Devin Booker

Suns Expected To Be Active In Free Agency

The Suns haven’t made the playoffs since 2010 and they didn’t exactly get closer to ending their drought during the 2018/19 campaign. Despite the lack of success, Devin Booker remains optimistic about the future.

“I feel like you take the positive,” Booker said (via Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic). “That’s just me being a positive person. There were stretches this season we played really good basketball. Played the right way and it resulted in wins. We have to take that same vibe that we had during that stretch and carry that into the summer and build on that.”

The offseason will bring change in Phoenix. Jeff Bowers will take on the role of senior VP of basketball operations in the front office and the organization will look to make upgrades on the court. League sources tell Rankin that the Suns are willing to go over the salary cap in free agency this summer.

The latest projections have the cap coming in at approximately $109MM for the 2019/20 season. The Suns have slightly under $61.7MM in guaranteed salary on the books next year, though that doesn’t include Tyler Johnson‘s player option – worth roughly $19.3MM – or Kelly Oubre‘s $9.6MM cap hold. It would be an upset if Johnson decides to turn his option down.

The Suns could find themselves over the cap if they choose to sign outside free agents before circling back to offer Oubre—a restricted free agent—a new deal. Several teams have employed this strategy with restricted free agents, such as the Pistons with Andre Drummond in 2016.

The team could also go over the cap by utilizing exceptions. The Suns will almost certainly enter July operating as a team under the salary cap (unless they decide to take back salary in trades that exhaust their cap space prior to the start of the new league year). They’ll likely have the room exception at their disposal, which is projected to come in at $4.76MM.

Phoenix added several veterans over the past few offseasons and those moves didn’t work out with the team shipping Trevor Ariza to Washington as the most recent example. The Suns will need to find the right additions this time around.

“We have the good young core that’s ready to go. We just all have to stick together. Sprinkle in a couple of vets and some guys that are ready to win,” Booker said.

Devin Booker, Tyler Johnson Done For Season

A pair of Suns guards won’t appear in the final three games of the season, as the team has shut down Devin Booker and Tyler Johnson.

Jordan Schultz of ESPN.com first reported (via Twitter) that Booker, who suffered an ankle sprain during Wednesday’s loss to the Jazz, wouldn’t return this season. Shams Charania of The Athletic confirmed as much today (via Twitter).

The former lottery pick had been on a tear lately, scoring 48 of more points in three of his last five games. However, with the Suns only playing for lottery positioning and Booker’s five-year, maximum-salary extension set to go into effect this July, there was no reason for the club to push him to get back before next Wednesday.

As for Johnson, the 26-year-old combo guard, acquired from the Heat at the trade deadline, underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his right knee on Wednesday, the team announced in a press release. The Suns gave no indication of his recovery timeline, but I’d expect him to be ready to go for the 2019/20 season. He hadn’t played for Phoenix since March 13.

Johnson could technically become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, but is far more likely to opt into the final year of his current contract, which is worth $19.2MM+.

With Booker and Johnson sidelined, players like Elie Okobo, De’Anthony Melton, and Jimmer Fredette could get a long look in the backcourt during Phoenix’s final three games.

Devin Booker Plans To Be Involved In Suns’ Offseason

Devin Booker‘s new five-year, maximum-salary extension with the Suns will begin on July 1, and as the team considers its other offseason moves, the standout guard hopes to have some say in those decisions, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic.

“It’s probably the summer I’ll be most involved in my career,” Booker said this week.

Assuming they hold the No. 2 spot in the NBA’s lottery standings, the Suns will have a top-six draft pick at their disposal. The club is also expected to have some cap room available, though Tyler Johnson‘s $19MM+ player option will cut into Phoenix’s cap flexibility, as will Kelly Oubre‘s cap hold.

Of course, it’s still not entirely clear who will be making the final call on personnel moves in Phoenix. Currently, interim co-GMs James Jones and Trevor Bukstein are running the show, but the Suns are conducting a search for a permanent head of basketball operations. Booker is counting on staying involved in the decision-making process even after that hire is made, as Rankin relays.

[RELATED: Kevin McHale, Jim Paxson Among Suns’ GM Candidates?]

“When I signed my deal, I think it was an understanding, through the franchise and myself, that moving forward, we both have the same goals at hand and that’s to get better,” Booker said. “It’s not a one-sided thing. It’s not whatever I view, whatever they view. I think it’s a collective agreement. Moving forward, throwing in any advice I can, stay in the loop and watch what’s going on and know what’s going on.”

Although he may have one eye on the Suns’ offseason, Booker has been at his best on the court as of late. Since the All-Star break, the 22-year-old has averaged an impressive 31.6 PPG, 6.8 APG, and 5.0 RPG with a .465/.331/.887 shooting line. He has cracked the 50-point mark in each of his last two games.

