Step 3: Sign D’Angelo Russell
With room for a max contract, the Suns make their play on D’Angelo Russell, who — surprise, surprise! — is not expected to be a target for Phoenix in free agency. Insider speculation be damned, though, because this team needs talent and Russell is a freaking 23-year-old point guard coming off an All-Star season who’s good friends with Devin Booker. It makes too much sense.
With the Brooklyn Nets being the frontrunner to secure Kyrie Irving’s services, Russell’s departure — even as a restricted free agent — seems imminent. While teams like the Chicago Bulls, Orlando Magic and Indiana Pacers would make sense as potential suitors at that point, Phoenix might be the best fit as a young team on the rise that’s also in need of a point guard, with his buddy Booker already on the roster.
A max salary for Russell would start at $27 million, and he will reportedly pursue that figure. Whether he’s worth that amount in a vacuum is debatable. While he averaged an impressive 21.1 points, 7.0 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game last year on .434/.369/.780 shooting splits, he was only an All-Star by name and the virtue of playing in the Eastern Conference. He still has flaws as an efficient scorer and defender, and $27 million is a lot to commit.
However, the Suns can no longer afford to be picky. Years of doing so has gotten them to where they are now — rudderless and dependent on a young group’s growth that needs actual NBA talent to start taking this rebuild in the right direction. Russell is still young, improving and is already good. That’s enough to make him a better option than overpaying Ricky Rubio or Patrick Beverley upwards of $10-13 million just to convince them to join a rebuild.