EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Deandre Ayton still Suns’ priority, says GM: ‘We want to keep it together’

Jun 23, 2022, 10:28 PM | Updated: Jun 24, 2022, 12:27 am

Phoenix Suns general manager James Jones said nothing has changed on the Deandre Ayton front over the past several weeks, from his seat at least.

As NBA whispers coming out as anonymous reports involved the assumption that Phoenix could part with its starting center for the right sign-and-trade price, Jones reiterated Thursday after the NBA Draft that retaining the restricted free agent is a priority.

“D.A. remains a huge part of what we do,” Jones said after the Suns did not make a pick or a trade during the draft. “This team is a really good team and we want to keep it together.”

Of course, there’s little reason for Jones to tip his hand at this point.

As for the draft, Jones said that the phones were busier than usual because teams knew the Suns might be up for trading into the event, having dealt their picks in the past few years to acquire point guard Chris Paul and forward Torrey Craig. But no deal to add a rookie came to fruition.

Jones on Thursday spoke to reporters for the first time since after the Suns’ playoff run ended. When asked about Ayton’s impending free agency, where Phoenix can man any offer extended to the big man from another team, Jones pushed that conversation down the road, when the negotiating window has not yet opened.

“That’s a free agency situation,” the general manager said. “What we were focused on today was the draft and starting to prepare ourselves and our guys for Summer League, for fall. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, D.A.’s a tremendous part of what we do and we want to keep it together.

“I see a good roster. I see a good mix of guys,” Jones added.

The 23-year-old, who went No. 1 overall in the 2018 draft, did not reach a contract extension with the Suns last offseason and was seeking a max deal.

Both his representation and the Suns admitted that the two sides were not in the same ballpark in terms of money and length for an extension.

Ayton put that disappointment behind him for the most part. Ayton averaged 17.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists last season.

But he ended 2021-22 on a sour note in the second round of the playoffs. Ayton played 17 minutes but had a bench spat with head coach Monty Williams in a Game 7 blowout loss against the Dallas Mavericks.

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