Jerry Colangelo: Wait on contract part of Suns C Deandre Ayton’s growth

Oct 22, 2021, 8:32 AM | Updated: 8:42 am
Former Phoenix sports executive Jerry Colangelo interviews with Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station on Feb. 10, 2020. (Matt Layman/Arizona Sports)
(Matt Layman/Arizona Sports)

Jerry Colangelo understands how the business world works, and the former owner of the Phoenix Suns also knows first-hand that professional athletes might have to learn that the hard way.

With that perspective, Colangelo doesn’t have a steaming opinion of how the Suns have handled the contract situation of fourth-year center Deandre Ayton. In fact, Colangelo has an optimistic view of the team failing to agree with Ayton on a contract extension before the 2021-22 season began, making the big man a restricted free agent next offseason.

“First of all, I don’t ever second-guess anyone else in terms of making decisions. They’re intelligent, they know what they’re doing, they’ve weighed the pluses and minuses of stepping into that right now or waiting it out,” Colangelo told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News on Friday.

“That’s part of the business today. The money is so big, (the Suns) have to be 100% sure they want to move forward. I think probably it’s all going to work out at some point and it’ll be part of Deandre Ayton’s growth in terms of a business man to understand this is how the world really plays.”

Phoenix holds significant control moving into next season.

The team can extend a qualifying offer to make Ayton a restricted free agent. He can attract offers from other teams, any of which the Suns can match. Phoenix can also offer him more money and more years (up to five) than any other team.

A third option for Ayton would put him at extreme risk: He could sign the qualifying offer of $16.4 million for one year, keeping him in Phoenix before he becomes a restricted free agent in the 2023-24 offseason.

But that would leave likely hundreds of millions of dollars on the table. No player contending for max dollars has ever gone that route.

In short, the Suns can get another full-year look at Ayton and still offer him the money and a multi-year deal they reportedly weren’t sure about handing out this offseason.

Clearly, the team and Ayton’s agents had less-than-ideal negotiations.

Suns general manager James Jones said Ayton’s representatives would only consider a five-year maximum contract, while his agents told The Athletic’s Sam Amick that the team never put a three- or four-year contract offer squarely on the table.

Ayton said he is “disappointed” a deal did not get done.

“Really one thing about me throughout my whole life, I’ve always learned to control what I can control,” Ayton told reporters Wednesday after the season opener. “At the same time, obviously I’m disappointed but I’m still trying to get us back to the Finals.

“I still have to represent the team and myself as well. And I’m just a competitor, man. I just like to compete to the best and every time I’m between them lines that’s what you’re gonna see outta me, nothing else.”

Phoenix Suns

(Photo courtesy of Phoenix Suns)...
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Jerry Colangelo: Wait on contract part of Suns C Deandre Ayton’s growth