After the Phoenix Suns’ shocking end to the season, Empire of the Suns will roll through a number of questions the team has to answer this offseason.
First up was Deandre Ayton’s restricted free agency. Now on the list, it’s an easier discussion on a potential supermax extension for Devin Booker.
There are tons of should-they-shouldn’t-they discussions to be had for the Phoenix Suns this offseason.
Here’s one move that should not take more than a second’s worth of brain energy: Extending Devin Booker to a supermax contract.
The supermax amount — $211 million over four years — depends on Booker making an All-NBA team. Because there are three All-NBA teams and Booker was fourth in MVP voting, he looks on track to get that incentive.
According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, that projects Booker will make the following on a new extension that would begin in 2024-25, increasing Booker’s salary significantly from his current max deal that pays out $33.8 million next year and $36 million in 2023-24.
$47.1 million (2024-25)
$50.8 million (2025-26)
$54.6 million (2026-27)
$58.4 million (2027-28)
Seems like a lot, right?
Before we get into why the team should spend that money on the current franchise face, whose clout in the Valley might already be more chiseled into fans’ hearts than past MVPs like Steve Nash or Charles Barkley, it’s important to know that $211 million relatively won’t be a lot.
The NBA’s projected salary cap for next season is $122 million, and the luxury tax is expected to be $149 million. A third of the way to tax territory given to one dude appears bad at the moment.
But the NBA will soon enter a new era of money, and that will directly impact the salary cap.
A new television deal will begin in the 2025-26 season, the second year of Booker’s next, yet-to-be-determined contract.
It’s expected the NBA could attempt to nearly triple its TV revenue stream to $70 billion or more over the next deal, which despite lagging TV ratings over the past two years projects well. The NBA’s worldwide appeal, especially in China, boosts the NBA’s earnings capability compared to, say, the NFL.
The salary cap could spike immediately with a new deal, but the National Basketball Players Association could push to smooth the cap increase over several years.
The NBPA did not have that agreement the last time a TV deal was renewed in 2014. When the deal transitioned two years later, the cap lept by $24 million in one offseason. The luxury tax threshold increased by $29 million.
The increase could more than double that if not smoothed this next round, according to a source of Forbes’ Morten Jensen. If not, a smoothed increase of at least $15 million per year could be expected.
Slicing it multiple ways, the cap should be pushing $170 million, if not more, by the time the second year of Booker’s deal locks in. Nearly $50 million per season now is different a few years down the road.
All of this might beg the question: Is Devin Booker actually good?
He averaged 26.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game in 2021-22. Booker shot 47% from the floor and 38% from three.
He made his third All-Star game this past year and probably had his best season as a perimeter defender. He’s got one Finals appearance under his belt after he set an NBA record for most points in a debut playoff appearance and followed a spirited NBA Finals run with a gold medal as a starter for Team USA weeks later.
Are there bad things about giving Booker a long-term deal two years before his current contract expires?
He will be 31 years old by the time a four-year extension would expire, not past his prime but definitely on the tail end of it.
The 25-year-old already has 17,327 total NBA minutes under his belt. He does not have elite-level athleticism on the LeBron James or Giannis Antetokounmpo level that might protect him against any injuries swiping some of his abilities. Speaking of which, that pesky and weird hamstring issue keeps biting Booker.
But also, as Marks pointed out in his own offseason lookahead:
Since the All-Star break, Booker was one of three players to average 30 points while shooting 50% from the field and 40% on 3-pointers, per ESPN Stats & Information research. The other players were Kevin Durant and Jayson Tatum. He is also one of three players to average at least 25 points in each of the past four seasons, joining Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James.
Defensively, he averaged a career-high 1.1 steals and held opponents to a career-best 41.9% as the closest defender (according to Second Spectrum tracking) and contested 88.4% of shots faced as the closest defender for the first time in his career.
Anyway, agents of current players are very much aware of the new TV deal upcoming for the NBA. They are going to be telling their clients to look for short-term deals in order to cash in two years down the line.
It’s probably too far out for that to matter to Booker. Betting on yourself isn’t worth risking $211 million guaranteed — maybe that’s a guess coming from this relatively poor person.
Devin Booker is owed it for enduring five head coaches and a 19-win season in which he played point guard because the team opted against finding one, then helping turn everything around by deferring to teammates, playing defense, putting his faith in the city and not once complaining about the circumstances.
So the Suns should have no second thought about locking that guy in.