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Suns making Jalen Smith rare lottery pick with declined third-year team option

Suns big Jalen Smith

PHOENIX, AZ - OCTOBER 6: Jalen Smith #10 of the Phoenix Suns looks on during a preseason game against the Los Angeles Lakers on October 6, 2021 at Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

The Suns bucked consensus by picking Cameron Johnson No. 11 in 2019 and drafting Jalen Smith No 10 in 2020.

Johnson has exceeded expectations. That’s why Phoenix will exercise the $5,887,899 fourth-year team option in his rookie-scale contract.

But Smith won’t even have his $4,670,160 third-year option picked up.

Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report:

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Just six lottery picks have had their third-year rookie-scale options declined:

  • Jalen Smith (No. 10 in 2020)
  • Kendall Marshall (No. 13 in 2012)
  • Earl Clark (No. 14 in 2009)
  • Joe Alexander (No. 8 in 2008)
  • Patrick O’Bryant (No. 9 in 2006)
  • Yaroslav Korolev (No. 12 in 2005)

The Suns gain flexibility to re-sign Deandre Ayton without going as deep into the luxury tax.

Smith is now headed toward unrestricted free agency next summer. This effectively kills his trade value, if he somehow had any left. A team can’t re-sign Smith for more than his option salary ($4,670,160). So, if any team believes the shooting big still has potential, it’s better off signing him once he becomes a free agent (likely for the minimum).

That might be Phoenix. The Suns are just one year removed from highly coveting Smith the draft. They still have him under contract the rest of this season.

But as the team most familiar with Smith, Phoenix is sending a strong signal about his future in the NBA by declining this option.