Welcome to ‘Inside the Suns’, your weekly deep down analysis of the current Suns team as well as a peak at Suns teams throughout history in this week.
In this weekly article, we focus on you the community to tease out the good and bad of the Suns who are now 24-11 and in 2nd place in the Western Conference and in the NBA!
First up... the Fantable — a round table of Bright Siders who give their takes on the Suns latest issues and news.
Fantable Questions of the Week
Q1 - It won’t be long before the Suns will have to think about contract extensions for Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton... and not too much later for Cam Johnson. If you had to offer each of them an extension right now, what do you consider a fair offer?
GuarGuar: Some big decisions have to be made about these young guys because giving them all big contracts will really limit our flexibility for future acquisitions. That being said, I’m very ok keeping all 3 of these players. They all have played a key role this season and show a lot of potential.
- Mikal- 5 years 80 million. Mikal is a defensive stud who has shown tremendous growth in his offensive skillset. His contract is by far the hardest to predict in my opinion.
- Ayton-5 years 100 million. I don’t think Ayton is worth max money just yet. He doesn’t have the numbers to warrant a max deal. He certainly can have a max player type impact on times for sure though.
- Cam Johnson- 3 years 30 million. I wouldn’t give Cam a long-term deal as he is the most expendable of the young guys. His shooting is so valuable for this squad and his defense has been surprisingly very good since the Bubble.
Sun-Arc: Ayton… so tough in some regards. He’s inconsistent and doesn’t show energy in parts of games- sometimes the entire game. Yet he also seems to be catching onto how gifted he really is and his ceiling is skyscraper high. I’m still a believer he will become a great player. He won’t ever be Shaq on the court, and I don’t think he’ll ever be the leader that LBJ or Anthony Davis is, but still hugely valuable to have on your team.
Speaking of Davis, he gets nearly $33m this season- the highest of any center in the league. Steven Adams gets nearly $30m. I think its easy to say that Ayton is around the same value as Adams or more. But is the league’s appetite for throwing around huge salaries still around? I don’t think so.
At this moment (half way through DA’s third season) he’s no max or supermax player. I’d feel comfortable offering $100m over 5 years. But if he really improves in his 4th season that number could balloon to over $125m over 5 seasons.
Bridges is less complicated, but also an open question. Hugely valuable but not a star. Siakam is getting over $30m this season, but he is considered a star. Barnes gets $22m but isn’t as valuable as Bridges, IMO. Jalen Brown is receiving nearly $24m this season, though is also a young star. Right now I would say Mikal is in the $20m/year category or close to it.
Cam, on the other hand is easier for me. I think he is a valuable player that always makes the right decision, is a decent defender, and is a pretty good shooter. Outside of possibly improving his perimeter shooting and adding another small wrinkle to his game, I think we are seeing peak-Johnson. Given today’s market I’d say he’s somewhere in the range of $8m/year.
SDKyle: It’s hard to say for sure without knowing the market... but I think for Bridges something in the neighborhood of $15-18 million a year is fair and for Ayton would probably have to go to around $20 million. I don’t think he’s earned a max extension and I don’t think we need to do that to extend him.
I’d try to lock Cam up at around $10 million.
SouthernSun: Ayton - 4 years/100 million.
I know where somebody was drafted shouldn’t necessarily be part of how much you sign them to, but realistically, in Ayton’s case, I think it will be. He doesn’t seem like he deserves that much right now, but we have to assume he will continue to make strides and improve. His defense is already quite a bit better than many people expected it to be, even if his offense has stagnated a bit and isn’t as far along as we hoped it would be. Not paying him would seem insane. Granted... there’s always the possibility of trading him.
Bridges - 4 years/80 million
His agent apparently said they don’t plan on accepting anything under 20 mil a year, so give him exactly that. He’s worth it. I wouldn’t go much higher though, mainly because I think it’s unnecessary to unless he for some reason doesn’t accept it.
Cam Johnson - 4 years/40 million
Cam is a solid role player. If he continues to improve during his rookie deal, then this number could jump up. But right at this moment this is what I’d give him. I actually thought about going lower, like 32 million, but that seems a bit unreasonable.
Alex S: Tough question but I’ll do my best to give an accurate guess of what the Suns should be offering right now:
- Mikal Bridges - 4 years, 100 million
- Deandre Ayton - 4 years, 125 million
- Cam Johnson- 4 years, 80 million
Now that sure does sound like a lot of money when you think of 305 million in payroll for four years worth of service but these guys are proven talent already. The Ayton contract I think is going to be the biggest question the Suns have over the next two seasons with how basketball is transitioning towards wings and guards being the most impactful players. However, I don’t think there’s a world where the Suns just let DA walk so getting a contract that’s below max level will be their challenge.
