Phoenix Suns money: top 10 best bang for the buck

Phoenix Suns, Devin Booker (Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Phoenix Suns, Devin Booker (Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) /

As the Phoenix Suns prepare to swing back to action against Portland on Thursday, we’ll take a quick look at the roster’s return on investment.

With a Pacific Division-leading 24-11 record — and Las Vegas odds to win that title moving from 17-1 to 4-1 in two weeks — the Suns are no secret to the rest of the NBA.

From Chris Paul to Abdel Nader, the Phoenix Suns roster is filled with depth and value.

But who are the players representing the best investment now and for the next couple of months?

Devin Booker and Chris Paul have to be at or near the top, considering their emerging 1-2 threat and leadership.

Before we hit the top 10, let’s include everyone.

At the No. 14 value: Jalen Smith ($4.2 million). Technically, he’s rated here as the least valuable, but it isn’t really his fault. He was — by most accounts — drafted too early, especially when Tyrese Haliburton was still on the board.

The Nos. 11-13 in value, E’Twaun Moore ($2.3 million), Jevon Carter ($3.5 million) and Langston Galloway ($2 million), are producing strong returns.

Each has contributed valuable minutes during the Suns’ impressive first half. Each player also represents sound player-personnel decisions that highlight talent as well as selflessness, commitment to a role and work ethic.

Phoenix Suns’ No. 10 value: Frank Kaminsky

Kaminsky, who wanted to sign with the Suns following his release during the preseason, has brought surprising contributions on the offensive end. His style makes him difficult for traditional 5s to guard — from his off-ball cuts to his near-42 percent rate on 3-point attempts.

Phoenix Suns’ No. 9 value: Abdel Nader

$1.7 million buys some serious basketball IQ, and Abdel Nader’s physical tools have landed him a pretty consisent role in the rotation lately. A nice “throw-in” from the Chris Paul trade.

Phoenix Suns’ No. 8 value: Cameron Johnson

At $4.235, he’s showing you can put a price on a developing, must-be-respected 3-point threat. Johnson is showing dramatic improvement on defense, too, helped by his close friendship with Mikal Bridges.

Phoenix Suns’ No. 7 value: Deandre Ayton

At just more than $10 million this season, Ayton’s solid contributions are above-average value among his NBA peers. You just don’t find many 7-footers with Ayton’s midrange touch and improving defensive instincts. In addition, he’s starting to “get it” on offense, with Paul and Booker encouraging his aggressiveness in the pick and roll as well as rebounding and on defense.

He’s seventh on the NBA’s leading-rebounder list.

Phoenix Suns’ No. 6 value: Jae Crowder

Brought in at $9.25 million, Jae Crowder has been everything the Suns could have hoped he’d be. And it’s not even playoff time.

Phoenix Suns’ No. 5 value: Dario Saric

His $8.333 salary is a steal for the versatility he brings to Monty Williams’ rotation. Saric has been asked to be a consistent backup 5 behind Deandre Ayton as well as the team’s power forward in key situations. Saric, still only 26, is scoring 11.5 points per game in only 18.1 minutes while hitting .377 from 3-point range.

Phoenix Suns’ No. 4 value: Cameron Payne

Collecting $1.977 million this season, Payne’s value, per dollar, is as close to Devin Booker as Payne was during the draft. Payne was picked 14th in 2015, just after Booker at 13. Another current Suns player, Frank Kaminsky, went No. 9 in that same draft.

Payne has provided huge minutes backing up Chris Paul, running the offense, improving defensively and hitting a stunning 45 percent with the Suns, including last year’s eight games in the bubble. His turnover percentage, 15.8 percent, is just off of Paul’s 15 percent.

Phoenix Suns’ No. 3 value: Mikal Bridges

Mikal Bridges, at $4.359 million, the long-armed third-year pro has exceeded expectations for his offensive punch. And his defense is trending toward All-NBA status, playing passing lanes like a seasoned pro and switching capably at virtually all five positions.

He’s hitting 42 percent from 3-point range.

Phoenix Suns’ No. 2 value: Chris Paul

Sure, it’s a crazy number, $41 million this season. But do you want to go to the playoffs? That’s the price for a perennial All-Star point guard who likely will pass Magic Johnson as the league’s all-time assists leader late this season. It’s been great to see Paul close up after so many seasons as an agitator for Suns fans. Not surprisingly, Paul leads the team in win shares.

Phoenix Suns’ No. 1 value: Devin Booker

Making $29.4 million as part of his max extension, Booker’s ever-improving play after a surprisingly slow start has landed him an NBA Player of the Week honor and February’s NBA Western Conference Player of the Month award. His competitiveness can be overly zealous at times, but Suns fans still have No. 1 at the No. 1 spot in their hearts.

His consistent insistence that he loves Phoenix makes it difficult for the national outlets to try to contrive controversy about Booker’s feelings for the Valley. But they still can’t help themselves.

At any rate, Booker has to be eager to continue displaying his leadership and talent on a big stage. You know, like the 2021 playoffs.

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