Ishbia: Suns Will Look To Re-Sign Allen, O’Neale

The Suns‘ three stars – Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and Bradley Beal – will earn more than $150MM next season on their own. Phoenix has over $178MM in total guaranteed money committed to six players so far, and that number would surpass $190MM if four additional veterans pick up player options.

However, speaking on Thursday to reporters, including Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic, Suns owner Mat Ishbia said the team will attempt to re-sign key unrestricted free agents Grayson Allen and Royce O’Neale this summer.

“We’re trying to win a championship and we’re going to try this year and we’re going to figure out how to do it next year and signing free agents is what it’s going to take,” Ishbia said. “Having someone’s Bird rights gives you an advantage to be able to keep those players even if you’re in the luxury tax. We’re not frivolous with money and just spending money to spend money. What we’re trying to do is win a championship and build the best team possible.

“… Grayson and Royce are two great guys. Royce is new to the organization, has done an amazing job, everything you can think of, and Grayson has been here all year and has been a phenomenal part of the team and the organization. We hope and expect to have both of those guys back, along with keeping this core team together because we love our team and we’re going to compete at the highest level and hopefully in the playoffs very soon, we can see them all play together.”

The Suns have one of the NBA’s highest payrolls this season, with a team salary above the second luxury tax apron. The league’s latest projection calls for a $141MM cap for the 2024/25 campaign, with a second apron of approximately $189.5MM.

Operating above the second apron will limit a team’s flexibility significantly going forward. A club with a team salary in that range won’t be able to offer free agents more than the minimum salary or take back more salary than it sends out in a trade. Second-apron teams also won’t be permitted to aggregate player salaries or send out cash in trades.

Still, as outlined above, barring cost-cutting moves, the Suns project to be above the second apron next season even without re-signing Allen or O’Neale. If they let either player walk, the Suns would have no real means to replace them beyond minimum-salary signings, so re-signing the duo is in the club’s best interest. It’s just a matter of how much money Ishbia is willing to spend on the roster — his comments on Thursday, including a joke about not knowing what the second apron is, suggest he’s not looking to pinch pennies.

It’s worth noting that both Allen and O’Neale are eligible to sign extensions prior to free agency, though that might not be a viable option for O’Neale, who would be limited to a two-year, $20.45MM deal as a result of the NBA’s extend-and-trade rules. As of March 27, the Suns would be able to offer Allen up to $75MM over four years.

Allen has made eight shots from beyond the arc in each of Phoenix’s last two games to bump his league-leading three-point percentage to 47.5%. O’Neale, meanwhile, has helped improve the Suns’ defense since being acquired at last month’s trade deadline. The club, which had a 115.0 defensive rating prior to the forward’s arrival, has a 109.9 mark since he made his debut.

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