Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton will be one of the top NBA free agents this summer, but his future with the organization that drafted him seems increasingly uncertain.
Ayton, the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, was eligible for a max contract this past season. While a majority of his peers landed life-changing contracts, Phoenix declined to go there with its prized center. It created a rift with the big man and after a disappointing exit in the NBA playoffs, his days with the Suns’ organization could be numbered.
Phoenix can match any offer Ayton receives this summer. However, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report shares from NBA executives that there is a growing sense around the league that Ayton walks if another team offers him a max contract.
Related: Rift grows between Phoenix Suns, Deandre Ayton
Ayton won’t turn 24 until July 23, meaning he is hitting the open market right on the verge of entering his prime years. While centers have lost some value in the modern NBA, there is still plenty of interest in the former top pick.
- Deandre Ayton stats: 17.2 ppg, 10.2 RPG, .203 WS/48
The Portland Trail Blazers and Detroit Pistons are the two teams to watch closest. Both teams have ample cap room and are seeking a potential All-Star talent to help support their star point guard.
Related: Phoenix Suns GM says team wants to re-sign Deandre Ayton
Even if the Suns let Ayton accept another max offer, they will insist on receiving compensation. Phoenix would arrange a sign-and-trade with the club Ayton joins, likely acquiring draft picks or another starting center in return.
While losing Ayton would deliver a blow to the team’s title hopes next season, a separation feels inevitable with ownership unlikely to pay what it will take to keep him.