With the Phoenix Suns’ painful exit in the Western Conference semifinals on Sunday, it’s time for the team to start thinking ahead to next season.
And more importantly, focus on how to complete unfinished business and lift the first Larry O’Brien Trophy in franchise history.
Suns general manager James Jones on Wednesday addressed the hard decisions he and the front office will have to make this offseason with the likes of restricted free agents Deandre Ayton, Aaron Holiday and Ish Wainwright, in addition to unrestricted free agents JaVale McGee, Elfrid Payton and Bismack Biyombo.
“That’s a part of the business — as your team improves, typically your payroll increases,” Jones told reporters during his exit interview. “We’re focused on improving the team. Those guys, they deserve the credit, they deserve the accolades and financial rewards that come with being good players and productive players.
“It doesn’t preclude us from doing anything. We’re not talking about luxury tax issues or avoiding those things. That’s not something that’s going to prevent us to continue to build this team and keeping this team together.”
Obviously the biggest name on that list is Ayton, who as a restricted free agent, can receive a max contract offer of up to four years worth $131.1 million from other teams.
The Suns can then either match that offer, sign him to a five-year max or cut a year off at four years worth $136.6 million.
Two other options include Phoenix working a sign and trade or Ayton taking a one-year, $16.4 million qualifying offer which would mean the center is betting on himself by turning down guaranteed money long-term in order to be in full control of his future as an unrestricted free agent in 2023.
Jones told Burns & Gambo on Wednesday that he believes Ayton will be back with the Suns next season.
“Deandre had an amazing season and he’s progressed every year and improved every year,” the GM said. “He’s been here and so he’s a big part of what we do. His future with us is something we will address at the proper time which is in the future. He’s a free agent and I’ve said all along, he’s about the same things were about which is winning. We’ll address it at the proper time.”