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NBA insider says Deandre Ayton and Phoenix Suns are likely finished

Andrew Buller-Russ

Imagine being Deandre Ayton, the No. 1 overall pick from the 2018 NBA Draft class. Although Ayton may have been the top pick, it’s Luka Doncic and Trae Young who have stolen the spotlight since.

Picture yourself in Ayton’s large shoes, you don’t think he wants to go out and prove he too can be among the league’s best? Right now, no one would prop him up in the same light as Luka or Ice Trae, but maybe Ayton yearns for a greater role on a team, where his skills could be featured more within the offense.

Could that help lead to Ayton trying to bail on the team that made him the first overall pick just four years ago now that he’s set to be a restricted free agent? Probably not that reason alone, as money talks, but it’s a factor to keep in mind as Ayton heads into free agency for the first time in his life.

Is Deandre Ayton already gone?

Since they were the organization that drafted him out of college, the Phoenix Suns have the right to offer Deandre Ayton more money than any other franchise in free agency. But just because they can offer their starting center a max contract, it doesn’t mean they will.

  • Contract Deandre Ayton is eligible for with Suns: five-year, $176.9 million deal

Of course Ayton wants the big cheese, but the Suns don’t seem willing to commit to the 23-year-old, or at least not on that scale.

Instead, as James Edwards and John Hollinger of The Athletic suggest, “it’s more likely than not” that Ayton is playing for a new organization at the start of next season.

Several teams could use a center of Ayton’s caliber, who has averaged a double-double in each of his four seasons thus far. But not everyone can afford him.

As for the teams who have been linked to him in free agency, they include the Detroit Pistons, Portland Trail Blazers, and San Antonio Spurs in no particular order.

Another option for the Suns, if they don’t want to let Ayton leave for zero compensation, is finding a sign-and-trade partner to at least allow them to pick up a piece or two that can help them in the immediate future, should they balk at Ayton’s asking price.

It should be an interesting summer in Phoenix.

Related: 3 ideal Deandre Ayton landing spots in NBA free agency