Mikal Bridges

Chris Paul Expected To Decline Player Option

Suns point guard Chris Paul intends to turn down his player option for the 2021/22 season in order to seek a new contract, multiple sources tell Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report. Opting out will make Paul an unrestricted free agent this summer.

[RELATED: NBA Player Option Decisions For 2021/22]

The value of that ’21/22 option is $44.2MM, which is more than Paul has ever earned in a single season and would be one of the highest salaries in the NBA. A year or two ago, the 36-year-old was considered a virtual lock to pick up that option. But back-to-back All-Star seasons in Oklahoma City and Phoenix have buoyed his stock, putting him in position to secure one last multiyear deal.

Pincus suggests that Paul might be seeking a contract in the range of $100MM over three years. Essentially, he’d be taking the same route that Gordon Hayward did a year ago, or that Al Horford did in 2019 — turning down an option and accepting a slightly lesser short-term salary, but adding more years to his contract and substantially increasing the overall guarantee.

It’s possible that Paul’s plans could change between now and his decision deadline on August 1. Pincus notes that it’s unclear whether CP3’s recent shoulder injury might alter his thinking, for example.

However, even after re-injuring that right shoulder in Game 5, Paul seemed relatively “OK,” as head coach Monty Williams confirmed after Tuesday’s game (Twitter link via Gina Mizell). He’s listed as probable for Game 6 on Thursday night, and there’s no expectation he won’t play, so I imagine it would take a more serious injury for him to seriously consider changing course and picking up his option.

Given the success they’ve had with Paul this season, the Suns will almost certainly push to re-sign the veteran guard if and when he opts out. Phoenix has the cap flexibility to accommodate a new deal for CP3, though the club will face a number of major contract decisions this offseason and may be wary of tacking on too many years, with Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges up for extensions.

Multiple sources told Pincus they believe Ayton is worth the max, while Bridges could be in line for a salary in the range of $20MM per year.

Western Notes: Ayton, Warriors, Suns, Bridges, Murray

Suns star Chris Paul praised third-year center Deandre Ayton for changing his game and adapting to a new role with the team, Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic tweets.

Despite a decrease in his overall numbers, Ayton has improved his activity on both ends of the court, serving as a valuable screen-setter and rebounder for the top-ranked team in the league.

Paul, a 16-year veteran, mentioned that every player on Phoenix has grown this season, though none quite like Ayton. The former first overall pick has served as a key cog in the team’s success and has accepted the idea of starring in his complementary role, averaging 14.8 points and 10.7 rebounds per game.

There’s more out of the Western Conference tonight:

  • The Warriors‘ loss to the Timberwolves on Thursday was their most consequential defeat of the season, Anthony Slater of The Athletic writes, noting that the result negatively impacted both the Dubs’ playoff position and the Wolves’ lottery position. Golden State lost the contest 126-114 (and was out-rebounded by 23), though the team bounced back on Saturday to defeat Houston 113-87.
  • The Suns could be facing a sizable money crunch soon, Zach Lowe of ESPN notes. Star guard Devin Booker is under a maximum-salary contract, veteran Chris Paul owns a $44.2MM player option for next season and both Ayton and Mikal Bridges will be eligible for extensions this summer. Rival executives believe Bridges’s next contract may approach $20MM per season, Lowe reports.
  • Nuggets guard Jamal Murray reunited with his team and offered an inspiring message on Saturday, Mike Singer of the Denver Post writes. Murray suffered a torn ACL last month and re-emphasized that the team still has one major goal: win the championship. “You just felt the energy lift when he walked in,” teammate PJ Dozier said. “We cheered for him. Just good to have our brother back. Good to see him, see him doing well at that. We just wanted to make sure his spirits were high.”

Pacific Notes: Cousins, Bridges, Davis, Paschall

DeMarcus Cousins has earned a second 10-day contract with the Clippers and may turn out to be a keeper for the rest of the season, writes Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register. The 30-year-old center was out of the league for about six weeks after the Rockets waived him in February, but he was ready to play when he arrived in Los Angeles.

“I’ve put an incredible amount of work to get to this place,” Cousins said. “I feel great, my body feels great. I’m in probably the best shape I’ve been in my entire career. At this point, it’s about going out there and just putting everything together and just trying to continue to show that I’m healthy and I’m here to play this game at a high level. I understand the situation that I’m in, whatever opportunity is given to me, I plan on just taking full advantage of it, just controlling what I can control.”

