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2022 NBA Offseason Preview: Phoenix Suns

Although sun ended the 2019/20 season winning eight games in a row, it was still their sixth straight season under .500, so when they followed it up by going 51-21 to reach the NBA Finals in 20/21, it was a major surprise.

That 20/21 performance put the Suns in the spotlight as 21/22 contenders, meaning they didn’t surprise anyone with yet another hot start last fall. But not many league watchers expected this hot streak to last nearly the entire regular season, as the club is still another a significant step forward by winning 64 games in the NBA.

Phoenix’s rise came to an abrupt halt in the second round of the playoffs when the team failed to slow down. Luka Doncic and lost to the underdog Mavericks in seven games. It cast a shadow over what was otherwise an amazing year and raised questions about where the club is headed next.

Do more roster updates need to be seriously challenged for the title, or was it a championship-caliber team that just had a bad streak? And how will Chris Paul‘sage, Deandre Aytonfree agency and ongoing investigation into team owner Robert SarverIs the alleged workplace misconduct factor affecting Suns’ future prospects?


Suns offseason plan:

Let’s start with Ayton, the only Suns main player not yet signed for the 2022-23 season. He will be eligible for limited leeway this offseason after failing to reach an extension with the team last fall. While Phoenix was reluctant to give Ayton a five-year, top-salary deal a year ago, it has long been expected that it would be easier for both parties to reach an agreement this summer — if not a top-of-the-line deal, then something else. very close to it.

However, ever since the night the Suns were eliminated from the playoffs — in Game 7, in which Ayton was on the bench with only 17 minutes to play — report after report suggested that the big man’s return to Phoenix would not be a foregone conclusion. . Many reporters have named the former No. 1 player as potentially the most vocal player to change teams this summer.

Ayton’s free will will be exciting for several reasons. First, despite the fact that the Suns are apparently not happy about paying Ayton more than $30 million a year for his next deal, all of these aforementioned reports were adamant that the team would not allow he just walks away and watches. agree to sign and trade.

Given that very few teams have the ability to create enough cap space to sign Ayton right away, that may be where his free will plays. But it would be interesting to see how Phoenix would react if a rival suitor signed Ayton to a four-year maximum offer term. Will the Suns live up to this and plan to potentially trade Ayton in the future, despite the fact that his salary is currently well above the luxury tax threshold? The potential for playing chicken with free agents is intriguing here.

If the Suns do enter into negotiations to sign and trade Ayton, those negotiations will be complicated by the fact that base year compensation rules will apply to his new contract. Under the maximum salary deal, Ayton’s outgoing salary from Phoenix’s point of view will be just $15.25 million, while his incoming salary for the new team will be $30.5 million. Closing that gap and making sure both teams abide by the NBA’s salary rules will be difficult if Ayton’s new team goes over the limit.

It is almost unprecedented for a free agent of Ayton’s stature to accept his qualifying offer rather than negotiate for a longer-term contract, but no rookie player has ever been eligible for a qualifying offer as lucrative as Ayton’s (16.4 million dollars). so it’s worth mentioning as a fallback. Had he agreed to a one-year QO, Ayton would have been eligible for unlimited free rein in 2023. staying in Phoenix is ​​an option.

Based on reports to date, it looks like the Suns’ preferred outcome would be to replace Ayton with a starting caliber player in the $15-20 million range and not spend top salary money on his starting center. Let’s see if the right opportunity presents itself – for both Ayton and the Suns – for that to happen.

While resolving Ayton’s contract situation will be their top priority, the Suns will have to deal with their spare slots at point guard and center, where Aaron Holiday, Elfried Payton, JaVale McGeeas well as Bismac Biyombo everyone has the right to free agency. How Phoenix approaches those spots will depend in part on whether Ayton returns, or perhaps how much of the team’s paycheck gets back in the Ayton trade.

Sarver doesn’t have a reputation for being an owner who spends big money on player salaries and probably won’t be too enthusiastic to delve into tax territory, so if Phoenix plans to become a taxpayer, I would count on the team to fill out their report. Depth chart for point guard and center mostly with minimum wage signatures. If Ayton not If returned, the club would have more flexibility below the luxury tax line, opening the door to using their mid-level exemption and possibly re-signing players like Holiday and McGee who should have more than the minimum.

Devin Booker, Cameron Johnsonas well as Dario Saric are among the other Suns to keep an eye on this offseason.

This spring, Booker qualified for a super-max contract extension when he was named to the All-NBA team. If the Suns put up a super-max offer, that would add another four years to the two remaining on his current contract, starting at 35% of the 2024/25 limit. Even if we predict a relatively conservative limit of $130 million on 24/25, this super-max contract will be worth over $50 million per year.

There is no guarantee that the Suns will move on to this extension immediately, but it will cover Booker’s best years (beginning with his season at age 28) and Paul’s contract will be out by that point, so it would make sense for both parties. . to do it this summer.

Johnson will be eligible for a rookie scale extension this offseason and has likely earned a contract at least in the range of what his fellow sniper Kevin Huerter received from Atlanta a year ago (four years, $65 million). The Suns don’t have to press for a deal with Johnson before the 2022-23 season, as he will become a restricted free agent next summer. But if they can get a relatively favorable price for the team, as they did with Mikal Bridgesit’s worth pursuing.

Meanwhile, Šarić is recovering from a ruptured cruciate ligament as the final year of his contract draws to a close. His expiring $9.2 million deal makes him a logical trade candidate, either in a pay cut deal or a rotational player package. However, at least one recent report has suggested that Phoenix is ​​hopeful that Sarich can return to form as a frontcourt figure who can stretch the floor, and may not be moving it after all.


The situation with the salary cap

Note. Our salary cap numbers are based on the league’s latest forecast ($122M) for 2022/23.

Guaranteed salary

Player Options

Command Options

Non-guaranteed wages

Restricted free agents

  • Deandre Ayton ($16,422,835 qualifying offer / $31,582,375): bird rights
  • Aaron Holiday ($5,791,702 qualifying offer / $11,941,653): bird rights
  • Ish Wainwright ($1,816,044 qualifying offer / $1,816,044 cap): Non-bird related rights.
  • Total (capped): $45,340,072.

Bilateral free agents

Draft Pick

Players eligible for renewal

Note. These are players who are either already eligible for an extension or will become eligible before the start of the 2022/23 season.

  • Devin Booker (veteran)
  • Jay Crowder (veteran)
  • Cameron Johnson (novice scale)
  • Dario Saric (veteran)

Unlimited free agents / other restrictions

Off-season forecast

With $128 million in guaranteed money allocated to nine players, the Suns will at least exceed the projected $122 million cap in 2022-23.

The situation with Ayton will determine whether they go over the projected $149 million tax line, but for now it looks like a good bet – even if Ayton doesn’t return, Phoenix could end up with more than $20 million. in salary in signing and trade deal.

Limitation exceptions available

  • Exception for the mid-tier taxpayer: $6,392,000 one

Footnotes

  1. This is the predicted value. Instead, Suns can access the mid-tier full exemption ($10,349,000) and biennial exemption ($4,050,000) if they remain below the tax threshold.

Salary and ceiling information from basketball insiders as well as RealGM was used to create this post.

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