Morey made a rare appearance in the visitorâ€™s locker room in Oakland. Before leaving, he and Harden had a conversation by the doorway, with the pair exchanging jokes. Morey has joined a growing congregation that believes the MVP race is all but confirmed, even with a good chunk of the season left. Itâ€™s Harden, followed by the others. â€śRace? Thereâ€™s no race,â€ť he said. â€śHe should be first. We gotta prove that on the court over time, but I donâ€™t see it as a race, really.â€ť
May 16, 2022 | 7:38 am EDT Update
But what happens if Phoenix uses the threat of restricted free agency and a limited market of teams with available cap space as leverage? Would the Suns tell Ayton to go out and get an offer sheet from another team, with the belief it would get matched? ESPN is projecting four teams — theÂ Detroit Pistons,Â Indiana Pacers,Â Orlando MagicÂ andÂ San Antonio SpursÂ — to each have more than $30.5 million in available cap space. A fifth, theÂ Portland Trail Blazers, would need to waive starterÂ Josh HartÂ to create a max slot. Each of the four teams (and possibly Portland) can offer a four-year, $131.1 million contract.
Considering Phoenix is now getting a discount of $46 million (but with one less year), the likelihood is that the offer is matched. In total, 17 players have signed an offer sheet, with seven going unmatched. The latest was in 2020 withÂ Bogdan BogdanovicÂ and theÂ Sacramento Kings. The risk for the Suns is a contract laden with an advance payment, trade bonus and fewer years. Instead of having Ayton under contract through the 2026-27 season, there would be the possibility of him becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2024 or 2025. A sign-and-trade is also an option, but that would require the Suns to cooperate.
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 wereÂ Kevin DurantÂ andÂ Jayson Tatum. He is also one of three players to average at least 25 points in each of the past four seasons, joiningÂ Giannis AntetokounmpoÂ andÂ 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. If there is a concern to the supermax it is the $113 million that Booker is owed in the final two seasons.
Crowder is entering the final year of his contract and is extension eligible. The forward is eligible to sign a four-year $58.3 million contract. Crowder started all 67 games he played this season, averaging 9.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and shooting 34.8% from 3. The future finances of Phoenix (new contracts for Ayton, Booker and Johnson) will certainly factor into the decision to extend Crowder.
Overall, he shot 44.3% from the field (his lowest since 2013-14) and 37.3% from three (lowest since 2017-18). A concern with extending Middleton to a lucrative contract is the workload that he has endured since the 2017-18 season. The guard currently ranks seventh in games played and fifth in minutes among all active players. He will turn 33 years old in the first year of a possible new contract.
The Bucks’ financial outlook and the loss ofÂ Donte DiVincenzoÂ makes signing Connaughton a priority if he declines his option. The next contract for Connaughton should range between $8 million and $10 million, similar to the two-year, $18.7 million extension that his teammate Grayson Allen signed last October.
June 21:Â Thanasis AntetokounmpoÂ has a $1.9 million player option in his contract. Antetokounmpo has established Bird rights (on the roster for three years or more), allowing the Bucks to exceed the cap to sign him if the player option is declined. The market for him is the veteran minimum exception of $1.9 million.
Brook Lopez is entering the last year of his contract, and Milwaukee can extend him for four additional seasons and up to $74.7 million (a starting salary of $16.7 million in the first year). The veteran missed 69 games this season recovering from back surgery. Lopez continues to be a presence on the defensive end. Per Second Spectrum, he allowed opponents to shoot 48.8% in the restricted area when contesting shots as the closest defender over the past two seasons. That is the second lowest behindÂ Jaren Jackson Jr. The projection for Lopez on an extension is two years, $20 million.