EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Suns’ Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges still up for extensions as camp begins

Sep 27, 2021, 2:49 PM | Updated: 5:19 pm
Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns, Torrey Craig #12, and Mikal Bridges #25 celebrate defeating ...
Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns, Torrey Craig #12, and Mikal Bridges #25 celebrate defeating the LA Clippers 104-103 in game two of the NBA Western Conference finals at Phoenix Suns Arena on June 22, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. earned the fourth maximum rookie contract extension given to players in the 2018 NBA Draft class as teams gathered for training camp Monday.

That leaves two Phoenix Suns as the likely next candidates to get extensions done.

Center Deandre Ayton and wing Mikal Bridges enter the fourth and final years of their rookie deals this 2021-22 season, and Porter Jr.’s agreement refreshed the discussion about each of their values.

“We’ll address that when the time comes but for us right now, our focus is training camp and getting ready for the regular season,” Suns general manager James Jones said at the team’s media day.

Porter Jr. earned a five-year max extension that could add up to $207 million, his agent told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. That might be viewed as pricy for a minus defender — but a player who averaged 19.0 points and 7.3 rebounds per game while shooting 54% overall and 45% on 6.3 three-point attempts a night.

Ayton could arguably command a max deal, as the No. 1 pick from that 2018 draft class averaged 15.8 points and 11.8 boards on 66% shooting during Phoenix’s run to the NBA Finals. Ayton’s motor and defensive abilities shined in heavy minutes during the postseason as teams failed to play him off the floor.

“My agent and stuff can deal with that,” the 23-year-old said of his contract situation, when asked Monday by Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke.

Bridges averaged career bests of 13.5 points and 4.3 rebounds during the regular season and shot 54% overall and 43% from three.

The 25-year-old has emerged as one of the best perimeter defenders in the league after Phoenix traded for him on draft night in 2018. Bridges was originally selected 10th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers.

While Bridges may be the fourth-best player on the Suns and bucketed as a role player, he could also command a big pay-day upwards of $20 million a year.

Porter Jr.’s Nuggets teammate Aaron Gordon is only a year older than Bridges but was drafted in 2014. He recently garnered a four-year, $92 million extension despite averaging 12.4 points and lacking an outside jumper.

Gordon’s decision-making, ability to play alongside stars and defensive versatility — although at different positions — could be viewed as similarly important to Bridges’ supplement role.

There are still three weeks for the Suns to come to agreements with Ayton or Bridges.

Extensions can be signed up until an Oct. 18 deadline before the 2021-22 regular season begins.

So far, Porter Jr. joins Dallas’ Luka Doncic, Atlanta’s Trae Young and Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as 2018 rookie class members who have been extended on max deals. Additionally, Boston big man Robert Williams signed a four-year, $50 million deal this offseason.

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