Whatever your feelings about the Great Ayton discussion, one fact is clear after the Phoenix Suns’ decision to match the Indiana Pacers’ 4-year, $133 million offer sheet on Thursday: Phoenix is committed to winning and its price isn’t an issue. This update is a pleasant surprise to the Phoenix fan base, and it sends a message to the rest of the league that the Suns are ready to play amongst the big boys.
The Suns made it clear throughout the free agency that the franchise aimed to bring back Ayton — and they were committed to spending in order to continue competing for the title around All-NBA star Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and Ayton. Phoenix is now entering nearly $15 million in tax. https://t.co/PCVHYtk6OH
Shams Charania 15 July 2022
The words “cheap” and “tight” have been synonymous with the Phoenix Suns in their years since Robert Sarver took ownership of the team in 2004.
Stories like that of Jo Johnson in the 2005 off-season, a player who was a restricted free agent and had given Phoenix 17.1 points and 5.1 rebounds — and his left orbital bone — but didn’t feel like the Suns appreciated him. Phoenix offered him a 6-year deal worth $60 million, but it was less than the $30 million Suns could offer him. Atlanta offered him more, and Johnson asked Phoenix not to match. Signing and trading ensued.
Amare Stoudemire was a free agent in the Offseason 2010. Instead of bringing him back, the Suns went a different route. “I wanted to re-sign with Phoenix, and the negotiating style was that,” Stoudemire said on the Knuckleheads podcast in 2019. [Suns’ GM Lance Blanks] He came to me and said, “Well, we have men who will replace you tomorrow.” I’m like, “What?”.
That past has faded into the ether because many don’t remember how The Suns were viewed nationally by gamers and critics alike. Phoenix has changed its tune in recent years with the arrival of GM James Jones; Extending the maximum rookie bid to Devin Booker, bringing in – and then re-signing – multi-time All-Star Chris Paul, and expanding the First Team All-Defensive Team honoring Mikal Bridges.
The piece of the puzzle that left room for doubt that Robert Sarver had really changed his faltering ways was the lack of a rookie cap extension to Deandre Ayton before the start of the 2021-22 season.
There is no doubt that Jones appreciated Ayton. GM recently stated that “DA is still a big part of what we do and is a free dealer, so we’ll talk about a free dealership when the time comes.”
While we were playing checkers, James Jones was playing chess.
Jones saved on the Phoenix a good chunk of the change, since with the current deal, there are no built-in escalators one would normally receive at the most beginner’s stretch. Had Suns signed a DA for this deal last October, those escalators could have come in at $207 million, which equates to $41.4 million annually.
As we’ve all learned with every Kevin Durant-based commercial machine this season, teams can’t have multiple starter maximum extension contracts on their books unless they are signed by the original team that drafted them. Had Jones executed the rookie Max deal with Eaton, the Suns would have been handcuffed in the long run if the opportunity to add another player in a similar deal had arisen.
It was rumored that Jones wanted Eaton back in the last season, and not in that deal.
Therefore, the market will determine what the value of the Ayuton is in this off-season. The market value came from a presentation paper from the Indiana Pacers. And what Sun did was take a “cheap” account of the past and put it together like Marlboro red.
That match instantly.
With a quick response, James Jones and Robert Sarver told the Suns fan base that they wanted to win. And they are willing to pay for it. The Suns will cross the $150.2 million luxury tax threshold with the extension of Ayton. With the total current contracts, the team has been priced at $167.2 million per SpotTrac. The estimated luxury tax bill is currently $34.9 million.
A Kevin Durant deal is still a possibility.
You don’t need to delve into a fancy mission to be successful, but this strategy equates to success in recent years. Success comes at a cost. The 2022 NBA champion Golden State Warriors spent $39.3 million in luxury tax last season. The Milwaukee Bucks, the 2021 NBA champions, were shy of $1 million in luxury taxes the year they won it all.
If Jones plays his cards right, he sees the future NBA media rights deal as an opportunity to create valuable contracts now. The deal, which must take place before the 2025-26 season, is worth $75 billion. Yes, that is “B” as in “Billion”. This will increase the total area of the teams and increase dollars over the maximum contracts.
Remember the last time this happened in 2016? After the media rights deal, the maximum salary jumped from $70 million to $94 million. In doing so, salary inflation ensued. Joakim Noah landed a 4-year deal worth $72 million (a deal that Nix finally paid), Luol Deng forged a 4-year contract worth $72 million, and Chandler Parsons earned $94.8 million over four years.
The same will happen when the new media deal. 2025-26 will be the last year of the newly signed Eaton deal, and he will earn $35.5 million in his loaded contract again. What the maximum contract now would be valuable as a moving asset, if GM Suns chose to go that route.
The mere fact that the Suns are not only willing to override the luxury tax, but are keeping a core of Booker, Bridges and Eaton together, bodes well for the Suns in the years to come. Despite what you think of Ayton, whether or not you think he’s giving maximum effort to the players, this moment should be celebrated. We don’t have to watch a young talent leave the team and thrive in another market.
His extension is a message for the rest of the NBA. Come to Phoenix and we’ll take care of you. Come to Phoenix and you’ll get paid. Come to Phoenix and be a part of something special.