The Phoenix Suns came to an agreement on a contract extension with small forward Jared Dudley. Dudley, an avid user of social media to promote his personal "brand," tweeted news of the extension just minutes before the NBA's midnight deadline. The team confirmed the news with an official announcement shortly after. Dudley would have become a restricted free agent this summer if a contract extension agreement had not been reached between the Suns and the fourth-year former Boston College standout.
By signing Dudley to an extension, the Suns are not only showing their faith in his skills as a player and confidence in his ability to help the team, but they are betting that the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) won't be so radical that a five-year, $21.25 million contract becomes a burden on the team's financial flexibility. The deal reportedly also includes an additional $1.25 million in playoff incentives and has a player's early termination option for the final year.
The Suns might also be counting on saving a portion of Dudley's and the rest of the team's salaries if there's an NBA lockout next season as many observers believe.
Financial flexibility was cited by Suns President of Basketball Operations, Lon Babby, in a recent radio interview as the reason the team was not picking up the team option for the third year of Earl Clark's rookie contract. Babby stated that Clark may still have a future with the Suns, but the $2 million cost of the contract next season was seen as burdensome.
With Dudley now under contract for five more years, the Suns have committed a total of $118 million through 2016 to three small forwards. Hedo Turkoglu and Josh Childress join Dudley in the log jam at the position. However, both Dudley and Childress can also play shooting guard and Turkoglu is attempting to transition to the power forward position.
Suns starting small forward Grant Hill is on the final year of his current contract and has not decided if wants to continue playing after this season. Hill is 38-years-old. Jason Richardson, the Suns starting shooting guard, is also on the final year of his deal and has indicated that he would like to remain with the Suns if a contract extension agreement can be reached. The Suns have also committed long-term contracts to center Channing Frye and power forward Hakim Warrick.
This summer, Suns Managing Partner, Robert Sarver, spoke about his plan to have flexible contracts for mid-range players who could potentially be used in trades to acquire a super star player through a trade.
"We can sign some good contracts at reasonable prices that give us the ability to compete and be good, but also the flexibility that if we want to bring that franchise player in and that opportunity (exists), the best way that's going to happen for us is through a trade, not through free agency over the next couple of years," Sarver said in July.
With this contract on the books, the Suns now have five players meeting that bill. Dudley, Warrick, Frye, Turkoglu and Childress are all on reasonable contracts and are quality players that could be used in a potential trade with a team looking to move a costly super star asset should the new CBA requires teams to radically remake their rosters.
It remains to be seen if the Suns over-played their hand by signing so many players of similar caliber and role or if they've positioned themselves to take advantage of what could be a very interesting market once the new CBA is in place. In the meantime, extending Dudley provides continuity and stability to a team marked by change and the overall contract cost is a fairly low risk for a proven fan favorite who is a solid contributor on a winning team.
Jared Dudley averaged 8.2 points and 3.4 rebounds with the Suns last season, the best of his career but Suns coach Alvin Gentry often says that Dudley's value to the team isn't measured in the box score. Known for his energy, hustle, smart defense, and fan and locker room friendly personality, Dudley is widely considered an important part of the team.