Deandre Ayton’s impending restrictive free agency has been attracting a lot of speculation around the NBA following the Phoenix Suns’ upset loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the second round of the NBA playoffs.
During Early Bird negotiations last offseason, Ayton and his representatives attempted to negotiate a five-year $170 million extension. Phoenix and Ayton ultimately could not agree to a deal, leaving Ayton “disappointed.” Phoenix reportedly tried to gauge Ayton’s trade value per Jake Fischer, including a deal centered around Domantas Sabonis.
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
This offseason, three teams, Atlanta, Detroit, and Portland, have reportedly expressed interest in acquiring Ayton in the open market. Charlotte is also amongst the reported Ayton suitors as well as San Antonio. The Spurs have a similar problem on their hands while they weigh what they want to do with their frontcourt as Jakob Poetl’s contract ends in 2023.
The dynamic around the Suns and Ayton has been shifting recently. Ayton was benched for the entire fourth quarter of the Suns’ Game 7 blowout loss to the Mavericks. When Coach Monty Williams was asked about the benching, he replied: “It’s internal.” Williams was noncommital to Ayton during his exit interview with reporters too, revealing that he and Ayton haven’t spoken since Game 7.
“The Deandre situation is something we’ll deal with this summer,” Ayton said.
Fischer reports that some among the League believe that the Phoenix front office doesn’t view Ayton, or any center, as a player worth a deal greater than $30 million annually. On the coaching end, Fischer reports that Ayton is not a favorite of Williams, particularly of Ayton’s apparent waning focus. During the 2018 NBA Draft process, there were question marks about Ayton’s motor and work ethic.
Four seasons into his career, Ayton has seemingly answered those questions, averaging a career of 16.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.
If Phoenix adds a massive Ayton extension to their already expensive payroll, it will make it much more challenging to re-sign Cam Johnson, who is also due for an extension. According to Fischer, should Phoenix decide to let Ayton walk away, they could engineer a sign-and-trade for a frontcourt replacement. They could also choose to re-sign JaVale McGee or Bismack Biyombo in hopes the two vets can fill the center position by committee.