Suns Notes: Front Office, Price, Warren, Jackson

A recent report from ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz portrayed the situation in Phoenix as one long plagued by dysfunctional leadership, from owner Robert Sarver on down, and questioned the Suns‘ current front office structure, which features James Jones and Trevor Bukstein operating as interim co-GMs. For his part though, Jones believes he, Bukstein, and the rest of the club’s current management group has done well dealing with a challenging situation after former GM Ryan McDonough was unexpectedly fired in October.

“I think we’ve done a pretty damn good job,” Jones said, per Gina Mizell of The Athletic.

Within her look at the Suns’ front office situation, Mizell notes that, despite not fully replenishing their scouting department after some dismissals last fall, the Suns have been active when it comes to scouting college prospects, sending personnel to multiple ACC, SEC, Big 12, Big Ten, and Murray State games over the past couple of months.

“The perception is that we’re not out there,” Jones said. “We are out there.”

While they haven’t replaced all the basketball evaluators that were fired along with McDonough, the Suns did quietly hire longtime NBA guard Ronnie Price as a scout, Mizell notes, confirming a previous report from John Gambadoro of ArizonaSports.com. The franchise has also “taken steps to add offseason consulting help” for evaluating international draft-eligible players, though there are no top-tier European prospects like Luka Doncic available this year, Mizell writes.

Here’s more from out of Phoenix:

  • Suns forward T.J. Warren, who has been sidelined since January 22 with an ankle injury, remains out for tonight’s game against Utah. However, head coach Igor Kokoskov said on Tuesday that the club has yet to have any discussions about shutting down Warren for the season, tweets Mizell.
  • Although it’s clear that 2018 lottery pick Mikal Bridges will be a building block for the Suns going forward, it remains to be seen whether 2017 lottery pick Josh Jackson is still a part of that core group, according to Bob Young of The Athletic. As Young outlines, Jackson’s long-term place in Phoenix will be even more up in the air if Kelly Oubre re-ups with the team this summer.
  • Heading into Wednesday night, the Suns have won five of their last seven games, a stretch that coincides with Devin Booker being as healthy and productive as he has been all season, writes Cody Cunningham of Suns.com. While the hot streak may cost Phoenix the top spot in the 2018/19 Reverse Standings, Booker’s run is a positive sign as he prepares to enter the first season of his five-year, maximum-salary extension this summer.
  • In a separate article for Suns.com, Cunningham explores how the Suns’ young players are looking to develop leadership skills.

Pacific Notes: Bell, Booker, LeBron, Warren

Warriors coach Steve Kerr and reserve big man Jordan Bell engaged in a brief argument during the team’s game against the Lakers on Monday, with both figures visibly upset and Kerr eventually walking away.

The dispute occurred during a timeout with 5:14 left in the fourth, with Bell playing the final seven minutes of the team’s blowout victory.

“It was a total misinterpretation of something I said,” Kerr said, as relayed by Monte Poole of NBC Sports, “and we cleared it up.”

Bell has seen his minutes decrease from 14.2 to 10.9 per game this season, with the 24-year-old currently in his second campaign with Golden State. The return of DeMarcus Cousins is only going to complicate his role further, as most of the back-up center minutes are set for Kevon Looney.

“We’re all gonna go through times throughout the NBA when we want to speak our minds and vent, and we might be frustrated over some things,” teammate Kevin Durant said when discussing Bell. “Coach has been so open in letting guys get that out but also challenging guys as well. It’s a healthy dialogue, and it’s just a healthy relationship between us and Coach. He lets us know what he sees out there and if you have something to say to him back, he’s not going to be afraid to go back at you.

“I think Jordan understands that, at this point, we just want to continue to keep getting better. Coach will always – especially the younger guys in the league – definitely be on them a little bit more because he expects a lot out of them. He sees the potential in him. On Jordan’s side, we just want him to keep playing. That stuff happens, so we’ll move on.”

The Warriors have the option to offer Bell a $1.8MM qualifying offer prior to free agency this summer.

There’s more from the Pacific Division tonight:

  • Suns guard Devin Booker was fined $25K for escalating an on-court altercation by pushing Wolves center Gorgui Dieng on Wednesday, the NBA announced. Both Booker and Dieng were ejected following the scuffle.
  • The talent and leadership of LeBron James may not be enough for the Lakers to make the playoffs this season, Bill Oram of The Athletic cautions. James signed a four-year, $154MM contract to join the Lakers in free agency last summer, immediately changing the direction of the franchise to compete this season. He’s missed the past 14 games due to a groin injury, however, watching his team slip to the ninth-best record in the West (25-23) from afar. “No one here is just counting on LeBron carrying all the weight and taking us there,” coach Luke Walton said. “We know the only way to get there is to work. And for everyone to step up and make plays.”
  • Suns forward T.J. Warren is expected to miss two to three weeks after sustaining a bone bruise in his left ankle, tweets Gina Mizell of The Athletic. Warren’s timetable means he’ll likely return around the All-Star break in mid-February, with second-year player Josh Jackson set to get additional minutes in his place. Warren has averaged 18 points and four rebounds per game this season, shooting 49% from the floor and a career-high 43% from behind-the-arc.

