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With the deadline for NBA rookie contract extensions closing in, the Phoenix Suns had two young cornerstones to take care of between Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges.
One down, one to go.
As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Sunday, the Suns have agreed to a four-year, $90 million contract extension with Bridges, locking him in for the next five seasons total. The deal is fully guaranteed.
For his part, Phoenix was always where Bridges wanted to be.
“I just want to be here, man,” he said on Friday. “That’s the whole thing is, I just wanna be here. It’s up to those guys. So we’ll wait and see. We want to be here. That’s plain and simple, man. We love this team, love this organization and what it’s done for us, especially what it’s done for both of us, and I’d never take this for granted, man. They just turned me to a better person and player. So obviously we want to be here more than anything.”
The question is, now that they’ve reached an agreement, what kind of value are the Suns getting with this contract? To figure it out, it’s time to Grade the Deal.
Mikal Bridges’ value to the Suns
Bridges is coming off a career year in which he averaged 13.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.1 steals per game while shooting 54.3 percent from the floor, 42.5 percent from 3-point range and 84 percent from the foul line.
Though his production tailed off in the NBA Finals, the 25-year-old wing has proven himself as one of the league’s brightest up-and-coming two-way players. While $22.5 million a year seems like a steep price for those raw averages, that figure will provide Phoenix with plenty of value as he hits his prime. The NBA salary cap should see a significant spike over the next few years with an incoming TV deal on the horizon, and in order to contend in this league, you have to pay to retain talent.
Based on the current market, Bridges was bound to make something in the $90-100 million range on a four-year deal, as we predicted weeks ago. OG Anunoby, another young defender with an improved 3-point shot, earned four years and $72 million last year. That deal was seen as a complete bargain for the Toronto Raptors. Terry Rozier (four years, $97 million) and Duncan Robinson (five years, $90 million) served as other barometers, but ultimately, the Suns should be glad they were able to keep him for $90 million.
Head coach Monty Williams has said the Suns may rely on Mikal Bridges as more of a third option this season, especially after an offseason where the former Villanova product worked on tightening up his ball-handling. His growth in the midrange — where he went from shooting 31 percent on shots between 4-14 feet from the rim in 2019-20 to a staggering 51 percent last year — put him in elite company.
Bridges has said in the past he’s watched film on similarly lanky midrange assassins like Kevin Durant and Brandon Roy, and last year, he showed flashes of their ability to put the ball on the floor, pull up before the defense collapsed, rise up over a defender and knock down the shot.
“He just works his tail off, and so you know that those guys are going to continue to add to their games,” Williams said. “Since we’ve gotten here, I knew what he could do from cutting and moving without the ball, but now he’s gotten so used to playing with the ball and we need him to. We want to put him in environments that allow for him to be the third option for us on any given night, and I think he’s capable of it.”
Chris Paul sees a big season coming for Bridges as well.
“Mikal,” Paul answered immediately when asked who was standing out in training camp. “‘Kal is like the life of the team, man. He’s uhh…how do I word this? He’s sneaky. That Mikal is something else, man. Don’t think he’s just some nice guy. But he’s a fun guy to be around and he works. He works, so you respect everything about him. I’m excited for him in this season.”
Even if he’s not ready for an enhanced playmaking role, he’s already proficient in making the most of his touches off the ball. According to The Bball Index, he was deadly in multiple categories that don’t require him to create much, making him the perfect third or fourth option on a team littered with weapons like Paul, Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and tons of shooters:
- Points per possession (PPP): 1.24 (99th percentile)
- Transition PPP: 1.39 (100th percentile)
- Spot up PPP: 1.17 (97th percentile)
- Cut PPP: 1.49 (100th percentile)
- Off screen PPP: 1.19 (100th percentile)
Those marks are absurd, and combined with his I.Q., his high-caliber shooting and his ability to get to the midrange and create his own shot, the Suns’ top-10 offense will be even more dangerous — especially if he can put that elite finishing ability to better use by getting to the rim more often.
Grade the deal
Mikal Bridges’ 3-and-D skill-set is pivotal to Phoenix’s success. He still has areas he’ll need to improve to become Phoenix’s third option, but he’s well on his way.
His absence from one of the NBA’s All-Defensive teams was highway robbery. His flashes of growth as a ball-handler and midrange sniper hint at a much higher ceiling, and his floor as an intrinsic starter on a Finals-caliber team makes this a no-brainer. Now the Suns have him locked in for the next half-decade as they attempt to bring the franchise its first title.
Time to pay the big fella next.