Cousins has gotten into four games so far with the Clippers and is averaging 4.5 points and 2.8 rebounds in 8.5 minutes per night. Coach Tyronn Lue said the six-time All-Star is making a strong effort to fit in.

“Every single day, he’s working to try to pick up what we’re trying to do, and trying to get better,” Lue said. “For sure, every day. He’s coming in with the young guys early, putting in the work, going over the plays. He gets conditioning in, he does all the right things that he’s supposed to get his self to where he wants to be.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Suns coach Monty Williams credits a “pretty vulnerable conversation” with helping to turn around Mikal Bridges last season, according to Kevin Zimmerman of Arizona Sports 98.7. Bridges has become one of Williams’ most trusted players, ranking second on the team in minutes this year. “He’s always been a great kid, a great person,” Williams said, “but when I saw him take that conversation the right way, kind of knew he had a chance to grow, he had the capacity to grow as a player and a person.”
  • Anthony Davis is close to making his return, but Lakers coach Frank Vogel doesn’t expect it to happen Monday against the Jazz, tweets Jovan Buha of The Athletic. Davis hasn’t played since February 14 because of a right calf strain and tendinosis.
  • Warriors forward Eric Paschall is going through controlled individual workouts and hopes to practice with the team after its current road trip is finished, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic (Twitter link). Paschall suffered a hip flexor strain that has kept him out of action since April 2.

Western Notes: Bridges, KP, Beal, Warriors, Gobert

Suns small forward Mikal Bridges is making the case for an offseason extension with his play this season, Michael Pina of Sports Illustrated contends. A versatile two-way wing, Bridges has improved his scoring output while frequently guarding the best perimeter player on the opposing club.

Bridges described his own prep process for the All-Stars he has had to defend, ranging from Kawhi Leonard to Damian Lillard. “You just gotta know your opponent, lock into the film, their tendencies, and get ready, man,” Bridges said.

There’s more out of the West:

  • During this young season, Mavericks big man Kristaps Porzingis has yet to recapture the tantalizing play he flashed during the 2019/20 season, his first full year in Dallas, per Drew Maresca of Basketball Insiders. Maresca notes that Porzingis, who rejoined the Mavs last month after an offseason knee surgery, has not been able to replicate the long-range shooting touch he exhibited last season.
  • The Warriors could provide an appealing trade package in a hypothetical deal with the Wizards for Bradley Beal. In a deal that would probably have to include both 2020 lottery pick James Wiseman and the Timberwolves’ top-3 protected 2021 draft selection, the Warriors would be perhaps sacrificing their future for their present. The big question, were a trade to happen, is how long Golden State star guard Stephen Curry can remain a core part of a title club, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic.
  • Jazz All-Star center Rudy Gobert recently sat down for an extensive interview with Sam Amick of The Athletic, addressing the Jazz’s hot start to the 2020/21 season, his relationship with All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell, his relationship with former Jazz star center Mark Eaton, and a host of other topics. Utah, currently the No. 1 seed in the West, is 9-1 in its last 10 contests and 16-5 overall. “We all realize that winning a championship would be something that’s never been done before in this franchise, so we all realize that if we all give a little more of ourselves to the team and we all sacrifice a little more, we have a chance to hopefully be in a position to accomplish that,” Gobert said.

Pacific Notes: Bridges, Ramsey, Lakers, Kings

Suns forward Mikal Bridges discussed a variety of topics with Spencer Davies of BasketballNews.com, including the early buzz for Most Improved Player, playing with Chris Paul and his relationship with Deandre Ayton.

Bridges, a 24-year-old defensive-minded player, has improved his offensive game and starts alongside Jae Crowder and Ayton in Phoenix’s frontcourt. He scored a career-high 34 points on 12-of-18 shooting (including 6-of-8 from deep) in the team’s game against Indiana a week ago, averaging 15.1 points per contest in 11 games so far this season.

“I was just hoopin’, man,” Bridges said of his performance. “Just playing basketball. Reading things, being aggressive, taking shots when I’m open. The Pacers do a lot of things out there, so still keying in on the other end, but just being more aggressive and taking the shots where I thought I could be aggressive.”

