By most accounts, the Phoenix Suns had a pretty successful draft last Thursday. However, if you are Elfrid Payton, and you want to remain with the Phoenix Suns, how should you feel about the outcome of the draft? What kind of impact will it have on his upcoming free agency?
Coming into last season’s trade deadline, point guard was the Phoenix Suns’ biggest position of need. In case you forgot just how bad the position was for the Suns last season, you can see how they even got to the point where they needed to make a trade here.
The move they made to address it and get them through to the end of the season was to trade a second round pick to the Orlando Magic for Elfrid Payton.
Nearly five months later, Payton is available again and the Suns still clearly need a point guard. What has changed in those months that will determine if he suits up for the Suns this coming season?
Obviously the biggest change is the draft! The Suns came away with 31st overall pick Elie Okobo as the only draftee expected to have time at point guard.
This should be positive news for those who want Payton to return to Phoenix.
If Luka Doncic had been the Suns’ selection, it would almost certainly have spelled the end of Payton’s tenure in Phoenix. Likewise if the Suns traded up into the lottery to select a point guard, as was rumored before the draft. The fact that the only point guard selected was in the second round with no expectation to be the starter this season – and maybe not even the first backup – means that if General Manager Ryan McDonough does not find an ideal veteran point guard thought either free agency or trade, he could turn to Payton to fill the void.
The other storyline to keep an eye on is what the Suns do with Tyler Ulis‘ team option. It was reported on Saturday that the Suns pushed back the deadline for this option until Saturday the 30th. If Ulis does return to the Suns then that would seal the door shut on a Payton return. It is important to note that the Suns already made a similar decision by not offering Payton his $10 million dollar qualifying offer thus making him unrestricted.
Although it seems unlikely, there are scenarios where you can see Payton returning for next season. To begin with it is largely expected that Ulis will not be returning next season which should be made official before free agency begins. So his option would need to be declined for Payton have a chance leaving Brandon Knight as the only guaranteed returning point guard on the roster.
Although Knight is also expected to be involved in trade discussion because of his large contract.
Due to very few teams having much cap space this summer, the market for Payton will be small and it is unlikely he gets a deal anywhere near the value of his qualifying offer. At the same time, because of his disappointing trial run with Phoenix it is still unlikely that he will return. It is not that the draft shut the door for an Elfrid Payton return, but it did nothing to open it extending his stint in Phoenix.