I gladly give Mikal that money with no questions asked and the Cam money would be one I have to see more play to determine if I want to do that deal or not.
Q2 - Chris Paul has a player option on the last year of his contract. He’s unlikely to opt out of the $44 mil he’s owed but might for a multi-year extension. Do you think offering a multi-year extension to CP3 at a lower yearly salary is something the Suns should consider?
GuarGuar: Offering him more than an extra season is really tough. He’s very much up there in age now and while he’s played fantastic in 2021 so far, father time always wins. It would have to be a significant pay down for me to consider offering him a multi-year extension.
Sun-Arc: Kevin O’Connor’s excellent article talked about how important Paul has been to the team’s success. Its what he said on our local Arizona Sports 98.7 radio station that was even more interesting. His opinion is Paul’s game lends itself to multiple more years of a very productive CP3. He thinks the post Paul move is more Chris Paul. I’ve been skeptical of Paul’s ability to stay healthy, though he’s done very well for the past 1.5 seasons. I’m on the fence about this. There is a clear productivity decline for Paul over the past four seasons in terms of scoring, 3PA/game, and resulting PER. Its not huge, but its there.
I think he will opt in for his last giant season salary and take his chances on the next contract. Someone will give him money- particularly if the Suns do well next season and he stays healthy. Thus I do not think there is an offer we can make that will change that decision. Sure, the team could offer Paul something really big (say $80m over 4 seasons) to sway him, but is that smart? I tend to think Paul opts in and Jones wants to see how the 2nd season goes before finding a fair deal for both sides IF it makes sense to keep CP3 at that point.
SDKyle: I’m so torn on this. I love CP3, I was a fan of his long before he became a Sun. To be honest, I don’t see an extension really working out unless Paul is willing to take a very, very steep pay cut. If he’d really sign for a couple of years at under $20 million I’d go for that.
I just can’t see it making sense financially for the Suns to bring CP3 back for another multi-year deal at $30 million+... we’d be spending well over half the cap on just him and Booker still but no longer able to fill out other spots with rookie scale contracts.
SouthernSun: Yes, I absolutely think it’s something the Suns and Paul himself will consider. Opting out of the final year of his contract in favor of signing a deal for a lower number but for 3 years would help the Suns build more around and give him the best chance possible at a championship. Paul knows that. I actually expect this.
Alex S: Absolutely. Chris’ game isn’t dependent on athleticism and he’s shown enough physical ability to continually be an elite defensive player. If you offered him a 3 year deal around the 90 mil mark, I think he’d be enticed at the idea of another 50 million and job stability with the team. You also have to assess what type of future PG could start in place next to CP3 and it’s difficult to envision many realistic options to pursue in FA or trade. I will say, I’m going to keep an eye on Damian Lillard’s situation because he and Booker in the same backcourt would be phenomenal… although I hope Dame continues to be happy in Portland. They deserve a stud like him.
Q3 - Robert Sarver is often called “cheap” by fans. Do you think he’ll be willing to pay luxury taxes to keep a true contending team together?
GuarGuar: When it’s come to player’s salaries, Sarver really hasn’t been cheap the past half decade. Now when it comes to other organizational expenses that’s a different story. But he’s shown a willingness to hand out big contracts and I do think he regrets the whole Joe Johnson situation from years ago. I definitely feel he’d be willing to spend into the luxury tax (not an extreme amount though).
Sun-Arc: I’ve never really bought into Sarver being cheap. Bad at his job? Absolutely. Sure. Though there have been times when he’s paid out big money and gone over the cap before in order to win. He did offer Amare the same $100m deal the Knicks did- just without the guarantees regardless of health. I thought that was prudent at the time and actually looked smart in retrospect with what Stat’s contract did to the Knicks in his last couple of seasons there. Many thought he should have just done it to chase a ring for another season. But everyone could see Nash was already declining- and milked the Lakers for a ton of money while only playing 50 then 15 games in his final two seasons. Grant Hill wasn’t the same either. What I’m saying is I think Bobby Chickensuit actually made the right call on that front. Same with Joe Johnson- that was never going to work out because of Joe’s attitude.
I have very little doubt that if Sarver feels the team will have a season over .500 he’ll go over the cap to do it.