Phoenix has opened the season with a 7-3 record. The team’s last three games have been postponed because it didn’t have the required minimum of eight players available due to health and safety protocols, as noted in our new 2020/21 NBA Game Postponement Tracker.

Here are some other notes from the Pacific Division today:

  • Kings guard Jahmi’us Ramsey will be re-evaluated in 2-to-3 weeks after undergoing an MRI that confirmed a left groin strain, the team announced. Ramsey, the No. 43 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, has only appeared in four games this season.
  • The Lakers have made the most of their somewhat limited time together, building their chemistry on the court to start the season, Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register writes. COVID-19 has restricted teams this season, but at 11-3 (and five straight wins), the Lakers look to be maximizing their situation so far. “I think it’s all about having fun and being happy with your job,” Dennis Schroder said. “So I think everybody when they wake up, they like to come to work and I think that’s pretty important for us and I’ll always be on the sidelines and just talking and trying to get everybody engaged.”
  • De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton will likely be the only Kings players untouchable in trade talks this season, Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee writes. Fox, 23, is coming off a season where he averaged 21.1 points and 6.8 assists per game, while Haliburton, 20, was drafted by the team No. 12 overall last fall.

Suns Pick Up 2021/22 Options On Ayton, Bridges, Johnson

The Suns have exercised their fourth-year team options on the rookie scale contracts of Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges, along with the third-year option on Cameron Johnson‘s rookie deal, per RealGM’s log of official NBA transactions.

All three options apply to the 2021/22 season, guaranteeing each player’s salary for that year. Ayton’s option is worth $12.63MM, Bridges’ is for $5.56MM, and Johnson’s has a value of $4.44MM.

None of the decisions came as a surprise, as all three players have established themselves as promising young contributors in Phoenix.

Ayton, the former No. 1 overall pick, averaged 18.2 PPG, 11.5 RPG, and 1.5 BPG in 38 games (32.5 MPG) in 2019/20 after serving a 25-game suspension to start the season for violating the NBA’s anti-drug policy. He’ll be eligible for a rookie scale extension in 2021.

Bridges, who will also be extension-eligible next year, recorded 9.1 PPG, 4.0 RPG, and 1.4 SPG with a solid .510/.361/.844 shooting line in 73 games (28.0 MPG) last season. He moved into Phoenix’s starting lineup later in the season, including for the team’s 8-0 run during the summer restart.

Johnson, the 11th pick in the 2019 draft, averaged 8.8 PPG and knocked down 39.0% of his three-point tries in 57 games (22.0 MPG) as a rookie. The Suns will have to decide next year whether to exercise his $5.89MM fourth-year option for 2022/23.

Suns Notes: Offseason, Oubre, Johnson, Akyol

The Suns will have to decide this offseason whether they want to try to bring back known commodities like Aron Baynes, Dario Saric, and Frank Kaminsky, or whether they want to opt for an unknown commodity via cap room, writes ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link). Baynes is an unrestricted free agent, but Saric is restricted and the club holds a team option on Kaminsky.

Kelly Oubre‘s expiring contract will be another factor to watch for the Suns this fall, according to Marks. On paper, it seems like a slam dunk that Phoenix would want to make the 24-year-old wing a part of the club’s long-term future, Marks writes, but Oubre wasn’t part of the team’s 8-0 run in Orlando this summer, and there’s some positional overlap with young Suns like Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson.

Here’s more on the Suns:

  • The Suns have faced criticism for a number of their roster moves in recent years, but the club showed this summer in Orlando that the roster was built with a purpose, according to Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer. Tjarks singles out last year’s drafting of Cameron Johnson at No. 11 as a decision that was panned at the time, but seems to be working out well.
  • Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic explores what’s next for the Suns after their success in Orlando, wondering if the summer represents a jumping-off point for making Phoenix a desirable destination for NBA players.
  • Turkish wing Cenk Akyol has announced his retirement at age 33, as Emiliano Carchia of Sportando relays. Akyol, the 59th overall pick in the 2005 draft, never played in the NBA, but his rights were held by the Suns, who acquired them in a 2017 trade with Atlanta.
  • Earlier today, we broke down the Suns’ odds for this Thursday’s draft lottery.

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.