Pacific Notes: Oubre, Shumpert, Lakers

After getting off to a very rough start, the Suns have started to turn things around, winning five of their past nine games. The recent success is mainly a result of strong play from their two franchise cornerstones Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, but Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype writes that Kelly Oubre‘s positive impact shouldn’t be overlooked.

As Kennedy points out, Oubre is averaging 14.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.3 threes and 1.0 blocks per game, while shooting 47.4 percent from three-point range since joining the Suns several weeks ago. Ayton and Booker have loved the energy and “swag” that Oubre has brought to the team and perhaps more importantly, Oubre fits with the team’s timeline as they continue on a rebuilding path.

The Suns are still evaluating what they have in some of their young players, but it’s safe to say that the team continues to show more promise as Booker and Ayton lead the way on a nightly basis.

There’s more from the Pacific division:

  • An afterthought when acquired back in February, Iman Shumpert has taken up a leadership role with the Kings this season as his play has improved. Jason Jones of The Athletic details the valuable presence that Shumpert has had for this young Kings team.
  • As a result of recent struggles in the face of LeBron James‘ injury, is it better for the Lakers to stay patient or make a win-now move? Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report tackles this challenging question.
  • Speaking of those struggles, Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register details the Lakers‘ inability to close out games with James not playing. A recent buzzer-beating loss to the Kings and fourth quarter unraveling against the Clippers highlighted the room for growth for the Lakers’ young core.

Suns Notes: Warren, Jackson, Ayton, Booker

The Suns are in the midst of an eight-game losing streak and have dropped 11 of their last 12, as their offense struggles immensely without top scorers Devin Booker and T.J. Warren in the lineup. Phoenix has cracked the 100-point mark just once in its last six games and has posted nine-point first quarters twice during that stretch.

However, while Booker’s return still isn’t imminent, the team will get some added firepower this week, with Warren poised to return to the lineup on Monday, as Bob Young of The Athletic details.

“We’re missing him and Book, our two leading scorers,” Jamal Crawford said. “When you have those guys, it kind of settles everybody else down. (Warren) is somebody who helps give the team that swagger, for sure. Offense has been pretty hard to come by, but I think we’ll figure it out.”

Here’s more out of Phoenix:

  • Since entering the NBA in 2017, former fourth overall pick Josh Jackson has played for three different head coaches and two general managers. Speaking to Paolo Uggetti of The Ringer, Jackson said that he thinks the instability in Phoenix has had an effect on his play. “It would definitely be a lot better if we were more stable,” Jackson said recently. “I don’t think any other player in my class has gone through as much change within their team as I have. Since the moment I came into the league, it’s just been all about changes and adjustments, new coach after my second game of the season, like, c’mon now, really? That doesn’t happen.”
  • Addressing a heated postgame exchange with Devin Booker that took place after last Thursday’s loss to Portland, rookie center Deandre Ayton downplayed the incident, saying that he and Booker are “just two guys that want to win,” writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic.
  • Earlier today, we relayed a couple other Suns-related news items, passing along word of the Suns’ contract talks with Eric Moreland and writing that at least eight teams have inquired on Trevor Ariza.

Pacific Rumors: Booker, Warriors, Jones, Joerger

Suns star guard Devin Booker will take a cautious approach after re-aggravating a hamstring injury against the Lakers on Sunday, Gina Mizell of The Athletic tweets. There’s no timetable for Booker’s return, Mizell adds. Booker, who missed the team’s previous game against Orlando, departed after 17 minutes. He is averaging 23.5 PPG and 6.7 APG. Booker has been starting at the point and rookie Elie Okobo could pick up some of Booker’s minutes.

