PHOENIX — General manager Ryan McDonough’s habit of drafting Suns in or near their teenage years has its complexities.
Part of that comes to a head this summer.
Phoenix has until Halloween to extend the contracts of center Alex Len, 23, and guard Archie Goodwin, 22, the first two players McDonough drafted as an NBA general manager in 2013. Coming off their rookie deals after this upcoming season, the fourth-year pros will become restricted free agents next summer if they don’t reach an extension before November.
Asked on Monday’s media day about the possibility of extending either, McDonough was honest about the possibility.
“I think we want to see how it goes with training camp, preseason,” he said. “I feel like those rookie extension deals get done if they’re fair for both sides. A few of them are the no-brainers; the max extensions, stuff like that. With players as young as those two guys are, there’s obviously some projection involved as well — it’s not just what they are now but what they’re going to become in the next four, five years.”
And that’s the unique thing for a boom-or-bust guard who has been saddled behind several variations of talented backcourts and a fifth overall pick who’s yet to prove he can be more that an average shot-blocker and rebounder at center.
If Len or Goodwin are extended before Oct. 31, they could only do so on a maximum four-year deal opposed to a five-year contract were they to re-sign with the Suns next summer. That gives Phoenix a leg up, as does the restricted free agency that allows the Suns to match any contract another team throws at their players.
Add in McDonough’s comments that his Suns will be more willing to dip into the free agency pool next year after a quiet 2016, and it would appear both Len and Goodwin are entering a crucial contract year.
The 7-foot-1 Len averaged 9.0 points and 7.6 rebounds per game last year. In his rookie season and third season, he shot an identical 42.3 percent from the floor, which is an inefficient number for a center. Sandwiched in between, he hit 50.7 percent in 2014-15.
At 6-foot-5, Goodwin has showed flashes of incredible athleticism, but he’s not yet strong enough to use it to his advantage on defense. He’s struggled to develop a consistent jumper as well.
As McDonough points out, history shows that contract extensions don’t happen often — even for improving, unique talents.
In Len and Goodwin’s 2013 draft class, only two players, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Portland’s C.J. McCollum, have agreed to deals. Both were signed to max four-year contracts each worth more than $100 million.
A year prior, six first-round picks signed extensions while one other player, Golden State’s Harrison Barnes, refused an offering (Imagine how happy both parties are that Barnes reportedly made $30 million more by waiting a year to sign with Dallas and the Warriors in turn used their cap space to ink Kevin Durant this summer).
Unless Len or Goodwin take a wild discount at this point, there’s little reason to believe they will take any extension.
And they probably shouldn’t.
“With the players, it’s some risk tolerance, too,” McDonough said, adding that the Suns won’t look at extending the two players until the last week before the season begins.
Only an injury would likely derail either Len or Goodwin’s chances of earning a new NBA contract.
Len has a chance to win the starting center role over mentor Tyson Chandler and improve consistency and efficiency.
Even for Goodwin, there isn’t much risk moving forward barring a health issue. If the Suns don’t want him, he would probably bet on himself playing for a team that’s more in need of guard depth.
With the Suns’ finances already sitting pretty, there’s no need for the franchise to stifle the books with a deep free agent class coming next summer.
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