Suns making Jalen Smith rare lottery pick with declined third-year team option
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:
Phoenix has picked up the fourth-year option for Cam Johnson, sources said, although the Suns have yet to do the same for Jalen Smith's third-year option ahead of today's deadline.— Jake Fischer (@JakeLFischer) November 1, 2021
Shams Charania of The Athletic:
Sources: Phoenix is declining center Jalen Smith’s third-year rookie option ($4.7M), making him an unrestricted free agent in 2022. The 6-foot-10 big man averaged 9.5 points and 8 rebounds in four preseason games after posting 16.25 PPG/12.5 RPG in summer league.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) November 1, 2021
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.