The Phoenix Suns have tendered a $16.4 million qualifying offer to center Deandre Ayton, making him a restricted free agent on July 1, per Spotrac’s Keith Smith on Tuesday.
It’s a procedural move for the Suns, who can now match any offer sheet the restricted free agent signs with another team.
Ayton could also sign the qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent in 2023, allowing him to choose his next destination unimpeded.
After the Suns opted against a contract extension for Ayton last offseason, the 2018 No. 1 overall pick averaged 17.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists over 58 games played in 2021-22. His shooting stroke took another step, too, with the center firing a career mark of 63.4% from the field, good enough for the fourth-best mark in the NBA.
Unfortunately for Ayton, the successes of the regular season were overshadowed by a poor finish in the playoffs, highlighted by a bench spat with head coach Monty Williams in a Game 7 blowout to the Dallas Mavericks in the second round. Ayton played just 17 minutes in the defeat.
Following the Suns’ postseason exit, head coach Monty Williams said the situation with Ayton was an internal matter.
Beyond the bench optics, Ayton still managed to average 17.9 points, 8.9 rebound and 1.7 assists over 30.5 minutes per playoff game.
“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,” Suns general manager James Jones said last Thursday after the 2022 NBA Draft.
“I see a good roster. I see a good mix of guys,” Jones added.