EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Report: Suns reluctant to offer C Deandre Ayton max contract extension

Oct 5, 2021, 7:34 AM | Updated: 8:28 am

Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton will not sign less than a max contract extension offer, confirms Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski was first to report Ayton was seeking only a max contract, and he added that stance has stalled discussions due to the team’s reluctance to offer such a deal.

A five-year max deal would start in the $172.5 million range and amount to up to $207 million with incentives.

Ayton remains under contract for the 2021-22 season but will become a restricted free agent next summer if a deal isn’t reached before an Oct. 18 deadline. Phoenix could match offers given to Ayton next offseason if he does not agree to an extension in the coming weeks.

He could also pursue unrestricted free agency in 2023 by signing a qualifying offer for $16.4 million for the 2022-23 season — though that would be a risky proposition for Ayton, leaving $10s and maybe $100s of millions on the table. The Suns must offer Ayton the qualifying amount in order to be able to match deals in unrestricted free agency.

According to Wojnarowski, Ayton’s camp believes he is worth the max now. The belief that a max deal would be completed by this point was held by “executives league-wide.”

Four players drafted from the No. 1 pick’s 2018 class have already agreed to max deals this offseason: Denver’s Michael Porter Jr., Dallas’ Luka Doncic, Atlanta’s Trae Young and Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Additionally, Boston center Robert Williams signed a four-year, $50 million extension this offseason.

Writes Wojnarowski:

… sources said the talks between the Suns and Ayton’s representatives are slowed by ownership’s current assertion that Ayton doesn’t deserve to be included in that group of players.

The 23-year-old Ayton is coming off the best season of his young career, averaging 14.4 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.2 blocks per game. While those averages were down for Ayton, his play directly translated to the Suns’ success in the regular season and playoffs.

Any disagreement in Ayton’s value could be found in the leap he made from an impactful yet inconsistent regular season compared to a bullying 22-game playoff run.

Ayton’s playoff averages were up to 15.8 points, 11.8 rebounds plus over a block and assist a game. He shot 65.8% from the field.

Ayton had a huge impact in Phoenix’s run to the NBA Finals, as he was the primary defender on Los Angeles Lakers All-Star big man Anthony Davis, league MVP Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets and eventual Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo in the six-game series won by the Milwaukee Bucks.

Ayton has showed up to training camp in excellent shape, according to Suns coach Monty Williams, and the big man was active Monday in the preseason opener, scoring eight points and grabbing three rebounds in 12 minutes against the Sacramento Kings.

He joins fellow 2018 classmate Mikal Bridges and newcomer Landry Shamet as Suns players who could agree to extensions before the year begins.

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