Phoenix Suns star center and former No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton might have played his final game as a member of the team.
Ayton appeared in just 17 minutes of action in the Suns’ humiliating Game 7 home loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Semifinals. He scored all of five points on 2-of-5 shooting as the Suns’ season came to a premature end.
When asked about Ayton’s lack of minutes, Suns head coach Monty Williams simply said “it’s internal” and refused to comment any further.
The backdrop here is Ayton’s status as a pending restricted free agent and the fact that Phoenix refused to offer him a max contract extension ahead of the 2021-22 season. Some within the Suns’ brass don’t view him as worthy of said contract.
In talking about the Deandre Ayton situation one day after his Suns were eliminated by Dallas, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski had something interesting to report.
“Deandre Ayton did not feel valued by this Phoenix organization. He is going to get a max contract in the marketplace, somewhere. There are a lot of teams lining up to figure out ‘how can we acquire him?'”Adrian Wojnarowski report on Deandre Ayton situation
It was back in October that reports surfaced Ayton wanted a five-year, $172.5 million max-level contract extension with potential escalators. Phoenix was not having any of it.
“If we can get something that works for both sides, we definitely would,” Suns owner Robert Sarver said last October.
Complicated Deandre Ayton relationship with the Phoenix Suns near an end
Woj’s report is especially interesting in that it includes a tidbit about other teams being willing to offer the 23-year-old Ayton a max contract during NBA free agency.
Phoenix is not in a great position to match said offer. It has Devin Booker ($33.83 million) and Chris Paul ($28.4 million) set to take up north of 50% of the Suns’ salary cap in 2022-23. For his part, Sarver is not one of those owners who have made it a theme to pay into the NBA’s luxury tax.
Coming off a Westen Conference Semifinals perfomance that saw him average 15.7 points and 8.1 rebounds, Ayton seems to have lukewarm support within the locker room.
This really doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement from the face of the Suns heading into what promises to be an interesting offseason for the 2021 Western Conference champions.
Deandre Ayton contract and standing as a high-value free agent
Getting back to the point at hand. The 2018 NBA Draft class has already seen some big-name players receive huge contract extensions.
- Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks: 5 years, $207.1 million
- Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks: 5 years, $172.5 million
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder: 5 years, $172.5 million
- Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets: 5 years, $172.5 million
- Mikal Bridges, Phoenix Suns: 4 years, $90 million
Given what we’ve seen from Ayton since he was selected No. 1 in that 2018 NBA Draft, there’s going to be a strong market for his services. That’s not even in question.
- Deandre Ayton stats (career): 16.3 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 60% shooting
There’s a few questions here. Will another team offer Ayton that max contract given his body of work? If so, will the Suns match? If not, will they then lookin to pull off a sign-and-trade?
It’s going to be a major storyline in the desert this summer.