Phoenix Suns 3 Key Players to Lock Up in 2022 NBA Offseason

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

After the shocking loss at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks a few weeks ago, the Phoenix Suns now find themselves entering the 2022 NBA offseason somewhat early.

But while different teams look at the different options and avenues that might lead to improving their team, Phoenix’s hands are somewhat tied. The Suns possess no draft capital as it stands right now. So barring a big trade, locking up the guys already on the team remains the one thing they can do to solidify their 2022-23 roster.

With that said, James Jones and company will want to ink deals with these three key players.

Phoenix Suns Can Extend Stretch Forward Cameron Johnson

Similar to Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson resembles a 3-and-D player with elite potential. He recently enjoyed a career year this season, averaging career highs in points, assists, rebounds, steals, field goal, and 3-point percentage.

We also saw Johnson up his play at the defensive end, evidenced by a 108.7 defensive rating, which is 4.3 points lower than last season. He also held his opponents to a shivering 45.6 field goal percentage.

However, it was Johnson’s deadeye shooting from deep that drew additional eyes, as hit from range at a 42.5 percent rate. His massive game against the New York Knicks punctuated these numbers, as Johnson dropped 38 points and hit nine triples, including the game-winning one at the buzzer.

Versatile players like Johnson do not grow on trees and all teams covet them. More recently, players like Davis Bertans and Duncan Robinson got paid an average of $85 million for their similar services. Dorian-Finney Smith just reeled in $52 million for five years alone.

Johnson looks more well rounded and talented than these players, so do not be surprised to see him earn an extension similar Bridges’s from last year.

Phoenix Suns Can Give Devin Booker the Super Max

Devin Booker’s last two games left a bad taste in our mouths. He averaged 15.0 points and six turnovers per game. He also shot 9-31 from the field, 0-8 from three, and was a -60 overall. In the most important games of  the season he simply did not show up.

Lost in all this is the fact that Booker and the Suns put together the best regular season in franchise history right before those contests. Book finished fourth in MVP voting and will most likely earn a First Team All-NBA nod.

Looking at his stats this season, there’s not much improvement to notice besides a massive jump in defensive rating and an improved 3-point percentage. However, Booker also led the league in points per touch this past year, and has been at the top of the league for that stat since 2019.

This shows how Booker is an equal opportunity star, efficient in his movement, and does not hog the ball. That’s one of the many reasons why he’s so deadly in the clutch.

The Phoenix Suns would be wise to extend his contract now, similar to what Daryl Morey did to James Harden when he was with the Houston Rockets, as the CBA allows contracts covering five or six seasons to be extended on their third anniversary of signing.

According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, Booker can sign the following deal this summer:

$47.1 million | Age: 28 (2024-25)
$50.8 million | Age: 29 (2025-26)
$54.6 million | Age: 30 (2026-27)
$58.4 million | Age: 31 (2027-28)

That’s what franchise players get paid, and Booker is undoubtedly that guy for the Phoenix Suns.
It might look a lot on the surface, but the NBA will have a new TV deal by 2025, which promises to flush the league with more money.

A salary cap jump similar to 2016 will most likely happen and Booker’s new deal won’t look as big after that. If Phoenix does not extend him, they will be looking at a more massive contract starting in the 2025-26 season.

The Phoenix Suns Can Sign Deandre Ayton as a Restricted Free Agent

Even as one of Phoenix’s most polarizing players, Deandre Ayton won a significant amount of love from the fans and media alike between last season’s NBA Finals run and the 2021-22 regular season. But with the Suns unexpectedly losing to Dallas, his stock took a bit of a hit.

It’s not entirely his fault that Phoenix lost out, but some blame naturally falls onto him being the guy the Suns chose to draft in front of Luka Doncic, who played a large hand in ending Phoenix’s season.

First and foremost, Ayton will likely not accept his $16.4 million qualifying offer. It’s an unnecessary risk for him because significant injury will quickly drain the money similar to what happened with DeMarcus Cousins.

Max money is not the problem in the negotiation because the Suns have offered that. Instead it’s the years that they can’t agree on, as Ayton wants the full five-year, $177 million extension.

It can both be argued that Ayton does or does not deserve this compared to his peers like Doncic and Trae Young, who are cornerstones of their respective franchises. But at the same time, when you see a player like Michael Porter Jr. getting a max deal, it’s hard to argue against Ayton validity.

The issue at hand though lies with Phoenix only matching what other teams offer Ayton to then lock him up. Ayton will remember it if the Suns do the bare minimum to keep him in his next free agency which will be unrestricted. Phoenix should look to avoid giving Ayton the wrong impression by handing him a check now, similar to what happened with Gordon Hayward when he left the Utah Jazz for the Boston Celtics.

In an episode of The Woj Pod, Hayward explained the following:

"“It lingered for maybe a little bit of time at the beginning of when I signed it,” Hayward said. “None of those feelings were there this time around.Restricted free agency, it’s a little weird.As a player, you’re sitting there thinking like, ‘What the hell?’ You look at all these other players where teams are like, ‘He’s our guy.’ Like, ‘We’re going to give him the max.’ Blah, blah, blah. And I’ve got to go out and get one? Like, ‘Do you not believe in me?’ Like, ‘Do you not feel like I’m the guy for you?’"

Ayton resembles one of the foundational players in Phoenix and after Chris Paul retires, he feels likely to become that number two guy. Considering how the Suns reeked for 10 years straight until recently, securing Ayton would be wise.

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Two-way centers like him are rare. Outside of Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic, it can be argued that Ayton is the best center at playing both ends of the court. Phoenix needs to recognize that and act accordingly before it’s too late.