The Phoenix Suns have signed small forward Mikal Bridges to a rookie contract extension, the team announced Monday. The deal is fully guaranteed and worth $90 million over four years, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. Bridges was the No. 10 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft and a key player in Phoenix's surprising run to the NBA Finals last season. He averaged 13.5 points on 42.5 percent shooting from behind the arc in the regular season while earning strong consideration for a spot on the NBA's All-Defensive teams.
That 3-and-D skill set is what earned Bridges this contract, but he has in the past flashed far more potential as a ball-handler. He notably scored 27 points in Game 2 of the NBA Finals -- Phoenix's last win of the series -- and he has drawn quite a bit of praise from star teammate Devin Booker. "He's a player," Booker said during the Orlando bubble. "You can't put him in a box, you can't give him one title. You can't even just give him a 3-and-D title that people try to use for him."
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With the Bridges deal now done, all eyes turn to 2018 No. 1 overall pick DeAndre Ayton. Phoenix's starting center reportedly wants the maximum five-year extension that his draftmates Luka Doncic, Trae Young and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander have earned. Such a deal could pay Ayton as much as $207 million should he earn Rose Rule eligibility, but the Suns are reportedly hesitant to pay him that much.
The deadline to sign 2018 first-round picks to rookie extensions is Monday, Oct. 18. Phoenix has at least secured the signature of one of its two top youngsters, but with so little time to go, negotiations with Ayton could come down to the wire. If he does not sign an extension prior to the deadline, he would become a restricted free agent next offseason. From there, he could either sign a new long-term deal with the Suns, sign an offer sheet with another team that Phoenix would have the right to match, or sign a one-year qualifying offer in Phoenix that would make him an unrestricted free agent in 2023.
Signing Bridges at least gives the Suns a bit of insurance should they continue to struggle to secure Ayton. They no longer risk both drawing enormous offer sheets next offseason. Now, with one of their core players locked in, they can focus all of their attention on locking in the other.