Mikal Bridges

Suns Pick Up 2020/21 Options On Ayton, Bridges

The Suns have exercised a pair of third-year rookie scale options, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who reports (via Twitter) that the team has locked in the 2020/21 salaries for Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges.

Ayton, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft, projects to have the highest cap hit of any third-year player in 2020/21, at $10,018,200. Bridges, the 10th overall pick in last year’s draft, will have a more modest $4,359,000 cap charge.

While both youngsters are viewed as long-term building blocks in Phoenix, Ayton is the one considered a future franchise player. As Charania notes, he has received rave reviews from coaches and players leading up to the 2019/20 season.

In his rookie year, Ayton averaged a double-double, recording 16.3 PPG and 10.3 RPG in 71 games (30.7 MPG). The Suns will have to pick up his 2021/22 option by October 31, 2020, then he’ll become eligible for a rookie scale extension in the 2021 offseason.

As for Bridges, he appeared in all 82 games for Phoenix as a rookie, averaging a modest 8.3 PPG and 3.2 RPG in 29.5 minutes per contest. The 23-year-old has the potential to develop into a standout three-and-D contributor, having averaged 1.6 SPG and made 33.5% of his three-pointers in his first professional season. Like Ayton, he’ll become extension-eligible in 2021 if the Suns pick up his fourth-year rookie scale option.

All the league-wide decisions on rookie scale options for 2020/21 can be found right here as the October 31 deadline approaches.

Team USA Updates: Millsap, Plumlee, Harrell, Select Team

USA Basketball has issued a press release announcing a series of updates relating to the team it’s putting together for the 2019 World Cup in China, as well as the training camp that will take place in August before that event. Here are the highlights of that announcement:

More withdrawals:

Nuggets big man Paul Millsap has joined the ever-growing list of players from Team USA’s initial 20-man roster who have decided not to participate in this year’s World Cup. As expected, Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love has also withdrawn from Team USA’s 2019 roster.

Millsap and Love join Bradley Beal, Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, James Harden, Tobias Harris, Damian Lillard, and CJ McCollum among the original invitees who have removed their names from World Cup consideration.

New invitees:

Team USA confirmed that Thaddeus Young, Marcus Smart, Julius Randle, and Jaylen Brown will join the training camp roster for next month, as previous reports indicated.

In addition to those four players, two big men will join the roster as well, with Clippers center Montrezl Harrell and Nuggets center Mason Plumlee have received invitations from USA Basketball. Assuming the remaining 11 players from the original 20-man roster remain committed, that would bring the roster back up to 17.

[UPDATE: Harrell may turn down his invitation]

Those 11 other players are Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond, Kyle Kuzma, Brook Lopez, Kyle Lowry, Khris Middleton, Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum, P.J. Tucker, Myles Turner, and Kemba Walker.

Select Team:

For the first time, USA Basketball confirmed the players who will make up the Select Team at next month’s training camp in Las Vegas. The members of the 13-man Select Team will practice and scrimmage with Team USA’s training camp invitees, and will be coached by Jeff Van Gundy.

It’s possible that a player could be elevated from the Select Team to the primary roster and eventually find his way onto the 12-man squad that will play in China, but that’s probably a long shot.

The 13 players who will play for the Select Team are as follows:

  1. Jarrett Allen (Nets)
  2. Marvin Bagley III (Kings)
  3. Mikal Bridges (Suns)
  4. Jalen Brunson (Mavericks)
  5. John Collins (Hawks)
  6. Pat Connaughton (Bucks)
  7. De’Aaron Fox (Kings)
  8. Joe Harris (Nets)
  9. Jonathan Isaac (Magic)
  10. Mitchell Robinson (Knicks)
  11. Landry Shamet (Clippers)
  12. Derrick White (Spurs)
  13. Trae Young (Hawks)

Team USA’s training camp will take place during the week of August 5, while the World Cup itself is scheduled to run from August 31 to September 15.

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: Bridges, Suns, Mbah a Moute, Warriors

The Suns have been struggling through an extended rebuild for several years now, which has led to them piling up plenty of young players and prospects that have had to compete for playing time. First it was Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss, now it appears to be Mikal Bridges and Josh Jackson. As Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer writes, Bridges appears to have the edge moving forward as a result of the added shooting he can provide.