We have more from around the Pacific Division:

  • The Warriors dealt with a meningitis scare last March, Sam Amick of The Athletic reports. An outside vendor who handled the team’s food on a daily basis contracted a contagious form of the disease. Extensive precautionary measures were taken to ensure the meningitis didn’t spread to the team, Amick continues. A majority of the Warriors’ players and some members of the basketball operations staff took vaccination shots and a team practice was relocated to Oracle Arena while the team’s practice facility in downtown Oakland was sanitized, Amick adds. The health scare appears to be what David West was referring to when he made cryptic comments in the spring about the private challenges the team had dealt with.
  • With Damian Jones likely out for the season, the Warriors are evaluating whether to make a roster move, as Anthony Slater of The Athletic details. Jones tore a pectoral muscle in Detroit on Saturday. Willie Reed, currently posting big numbers in the G League, could be a candidate. Robin Lopez and Enes Kanter could be options if they’re bought out after the trade deadline, Slater opines. But the Dubs have Marcus Derrickson on a two-way deal and DeMarcus Cousins should return soon from his Achilles injury, so they may elect to stand pat, Slater adds.
  • The issues between Kings coach Dave Joerger and assistant GM Brandon Williams is par for the course in a dysfunctional organization, Jason Jones of The Athletic notes. Details of Joerger’s increasingly uncomfortable situation became public last week. With the perception of a divided front office, it wouldn’t be a shock if Joerger seeks another coaching job, Jones adds.

Devin Booker Wants To Build Super-Team In Phoenix

The 4-15 Suns are the only team in a hyper-competitive Western Conference that hasn’t won at least nine games already this season. However, while Phoenix may not be ready to contend in the West quite yet, Devin Booker is thinking big after signing a five-year contract extension with the franchise over the summer, as he tells Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports.

“I’d like to build a super-team. I’d like the super-team to come to me,” Booker said. “If that’s through free agency, people seeing what we have here with the big fella [Deandre Ayton] and myself and wanting to join in on that, to reach higher heights, then I’m with that.”

Phoenix hasn’t won more than 24 games in a season since 2014/15 and looks like a good bet to finish at the bottom of the Western Conference once again in 2018/19. Still, Booker’s “super-team” goals aren’t quite as outlandish as the club’s spot in the standings might suggest.

As Booker alludes to, the Suns already have two long-term cornerstones in place — Booker is 22 years old and is under contract for five years beyond this season, while Ayton is 20 years old and in his rookie season.

The club is also fairly flexible in terms of its salary cap outlook. Ryan Anderson still has one year left on his pricey contract after this season, but otherwise, the only players on Phoenix’s books beyond 2018/19 are Booker, Ayton, Josh Jackson, Mikal Bridges, T.J. Warren, Elie Okobo, and De’Anthony Melton. On top of all that, the Suns should have another top draft pick to work with in 2019.

With Booker and Ayton locked up for the next several years and likely to keep getting better, the Suns have plenty of time to figure out how to fill out their roster with the pieces necessary to return to contention. Landing a star player via trade or free agency within the next year or two would accelerate the team’s timeline, and it sounds like Booker would like to go that route.

“It’s my job to speed up that plan and have the team believe we can move forward with me as a center point,” Booker told Goodwill.

Nets Notes: Free Agency, Russell, Faried, LeVert

The Nets were one of the NBA’s most aggressive teams in free agency in 2016 and 2017, handing out a total of four offer sheets to Allen Crabbe, Tyler Johnson, Donatas Motiejunas, and Otto Porter during that time. All four of those offers were matched, which probably ended up being a good thing in retrospect for Brooklyn, writes ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.

While Crabbe ended up on the Nets eventually as a result of a trade, he has struggled with his consistency, as has Johnson. Meanwhile, Motiejunas is no longer in the NBA and Porter is off to a bad start for the 2-8 Wizards this season.

If most or all of those players had landed in Brooklyn as a result of those offer sheets, the Nets almost certainly wouldn’t be in position to make a splash in the 2019 free agent period — instead, their cap would be weighed down with lucrative multiyear deals for players who haven’t necessarily emerged as impact players. So while GM Sean Marks deserves some credit for making the most of a bad situation during the first few years of his tenure, he has also benefited from some good luck in restricted free agency.

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • Before the Nets defeated the Suns on Tuesday, Devin Booker told Greg Logan of Newsday that he’d “love to play” with Brooklyn guard D’Angelo Russell someday, adding that Russell “makes people around him better.” A union between the two players is unlikely to happen in Brooklyn anytime in the next few years, since Booker’s five-year extension with the Suns begins next season. But perhaps Russell, who will be a restricted free agent in 2019, will draw interest from Phoenix.
  • After being buried in Denver’s rotation last season, Kenneth Faried finds himself in a similar situation in a contract year with the Nets. As Brian Lewis of The New York Post writes, head coach Kenny Atkinson praised Faried’s play in practice, but said there’s simply “no room” in the lineup for him at this point. “I can’t say, ‘Oh, he’s played bad,’ or ‘Oh, he’s not playing well.’ I can’t say that. Some guys, I can,” Atkinson said. “I’m telling you the honest truth, it’s a situational thing. And the other guys have got to start playing badly for him to get a chance.”
  • In another article for The New York Post, Lewis explores how Caris LeVert has evolved from a risky, injured draft pick to a crucial long-term piece for the Nets.