The Phoenix Suns decided against giving 2018 No. 1 overall pick DeAndre Ayton a max deal extension following the 2020-21 season. Ayton’s draft mates Luka Doncic (Mavericks) and Trae Young (Hawks) both signed massive extensions.
While Ayton isn’t the focal point of the Suns’ attack like Luka or Trae are for their teams, he’s still a vital piece for the Suns going forward. In fact, his play during the 2021-22 season was a huge factor in the Suns having the best record (64-18) in the NBA during the regular season.
Following a surprising seven-game loss to the Mavericks in the Western Conference semis, the belief was Ayton possibly had played his last game in the Valley of the Sun. There were rumors of discord between him and head coach Monty Williams that rang loudly.
Then, late last week, the Indiana Pacers signed the Bahamian big man to a restricted free agent max deal of four years, $133 million, giving the Suns 48 hours to match the deal or lose their rising star big man. It took Phoenix all of five hours to match the deal, meaning Ayton can’t be traded to the Pacers or any of the other 28 NBA teams for at least a season unless he approves of it.
One NBA analyst believes he’ll approve a trade and get out of the desert with his brand-new max deal in tow.
ESPN NBA analyst Jalen Rose says the relationship between the Suns and DeAndre Ayton is a wrap.
During an episode of his hit show “Jalen & Jacoby,” Rose said:
“The relationship is over as soon as he signs the contract. … For them not to pay him, for him to need the Pacers to step up and give an offer for him to get top dollar, the hourglass just ticks on their relationship, that’s how I feel.”
Deandre Ayton's relationship with the Suns is over as soon as he signs the contract. pic.twitter.com/9mdbjyFEPN
— Jalen Rose (@JalenRose) July 18, 2022
Rose could be on to something, as it’s going to be kind of hard for Ayton to trust the Suns again, knowing they didn’t feel he was worth a max deal until another team stepped up and signed the 2018 No. 1 overall pick to a restricted free-agent offer sheet.
Ayton Was Seeking Five-Year Max Deal Last Offseason:
Following the 2020-21 season, one in which the Suns blew a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals to lose in six games to the Milwaukee Bucks, talks of a max deal for Ayton broke down. At that time here’s what Ayton said:
“One thing about me, throughout my whole life, I’ve always learned to control what I can control. At the same time, obviously I’m disappointed, but I’m still trying to get us back to the finals. I’ve still got to represent the team and myself as well. I’m just a competitor, man. Just like to compete to the best, and every time I’m in between those lines, that’s what you’re going to see out of me. Nothing else.”
Deandre Ayton addresses contract talks, saying he's "disappointed" a deal hasn't gotten done and he wants to be respected like his peers as ESPN reported last week contract talks were stalled over getting rookie max extension. #Suns pic.twitter.com/XVtj06fojN
— Duane Rankin (@DuaneRankin) October 12, 2021
Ayton didn’t sulk, and he let his play in 2021-22 do the talking. The former Arizona Wildcats star averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game on a career-high 63.4 percent from the floor. Ayton displayed the two-way skill set that made him the top pick in 2018.
Ayton Is The Suns’ Anchor On Both Ends
All-Star guards Devin Booker and Chris Paul are both key cogs in the Suns’ attack, but Ayton’s play on both ends was the piece that made Phoenix a tough team to defend night in and night out. Then, on defense, Ayton protects the rim with his length and athleticism, making the Suns one of the league’s best defensive teams as well.
The Phoenix Suns have matched Deandre Ayton's four-year, $133M offer sheet from the Indiana Pacers, his agents told @wojespn.
Ayton can't be traded without his consent for a full year. pic.twitter.com/ZXm57dkjqz
— ESPN (@espn) July 15, 2022
Some believe Ayton isn’t worth the massive contract he just signed, and at one point the Suns were included in that group. But if the Suns have any hopes of winning an NBA championship, having him makes that much easier.
Only time will tell if this once budding relationship is salvageable. If not, it could derail any hopes the Suns have at competing for an NBA title next season and beyond.