Bridges has impressed so far this season for the Suns while Jackson has only continued to disappoint, which has led to inconsistent playing time and opportunities for the sophomore wing. With shooting being emphasized all over the league, it’s no surprise that Bridges is getting more opportunities, especially considering that he has been solid on the defensive end for a rookie.

Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how the playing time and opportunities play out on the wing for the Suns, especially as they will likely add another top prospect to the roster for next season.

There’s more from the Pacific division:

  • As the lopsided losses continue to pile up for the Suns, frustration is mounting within the locker room. As Duane Rankin writes for Arizona Central, there have been numerous instances of friction and disconnect throughout the team, especially because the Suns were looking to be more competitive this season.
  • After only appearing in four games early in the season, it appears that Luc Mbah a Moute finally has a timetable for his return, as Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register reveals that the Clippers expect him to return in a couple of weeks from his left knee injury.
  • As the Warriors continue to fight through a season full of turmoil and injuries, Nick Friedell of ESPN writes that the team is still looking to find its joy, which is much harder to regain as it isn’t a tangible goal or accomplishment such as a championship ring or trophy.

Pacific Notes: Bridges, Kings, Green, Durant

A draft night trade that sent Mikal Bridges from the Sixers to the Suns gave the rookie a better chance to excel than he would have had in Philadelphia, writes Sarah Todd of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Bridges, who was in the starting lineup when the teams met Monday, has been playing roughly 20 minutes per game in Phoenix and averaging 8.0 points per night.

The draft was briefly a dream come true for Bridges, who grew up in Philadelphia and played at Villanova. But after the Sixers selected him with the 10th pick, they accepted an offer from the Suns that gave them 16th pick Zhaire Smith and an unprotected first-rounder in 2021.

“He’s starting to feel good about the situation, he’s playing more, he’s having more success,” said Jack Bridges, Mikal’s father. “At the end of the day, he just wants to win.”

There’s more tonight from the Pacific Division:

  • The Kings have been able to block out distractions on their way to a 10-8 start, even a weekend report that coach Dave Joerger’s job was in jeopardy because of a dispute with management over playing time for younger players, relays Jason Jones of The Athletic. Although turmoil has defined the organization over the past decade, this new crop of Kings seems to be able to ignore negative influences. “We’re not worried about any of that stuff outside the locker room,” Willie Cauley-Stein said. “We’re just worried about our guys, developing our guys and everybody just leveling up. For us, the business side of this, we can’t control none of that, we don’t care about none of that at the end of the day. We want to get get better, we want to win ball games.”
  • Draymond Green is reasserting himself as a leader in the Warriors‘ locker room after last week’s altercation with Kevin Durant, says Shams Charania of The Athletic in a Twitter video. Green addressed the team following Sunday’s loss in San Antonio, emphasizing the need to regroup and pointing out areas that need to be worked on. Charania adds that the Warriors remain confident that things will be fine once Stephen Curry returns from his injury.
  • Durant was fined $25K for a profane comment he made to a fan during Saturday’s Warriors game in Dallas, tweets Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Pacific Notes: Lakers, Bridges, Labissiere, Clippers

The Lakers ensured themselves a successful offseason when they signed LeBron James, but they still need to fill a vacancy at center, writes Matt John of Basketball Insiders. The addition of free agent JaVale McGee doesn’t really solidify the position, and the only other choices on the roster are rookie Moe Wagner and Ivica Zubac.

With David West and Brandan Wright as the best free agents left on the market, John identifies several potential trade targets, including Tristan Thompson, James’ former teammate in Cleveland. Thompson is a physical rebounder and defender with whom James had a good rapport. However, John notes that he may not be available unless Cleveland decides to rebuild.

Other possibilities include the Bismack Biyombo, who finds himself in a center logjam after being traded to Charlotte, the Bucks’ John Henson, the Bulls’ Robin Lopez, the Magic’s Nikola Vucevic and the Hawks’ Dewayne Dedmon.

