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The Phoenix Suns had some real success, until the second round of these playoffs anyway, with a handful of minimum-salaried players who’d washed out of other teams’ plans.
These players are all free agents again, but the Suns will have very limited means to re-sign them for another season or more.
Josh Okogie is the most obvious bring-back guy, if the Suns can keep him. He’s just 25 years old, is the Suns best perimeter defender, and started the last 25 games of the regular season, averaging 11 points (39% shooting, 37% on threes), 4.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.1 steals and .9 blocks in just under 29 minutes per game. The team went 15-10 with the tough 6’5” Okogie starting alongside either Torrey Craig (7-10 in 17 games) or Kevin Durant (8-0 in 8 games) in the front court.
Unfortunately, a lot of other teams could see the same upside the Suns do, and everyone else can offer him more money. The Suns can only offer Okogie up to a piddly 20% raise, which is only $2.2 million per year. As has always been the case under the new, current and prior CBAs, teams don’t get ‘Bird Rights’ on players until they’ve played 2+ years on the same contract. Okogie was signed for only one year, so the 20% raise is the most the Suns can offer.
Your best hope is that teams pass on Okogie because of his dismal playoff performance (4.3 points on 38% shooting, 14% on threes). He came off the bench in the first round because Torrey Craig had the better overall season and had playoff experience, and then in the second round lost his spot entirely to offense-first Terrence Ross and T.J. Warren.
So let’s set Okogie aside for now. Darius Bazley is another young free agent with some upaide. We’re assuming you’d want to bring back youth, if given the option.
What about the mid-career guys, though?
The Suns have the same re-signing problem with several other players (20% raise only), including Terrence Ross, T.J. Warren, Bismack Biyombo and Damion Lee. Considering the Suns got all of them for the minimum salary and they didn’t blow anyone’s socks off this year, they will probably all be available for the Suns to re-sign at the minimum again.
Jock Landale and Torrey Craig are two free agents, at least, who the Suns can offer a bigger raise and would probably want to have back, depending on the coach and other free agent decisions. These players just finished two-year deals, so the Suns have ‘Early Bird Rights’ on them.
Craig has been on the Suns for some or all of the prior two seasons, after being acquired at the 2021 trade deadline, so the Suns are allowed to go all the way up to 105% of the mid-level exception (about $12 million). That’s way way way too high for Craig, and remember that every salary dollar spent on Craig is $2-3 more dollars in luxury tax penalties because the Suns are such big spenders. But still, the Suns could offer market rate to Craig ($3-4 million, over 2+ seasons) if they want to.
Landale just finished a two-year contract originally signed with the Spurs, but because he only played one year in Phoenix the Suns cannot go as high to retain him as they could Craig. Still, the Suns can offer up to a 75% raise to Landale ($2.73 million) over 2+ seasons if they want.
These six free agents will be competing with 150+ other minimum-salary-value free agents in July. My guess is only a couple of them come back next season on contract with the Suns.
If given the option of ONE of these players to bring back next year, who would it be?