Mikal Bridges is also extension eligible and the kind of player the Suns should lock up. Bridges is a young (25) and high-level defensive wing — he had the 11th most votes for the 10-man All-Defensive Team last season — who averaged 13.5 points a game, shot 42.5% from beyond the arc last season, and can do a little shot creation and hit from the midrange as well. He was critical to the Suns’ perimeter defense, and coach Monty Williams said he wants to make Bridges the team’s third scoring option. He is not just a simple 3&D player (and those players are already valuable).
Bridges and the Suns are talking extension but, like Ayton, have not reached a deal, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on The Jump.
“Mikal Bridges is an important young player on this Suns’ team, really one of the best overall young players on that Suns team. And again, they’ve had talks with Phoenix, they’re not there yet on an extension… If he has to go into restricted free agency, I think people see him as a $20 million a year plus player.”
The two sides have until Oct. 18 to get a deal done. If not, Bridges will head to restricted free agency next summer, and there will be multiple teams lined up to try and poach him.
We don’t know what the Suns have put on the table as an offer. Other quality wings in free agency this summer — defensive-minded ones such as Norman Powell and Gary Trent Jr., as well as more offensive-minded such as Evan Fournier or Duncan Robinson — made in the ballpark of $18 million a season. Powell got five years, $90 million from Portland, and while the situation is different, that is likely a starting point for Bridges (Denver just maxed out Michael Porter Jr., a different situation and player, but you can bet Bridges’ agents at Excell Sports Management noticed). With the salary cap expected to go up in a couple of years, even going a little over market value will not hurt in the long run.
Fair or not, the Ayton and Bridges situations play into Suns’ owner Robert Sarver’s reputation as penny wise and pound foolish — his team is riding a high, they just reached the Finals, and rather than locking up two-thirds of their young core (Devin Booker got paid), Sarver is fighting for a few dollars saved. It’s a way to undermine a team’s success.