One last note on Sarver… I’m not sure if he’s “grown” as James Jones says. But he does seem to have finally hired good people and taken a backseat to their direction. And the team is flourishing. For now it does appear that Bob figured out he was “part” of the problem and got out of the way. I’m thankful to Sarver for that.
SDKyle: Sarver will pay SOME tax for a real contender. I’m confident in that. He’s never going to be one of these owners who just disregards the tax, but he won’t balk if the team can really make a championship run.
SouthernSun: Yes, absolutely I believe he will pay the luxury tax when the team is contending. James Jones believes he’s grown and changed. I don’t think he’s grown and changed quite as much as we’d like, but I do think he wants to see this team win a title and if it looks like the team has a shot, he will pay what it takes. At least I like to think so.
Alex S: Sure, but he’s going to have to prove it before I give him the benefit of the doubt. I think the structure around him in place with guys like Monty, James Jones, Booker, Paul, etc. will help guide Robert in the right direction when it comes to his involvement with the franchise. Next offseason is going to be very telling when it comes to this question, so we’ll have to see what happens before we have a better idea of his true commitment to winning.
As always, many thanks to our Fantable members - GuarGuar, Sun-Arc, SDKyle, SouthernSun and Alex S. - for all their extra effort every week!
News & Notes
Here Come the Suns. The Ringer
Chris Paul, still thriving, has pushed the Suns into second-place in the West. The Comeback
Chris Paul says Suns’ early season success speaks for itself. Arizona Sports
Devin Booker says he’s learned from having WNBA ‘Greatest of All Time’ Diana Taurasi, Mercury stars ‘right in your backyard’. Insider
Chris Paul’s true impact on surging Suns, according to Deandre Ayton. Clutch Points
The key to the Suns’ defensive success: a ‘versatile’ Deandre Ayton. Cronkite News
Jae Crowder Shares Video Of Suns Owner Robert Sarver, Fans React To Unexpected Twist. RepublicWorld.com
This Week in Suns History
On March 9, 2003, three time All-Star “Thunder Dan” Majerle was placed in the Phoenix Suns’ Ring of Honor.
On March 14, 2007, the 49–14 Suns met the 52–10 Dallas Mavericks in a match-up where both teams were fighting for the top seed in the Western conference and Nash was going for his third consecutive MVP award against Dirk Nowitzki. Though the Suns won the game in double overtime, the Mavericks would finish with the West’s top seed at 67–15 and Nowitzki would narrowly win the MVP award ahead of Nash.
Interesting Suns Stuff
The Wings of the Phoenix Suns - Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson
When Suns Ring of Honor member Dan Majerle’s name was first announced as the Suns’ pick at #14 in the 1988 NBA Draft, the selection was booed by fans.
Majerle went on to become a 3-time All-Star in Phoenix (1992, 1993 & 1995) and twice made the NBA All-Defensive Second Team (1991 & 1993). He also finished first in the NBA in three-point field goals made and attempted during both the 1992-93 and 1993-94 seasons. He is 11th on the Suns’ All-Time Points Leaders list with 8,034 and second on the All-Time 3-Pointers Made list with 800. He holds the Suns record for the most 3-pointers made during the playoffs in a single season with 54 made during the 1993 playoffs.
Important Future Dates
March 25 - NBA Trade Deadline.
May 16 - Regular season ends.
May 17 to 21 - Play-in tournament for 7-to-10 seeds.
May 22 - First-round playoffs.
June 7 - Conference semifinals.
June 22 - Conference Finals.
July 8-22 - NBA Finals.
Last Week’s Poll Results
Last week’s poll was “The Suns are...”
30% - Serious title contenders NOW.
61% - Only a player or two away from title contention.
09% - Good but no where near being title contenders.
A total of 428 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
Here’s a little info on the NBA’s contract extension rules everyone needs to know before answering this week’s poll question.
No team may have more than two players under a Designated Rookie Scale Player Extension. A DRSPE is a 5-year extension with a first year salary equal to 25% of the salary cap. Devin Booker’s extension was a DRSPE so the Suns can only offer one to either Deandre Ayton or Mikal Bridges if they choose to do so but not both. Rookie Scale Contracts can be extended during the off-season before the rookie’s fourth year in the league (the day before the regular season starts). An extension cannot be offered after the final year of the player’s rookie contract has begun and the player will become a restricted free agent at the end of that season.
With all that in mind...
Between Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges, which player would you offer a DRSP Extension (25% of the cap) to this summer?
This poll is closed
Extend them both but neither should get the DRSPE.
Forget the extensions. Wait until they’re RFAs and deal with new contracts then.