There’s more news from the Pacific Division:

  • Suns rookie swingman Mikal Bridges was a little disappointed he didn’t play more in the summer league, James Blancarte of Basketeball Insiders reports. “It’s tough you know. Coming in mentally, you don’t know what the coach is going to do and how they are going to play you,” Bridges told Blancarte. “Couple of games, not playing as much as I thought I was going to be [playing]. Just staying mentally [tough], going through that.” Bridges averaged 6.2 PPG and 2.6 RPG in 20 MPG during five Las Vegas outings. He will also likely have wait his turn during his rookie campaign but Phoenix thought enough of him to swing a draft-night trade with the Sixers, Blancarte notes.
  • Kings big man Skal Labissiere is looking to improve his durability during his offseason workouts, Jason Wise of the team’s website relays. Memphis-area trainer Raheem Shabazz has made Instagram posts showing the work Labissiere is putting in as he prepares for his third NBA season.
  • Clippers lottery picks Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson showed flashes of potential in summer league games but they were far from perfect, according to Keith Smith of RealGM. Gilgeous-Alexander has a solid all-around game but needs lot of work with his shot. Robinson has to focus more on the defensive end, Smith continues, while undrafted big man Angel Delgado struggled on the perimeter. However, Delgado displayed strong rebounding instincts and toughness on the interior, Smith adds.

Suns Sign Ayton, Bridges; King Gets Two-Way Deal

The Suns have officially signed three of their four 2018 draft picks, according to RealGM’s transactions log. First-round selections Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges have inked their rookie deals with Phoenix, while second-rounder George King has finalized a two-way contract.

Ayton, the first overall pick in the draft, projects to be the Suns’ center of the future, with the team never wavering on using the No. 1 pick to select him over Marvin Bagley III, Luka Doncic, and other top prospects in the 2018 class. As our list of rookie scale salaries shows, Ayton will be in line for a first-year salary of $8MM+ and will earn more than $40MM over the course of his four-year rookie contract.

Bridges, meanwhile, was acquired in a draft-night trade with the Sixers. Phoenix gave up Miami’s unprotected 2021 first-round pick to move up from No. 16 to No. 10 to secure Bridges, an indication of how much they like him. The former Villanova forward will receive a $3.55MM first-year salary and a four-year contract worth $17.63MM in total.

While Bridges’ and Ayton’s first NBA contracts were locked in from the moment they were drafted, that wasn’t the case for King, the 59th overall pick, since there’s no set rookie scale for second-round selections. The former Colorado forward will slot into one of the Suns’ two-way contract openings during his rookie year.

The only unsigned Phoenix draftee now is Elie Okobo, the 31st overall pick. However, the two sides reportedly reached an agreement on a four-year deal shortly after the draft, so it should become official soon after the moratorium ends.

Sixers Notes: Fultz, Smith Trade, GM Candidate

The Sixers’ decision to draft two guards in the first round could mean Markelle Fultz won’t be part of the future in Philadelphia, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The team acquired swingman Zhaire Smith in a trade with the Suns and took point guard Landry Shamet at No. 26, but coach Brett Brown said the selections have nothing to do with Fultz and the difficulties he encountered during his rookie year.

After being the first player taken in the 2017 draft, Fultz missed much of the season with a shoulder injury and an unexplained problem with his shooting motion. Fultz is still limited to “foundational-type” shooting drills, according to Pompey, and probably won’t join the Sixers for summer league.

The front office insists it isn’t trying to trade Fultz, but Pompey cites a report of internal discussions about moving him, along with the two first-rounders, in an effort to obtain a top five pick. Several league sources also say Fultz was available for a deal, but his performance as a rookie makes it difficult to get anything of value in return.

There’s more this morning out of Philadelphia:

  • Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated offers an inside look at the draft night deal that sent Smith to Philadelphia and Mikal Bridges to Phoenix. The Sixers turned down several offers from the Suns prior to the deal coming together just before Phoenix made its selection at No. 16. Bridges had a private workout in Philadelphia and Smith participated in two group workouts, and the Sixers considered them “1A” and “1B” as prospects who might be available with the 10th pick. When Smith fell all the way to 16th, Philly reconsidered, seeing an opportunity to stock up on future picks.
  • Brown would like to see the Sixers hire someone already in the organization as the next GM, Pompey writes in a separate story. The top internal candidate is believed to be Marc Eversley, who serves as vice president of player personnel. “I don’t think we need an overhaul,” Brown said. “We’re in deep on this. We have ways we do business. So somewhere out there, we’ll find the balance of those things that I said, and I’m sure that I’ll have a voice in the selection of the next general manager.”
  • Brown compares Smith to Spurs star Kawhi Leonard, another player who was traded on draft night, Pompey notes in another piece. Leonard is Smith’s favorite player and could wind up being a teammate if the cards fall right for the Sixers. “I think somebody said we have the same shooting mechanics,” Smith said. “So I try to do whatever move he does to get his shot off. I try to learn that.”

