Deandre Ayton has spent four years with the Phoenix Suns, the team that drafted him as first overall pick in 2018. His four-year rookie contract is set to expire this summer after the center and the team failed to reach an agreement on an extension.
The 23-year-old center will become a restricted free agent and is expected look for a max contract. The question is whether the Suns will match the offer he gets elsewhere.
“Going into this season, Deandre Ayton did not feel valued by this Phoenix organization,” NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski said on ESPN’s NBA Today. “They were not able to come to an agreement on his rookie extension.
“He saw all the other players in his class or many of the top players get extensions, he wanted a max deal, he would not move off that.
“So now he moves toward restricted free agency this summer where now he’ll have some more options. But ultimately Phoenix can still match an offer out there and keep him if he signs an offer sheet with another team.”
Woj thinks that the teams with big cap space will be interested in making an offer for Ayton. But Phoenix will have complete control of the situation as they will be able to choose between signing the center or using him to get other players.
“Well, you’re going to look at the teams with cap space,” Wojnarowski said when asked about Ayton’s situation in free agency. “A team, for example like Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Portland. teams who could create enough cap space to go out and sign him.
“But also the discussions of a sign and trade, meaning teams who maybe don’t have the cap space. And if Phoenix decides they want to get assets back for Deandre, they don’t want to match an offer sheet and either decide to pay him that max or allow to just allow him to just leave for nothing which I think is what they won’t do.
“There’ll be a lot of conversations around the league. Deandre Ayton is going to get a max contract in the marketplace somewhere. Phoenix really has to look at their sort of allocation financially of how they want to distribute salaries money. That’s what this is.
“The relationship with Monty Williams had been one of the real benefits. I think their ability to work together and build a relationship. It’ll be interesting to see how how that season ended impacts this.”
This past season Ayton averaged 17.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 29.5 minutes per game for Phoenix. His numbers were similar in playoffs.