Phoenix Suns: What the Porter Jr. Extension Means for Mikal Bridges

Phoenix Suns, Mikal Bridges. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Phoenix Suns, Mikal Bridges. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Even across a gritty, hard-nosed team like the Phoenix Suns, life’s finer things still hold certain value. With a hefty paycheck being one of them, Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton both come into the fold, with each young stud now eligible for extensions off their rookie contracts.

Last year, Ayton averaged 14.4 points and 10.5 rebounds per game during the regular season. But during the playoffs, he convinced the Suns of his worthiness to receive a max extension even more so, putting up record breaking efficiency numbers while averaging 15.8 points and 11.8 rebounds per game.

But Bridges put together his own show, wholeheartedly deserving applause as well. During the regular season, the former Villanova Wildcat increased his scoring output by nearly five tallies to average 13.5 points per contest. He also added 4.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.

However, Bridges’s greatest contributions came from outside the 3-point arc and at the defensive end.

Although Bridges fell just outside the NBA’s all-defensive first team, the 39 votes which he received even as a 25 year old player certainly feels encouraging. Night in and night out, he guards Phoenix’s most electric opponents, presenting himself as a vital piece to this year’s title contending squad.

But Bridges’s shooting makes him arguably the league’s brightest prospect from a “3-and-D” perspective. Last year he shot a fantastic 42.3 percent from range, also averaging 4.4 attempts per contest.

Bridges also shot 54.3 percent from the field as a whole, so had he cleaned up his work from the charity stripe, he would have made the league’s legendary 50/40/90 club, becoming the 11th player to do so, and joining pristine shooters Larry Bird, Reggie Miller, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, and Kyrie Irving.

Needless to say, both guys deserve to see their wallets inflate. However, Bridges’s situation just changed dramatically.

As two guys who hail from the same draft class, play the same position, and both find themselves on title contending squads, Michael Porter Jr. and Bridges feel remarkably intertwined. So the lucrative deal that the Denver Nuggets just inked with Porter Jr. now puts incredible pressure onto the Suns.

Porter Jr.’s extension runs for five years, with him able to earn up to $207 million dollars. Given his injury concerns, Porter Jr.’s new deal warranted some eyebrow raising reactions from the public. But nonetheless, he remains an incredibly talented player with a Paul George-like ceiling should he stay on the court.

Naturally, this contract highlights something of a target number for Bridges and his agent to shoot for when sitting down with Phoenix’s front office. Although Porter Jr. outplayed Bridges during the regular season, averaging more points, rebounds, and assists, Bridges just helped push his team to the NBA Finals. His representatives might lead into their negotiations with that, alongside Bridges’s superior defense, as points to emphasize—possibly even saying that it erases this production gap.

Given Phoenix’s already stressed cap situation and the need extend Ayton at the same time, it remains highly unlikely that Bridges attains a deal close to Porter Jr.’s. But still, the sheer existence of Porter Jr.’s deal at the very least provides Bridges’s agents with something to point at and say, “hey, we want that much.”

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The Suns and Bridges have until the 2021-22 season’s commencement to reach a deal, so the clock continues to tick. But if both sides manage to successfully put pen to paper, Bridges earning money north of most projections feels more likely than the other way around due to this recent news.