Usually, opening day is met with optimism. Teams have yet to get blown out by 50, lose a key player to injury, or quit on a coach. (Well, except for that Ben Simmons situation.)
You would think that’d be the case for the Phoenix Suns seeing as they’re coming off a finals appearance, have a budding superstar, a seemingly ageless point god, wing depth, and a young center who took a mini leap in the playoffs.
That’s why, honestly, it’s depressing to see Suns ownership remain defiant when it comes to paying the players who matter. Sure, Mikal Bridges just got his extension, but Deandre Ayton’s contract talks have stalled. The fourth-year big man is set to become a restricted free agent after this season, and even though the Suns don’t see him as a max guy, I guarantee other teams do.
Management can give all these reasons as to why, but the crux of the issue is they’re cheap. They’ve been cheap, they remain cheap and, until disputes like this stop happening, they’ll always be cheap. Coming off a finals run and balking at paying one of your three to four most important players is a bold move. Wait, is bold the right word?
I know centers are to the NBA what running backs are to the NFL, but the guy held his own against two MVPs and, unlike Anthony Davis, stayed on the court. Chris Paul already has chemistry with him, he has good hands, makes his free throws, protects the cup and, my favorite thing, has great touch around the basket. Oh, he also shot 66 percent from the field in the playoffs, which hasn’t been done since Shaq.
No, he won’t win an MVP or make All NBA first team, but if that’s your prerequisite for a max, then you need to have a face-to-face with reality and adjust your expectations. Also, after some quick recon (a text to my buddy who’s a Suns fan), this extremely valid point needs to be made: If you draft a player No. 1 overall and he works out even to the slightest degree, you have to expect to give him the max. The guy isn’t going to give you good value. Believe it or not, you just got good value with Bridges, so consider yourself lucky and pay dat man his money.
Say you sign Ayton and CP3 falls off a cliff, Book gets hurt, or some other unforeseeable awful twist happens, you can blow it up and return to drafting in the lottery for the next decade plus/irrelevance. If the player empowerment movement has taught us anything, it’s that all contracts can be moved.
At the end of the day — or, in this case, the beginning of the season — fans can see through your limp explanation. Normally, when a championship window closes, it’s due to outside circumstances and not because ownership closed its own window.