On Monday, Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic broke the news that the Phoenix Suns had agreed on four-year extensions with both Morris twins, Markieff and Morris. Markieff inked a four-year, $32 million deal, while Marcus agreed to a four-year, $20 million extension.
Phoenix handled the negotiations in a rather unique way, too. Given the potential awkwardness of awarding one twin a far heftier contract than the other, the Suns reportedly went to both with a total amount ($52 million), then told the brothers to divide it up among themselves, as Suns president Lon Babby explained to Coro.
They’re very close and we didn’t want to suggest anything that would be a disconnect to what they thought their value was. I didn’t delegate the whole project to them but I did ask, ‘How would you divide it up?’ They’re so close and in it together that it was better to negotiate the total amount and then go to them for how to divide it.
Neither deal contains option years nor trade kickers, per Coro, and each escalates in pay. That’s a marked departure from two of the major free-agent deals the Suns handed out this summer—Isaiah Thomas’ four-year, $27 million contract and P.J. Tucker’s three-year, $16.5 million deal—both of which decrease in pay over the coming years.
However, that comes with one major caveat, as Basketball Insiders’ Eric Pincus noted on Twitter:
After recently inking Eric Bledsoe to a five-year, $70 million contract, the Suns now have a better idea about how their long-term financial future is shaping up. Before factoring in the Morris twins’ new deals, the Suns only had roughly $30.8 million in guaranteed salary committed for 2015-16, per Basketball Insiders.
With the $5 million owed to Marcus and $8 million owed to Markieff next season, the Suns will have about $43.8 million of cap space tied up by Bledsoe, Thomas, Tucker, the Morris brothers, T.J. Warren and Tyler Ennis, along with Michael Beasley’s stretched contract (about $780,000) and $400,000 of guaranteed money for Anthony Tolliver. Zoran Dragic, Goran’s brother, also has a fully guaranteed $1.5 million headed his way in 2015-16, per Pincus.
Barring a catastrophic upset, the Suns will additionally pick up the team options on Alex Len ($3.8 million), Miles Plumlee ($2.1 million) and Archie Goodwin ($1.16 million), bringing their 2015-16 cap number to roughly $52.4 million. Based on the early 2015-16 cap projection of $66 million, that leaves roughly $13.6 million available for Phoenix before factoring in cap holds.
However, even with Bledsoe and the Morris twins locked up, Phoenix will have a few more major tests on its hands next summer. In all likelihood, Goran Dragic will decline his $7.5 million player option to test unrestricted free agency, and Gerald Green is set to become an unrestricted free agent, too. Given the deals handed out to major free-agent point guards in recent years, Dragic should expect nothing less than a deal starting in the $12-14 million range, which would just about wipe out all of Phoenix’s available cap space next summer. (The Suns can exceed the cap to re-sign both Dragic and Green, as they own both players’ Bird rights.)
There’s always the possibility the cap soars far higher than the $66 million mark—Grantland’s Zach Lowe has been hinting at that prospect for weeks—due to the impending influx of money from new TV contracts coming in the summer of 2016. As Artie Novikov speculated earlier this summer (and others have since echoed), the cap could explode past $80 million heading into the 2016-17 season, which would make both Morris twins’ deals look like massive steals in two years’ time.
The tl;dr version: Phoenix might have slightly overpaid Marcus Morris, but inking both brothers to long-term extensions did nothing to set the franchise’s long-term plans back. The Suns can still ink Dragic to a major deal next summer without brushing up against the luxury-tax line, if so desired, or pursue other marquee free agents if Dragic departs. And in 2016-17, when the cap is set to explode, the Suns will free up an extra $1 million due to the unique structure of the Morris twins’ extensions.