NBA Culture’s Disrespect Of Traditional Bigs Continues | Suns Don’t See DeAndre Ayton As A Max Player?

Phoenix Suns center DeAndre Ayton was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft. The two gems of that draft are Dallas Mavericks point guard/point forward Luka Doncic and Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young. Both have taken the league by storm. 

Basically traded for one another on draft night, both have thrived in situations perfect for their skill sets and they both recently joined the $200 million max contract club.

Cream Of The 2018 Draft Crop 

Luka, the cerebral and fundamentally sound “killa” from Slovenia who’s torched the Clippers in back-to-back epic playoff series is the face of a rising Mavericks franchise. While Trae, aka “Ice Trae,” has become sort of a popular villain around the league in the mold of Steph Curry following his postseason run this past season. Fans in NYC, Philly and Milwaukee heckled the “El Debarge” look-alike, and he heckled right back while getting buckets to silence entire arenas.

The 7-foot Ayton expected to see a max deal of $172.5 million with the chance to rake in as much as $207 million over five years after helping the Phoenix Suns reach the NBA Finals, and coming within two wins of winning the franchise’s first Larry O’Brien trophy.  According to reports, the Suns have ended talks without a deal done. 

With owner Robert Sarver and GM James “Champ” Jones tight-lipped about information on the negotiations, information began to leak out via multiple sources.

Suns Owner Talking In Tongues 

Sarver had the following to say to Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo when asked about the negotiations. 

“Well, I can’t blame you for asking, but as you know, we never discuss negotiations or personnel publicly. It’s just not fair to the players. That wouldn’t be fair to the (GM) James (Jones) or the fans, so I’m going to pass on that one.

“If we can get something that works for both sides, we definitely would. As you know in restricted free agency sometimes that happens and sometimes it doesn’t. Getting a deal done a year early is a little bit more challenging than getting a deal done at the beginning of a season.”

Sarver also said he doesn’t believe the contract situation will hinder any of DeAndre’s or the team’s goals this season, which are another deep playoff run with a better result at the end.

Ayton can become a restricted free agent at the conclusion of this season. He will be highly coveted, especially should he improve upon his career averages of 16.0 ppg and 10.6 rebounds per game. Interior players still have great value on the defensive and offensive end. 

 

Suns GM James Jones also spoke on the matter saying, “We’ll address the matter when the time comes.”

Which means the Suns are in no real hurry to award their 23-year-old big man the same deal while he’s under team control for two more seasons.

There have been varying opinions as to why Jones and Sarver won’t give Ayton the bag. It might have to do with analytics and the “style” of play that Jones wants the Suns to execute in the future. As talented as Ayton is, he might not be a good fit. 

 

The Suns gave rising three-and-D wing Mikal Bridges a four-year, $90 million extension on Sunday. Landry Shamet (who arrived via free agency as and is considered a journeyman) just signed an extension for four years and $43 million. 

It makes you wonder if the Suns believe in Ayton long-term.

Ayton is taking it all in stride as the season begins despite not getting an extension similar to Trae Young’s.

 

Motivation Is The Key To Success

It should add extra incentive for him to build on last season. Maybe the Suns want to see more effort, more impact and more overall dedication in Ayton’s game before giving him the bag. In the NBA Finals he held Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo to 53 percent from the floor, while Greek Freak shot 70 percent against every other Suns defender.

Seeing his 2018 draft class buddies — Young, Doncic, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jaren Jackson Jr., Michael Porter Jr., plus the aforementioned Bridges and Shamet, all get big-money long-term extensions has to make Ayton a little peeved. 

Teams have to be careful with their young talent, especially the Suns, who need Ayton going forward. Hopefully for Phoenix, the front office won’t outsmart itself. The championship window is closing with Chris Paul already in the twilight of his Hall of Fame career. With a rim-rocking big who causes problems for opposing scorers, the Suns need to value the uniqueness of their big man and lock him up.