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Dave Pasch: Suns ‘clearly feel the time is now for Deandre Ayton’

Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns is congratulated by Devin Booker #1 after making a three-point basket against the Washington Wizards in the second half of an NBA basketball game at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on July 31, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. (Photo by Kim Klement - Pool/Getty Images)

Coming off his most aggressive game of the season, Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton’s next challenge starts with one word: consistency.

The question is how long the Suns will wait to see it.

Suns teammates had been in Ayton’s ear last week, pushing him to find his aggressive side. His 18-point, 16-rebound game on Monday in a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies could be viewed as a crossroads for him finding that consistently — or a blip if he can’t harness it.

ESPN NBA play-by-play man Dave Pasch believes the “time is now” for Ayton to show up. Situationally, time is running out for Phoenix to determine what it has in its 2018 first overall pick.

“They looked at trading him last summer, it didn’t work out,” Pasch told Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf on Wednesday. “I think they’re still trying to figure out if this guy is going to get it. I hope he does, but at what point do you say it’s not going to happen? I don’t know. I’m not saying we’re there, I’m asking the question. When do we say that?

“Maybe they think it’s after this year. Maybe because of COVID, last year was messed up and this year is a little messed up, so let’s wait ’til the middle of next year. I don’t know the answer to that.”

Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro said Wednesday that five NBA teams he contacted said they had not heard of the Suns shopping their starting center. Suns general manager James Jones declined to comment on Pasch’s remarks on Burns & Gambo.

But we do know that Jones must use Ayton’s third pro season to evaluate the big man’s future.

Ayton is up for a contract extension this upcoming offseason — depending on how the Suns view him, that’s a big decision. Remember, Devin Booker reached his $158 million extension after his third NBA campaign, and while Ayton is far from commanding a similar max deal at this point, it’s worth a discussion about locking him in now versus after his fourth season.

If Ayton doesn’t sign an extension this summer, he will remain under contract for 2021-22 before reaching restricted free agency, where Phoenix could match any offers from another team before the 2022-23 season.

Another year of team control obviously doesn’t force the Suns to act this year.

Pasch, however, believes the team is deep in the process of making that determination. He doubled down, saying he heard the Suns considered trading their 2018 first overall draft pick.

“Again, from what I understand, they looked to move him this past summer. Clearly they feel the time is now for Deandre Ayton,” Pasch said. “Does he know that? Does he recognize that? Does he understand the gravity of the situation that if he doesn’t figure it out, he’s going to be playing somewhere else?

“Look, I think James Jones has proven a lot. I think you hired the right guy in Monty, the arrow is pointing up for this franchise. It’s still going to be up-and-down a little bit.”


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