Suns Rumors: Bridges, Free Agency, Coaches, Williams

The addition of Mikal Bridges gives the Suns a logjam at the forward spots and they still need to address their point guard situation, Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic writes.

After the draft-night trade with the Sixers to acquire Bridges’ rights, the Suns now have five recent first-rounders – Josh JacksonT.J. WarrenDragan Bender and Marquese Chriss being the others – angling for playing time in the frontcourt. GM Ryan McDonough said he might add a stretch four in free agency, Bordow continues, so they could use that depth in a trade, with Chriss and Warren the most likely to be dealt.

Despite selecting Frenchman Elie Okobo with the first pick of the second round, the Suns still need another veteran at that spot, and McDonough confirmed they could pursue a floor leader in free agency, Bordow adds.

We have more on the Suns:

  • The Suns consider Bridges a “special player” and that’s why they were willing to deal the No. 16 pick and the Heat’s unprotected 2021 first-rounder for him, Bob Baum of the Associated Press reports. ‘‘We weighed the pros and cons of trading it heavily and carefully,” McDonough said. ”We were only going to put it in play if we had a chance to get a special player and that’s how we feel about Mikal.”
  • With $15-$20MM available to pursue free agents, the Suns will be proactive in free agency, Baum adds in the same piece. ‘We’re going to continue to be aggressive for the next couple of weeks in free agency,” McDonough said. “We’ve got some money to spend and we’re looking to spend it on the best players we can get.”
  • Joe Prunty, Corliss Williamson, Jamelle McMillan, Jason Staudt and Cody Toppert have officially signed up as assistants for new head coach Igor Kokoskov, Bordow tweets.
  • It’s hard to imagine the Suns will retain center Alan Williams on his current deal, Bordow adds in another tweet. Williams, whose $5.52MM salary is not guaranteed, would get a full guarantee if he’s still on the roster through July 6. He’d be a third-string center behind Deandre Ayton and Tyson Chandler if he sticks.

Atlantic Rumors: Saric, Sixers, Celtics, Knicks

The Sixers didn’t move up in the lottery in large part because they refused to trade Dario Saric, Ian Begley of ESPN tweets. Philadelphia tried to get into the top five of the draft but multiple teams indicated the Sixers had no interest in giving up a forward who averaged 14.6 PPG 6.7 RPG and 2.6 APG last season, Begley adds. Philadelphia wound up staying put at No. 10 and drafted Villanova’s Mikal Bridges, then dealt his draft rights to the Suns for Texas Tech guard Zhaire Smith and a future first-rounder.

In other draft news involving Atlantic Division teams:

  • With coach and GM Brett Brown running the show, the Sixers were very active in the second round. They traded the No. 38 pick to the Pistons and the No. 39 pick to the Lakers, then parlayed two late picks to move into the Mavericks’ No. 54 spot, where they drafted SMU guard Shake Milton. The Sixers picked up three future second-rounders and cash in the first two second-round deals. “I feel like the trades that we made to acquire future picks and to move up closer to somebody that we really like like Shake Milton, I think that the room was fantastic in organizing and allowing us to do that,” Brown said during a press conference.
  • The Celtics decided against trading for a second-round pick after drafting enigmatic Texas A&M big man Robert Williams with the No. 27 pick, Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald reports. “We don’t need more young players, really,” GM Danny Ainge told Bulpett and other media members. “We feel good about adding one positional player that has something that we don’t have, that does something that we don’t have.”
  • Knicks GM Scott Perry doesn’t expect the team to be “highly active” in free agency, Begley reports in a separate tweet. That’s not surprising, considering the team’s salary commitments for next season. Kyle O’Quinn gave them a little more breathing room by deciding to decline his option but unless Enes Kanter also chooses to decline his $18.62MM option, they’ll be operating over the cap.