offer even more to Ayton, Bridges and Shamet than anyone else can.
Bridges made it 1000% clear that he wants to stay in Phoenix — which is almost certain to be his home, regardless of when a contract is finally signed.
“Obviously, I want to be here,” Bridges said. “I love the city here. You can see it on my twitter I talk about it all the time. I might not like the Cardinals (he’s a Rams fan!), but I love it here man.”
To the next question, he answered...
“We’re going to do what’s best for me,” he said of his agents and family. “We all know we want to be here. And it’s time. You know, I just sit there and just wait every day, and keep improving and don’t let it get to me. Just got to wait.”
And to the next question...
“I just want to be here, man,” Bridges said. “That’s what the whole thing is. I just want to be here. The deadline’s close so we’ll see and wait.”
And then the final answer, as he was asked about both him and DA...
“We want to be here. It’s plain and simple, man,” Bridges said of both he and Ayton. “We love this team. We love this organization and what’s it’s done for us, especially what its done for both of us. You know, I’d never take this for granted, man. They just turned me into a better person and player. So, obviously, we want to be here more than anything.”
Here’s the whole 8 minutes. His contract talk is the last three minutes, but I encourage you to watch the whole thing to get a perfect feel for how close this team is, and how much Mikal fits into it.