Suns’ Ayton becomes 2nd No. 1 pick to hit restricted free agency since 1985

Jun 28, 2022, 3:36 PM

The Phoenix Suns tendered a qualifying offer to Deandre Ayton on Monday, making him the second No. 1 overall pick to hit restricted free agency since the birth of the NBA Draft Lottery in 1985.

Only the Portland Trailblazers’ notorious No. 1 pick Greg Oden did not get re-signed before hitting restricted free agency. This paved a way for Kevin Durant to be drafted by the Seattle SuperSonics at No. 2 in 2007.

Oden didn’t play in his first season due to a knee injury. In the ensuing two seasons in Portland, he averaged 9.4 points per game, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks.

To compare, Ayton averaged 16.3 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists over his career in Phoenix.

Letting the top pick reach restricted free agency is a rare occurrence because teams will either extend the player or move on from them to acquire assets before their original rookie deal expires.

The Suns’ front office opted to not give Ayton the max deal following his third season and NBA Finals run in 2021.

Other players who did not pan out with the original team that drafted them, but avoided restricted free agency include: Markelle Fultz (Philadelphia 76ers, 2017), Anthony Bennett (Cleveland Cavaliers, 2013), Kwame Brown (Washington Wizards, 2001), Joe Smith (Golden State Warriors, 1995) and Pervis Ellison (Sacramento Kings, 1989).

Ayton can sign the qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season, while the Suns have the decision of giving the center the money he wants, facilitating a sign-and-trade or simply rolling the dice and letting him walk for nothing when free agency opens on Thursday.

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