Deandre Ayton’s consistently-solid production as a post presence and anchor down low played a massive part in the Suns’ surprise trip to the NBA Finals this past season. Yet, the Phoenix organization clearly wasn’t ready to make a longterm commitment to its fourth-year star.
When Monday’s contract deadline struck at 6 p.m. ET, Ayton and the Suns had failed to come to an extension agreement on the former No. 1 overall pick’s rookie deal. The rising-star center reportedly stood firm on wanting a full, five-year max contract (guaranteed $172.5 million plus incentives), but the Phoenix front office wouldn’t lock in that commitment.
According to reports from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Ayton is “very unhappy” with the way these contract negotiations went down.
On Tuesday, that frustration appeared to show through yet again as Ayton refused to address the media.
Deandre Ayton declined to talk to us again today
— Gerald Bourguet (@GeraldBourguet) October 19, 2021
Ayton’s frustration has no doubt been accelerated by the the contract success of some of his 2018 NBA draft classmates. So far, Trae Young, Luka Doncic, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Michael Porter Jr. have all signed max deals with their respective teams. Another 2018 draft mate, his Suns teammate Mikal Bridges (No. 10 overall), reached a four-year, $90 million extension earlier this week.
Now that these extension negotiations have officially fallen through, Ayton will enter next offseason as a restricted free agent — meaning the Suns have the right to match any offer made by other prospective teams. The 23-year-old center could also sign a qualifying offer to play through the 2022-23 season and become an unrestricted free agent in 2023.
“I love Phoenix, but I’m really disappointed that we haven’t really gotten a deal done yet,” Ayton said last Tuesday. “I mean, we were two wins from a championship. I just really want to be respected, to be honest, to be respected like my peers are being respected by their teams. I’ll just keep it like that. ”
Deandre Ayton addresses contract talks, saying he's "disappointed" a deal hasn't gotten done and he wants to be respected like his peers as ESPN reported last week contract talks were stalled over getting rookie max extension. #Suns pic.twitter.com/XVtj06fojN
— Duane Rankin (@DuaneRankin) October 12, 2021
With the way he’s played so far in his young NBA career, it’s hard to imagine why the Suns are so hesitant to commit to their young star. Through his first three seasons, Ayton has averaged a double-double with 16.0 points, 10.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. Emerging as a two-way stud this past year, he set an NBA postseason record for field goal percentage (65.8) on 15.8 points per game and served as an imposing force down low with 1.1 blocks and 11.8 rebounds per game.
Ayton and the Suns will tipoff their 2021-22 season with a matchup against the Denver Nuggets tomorrow night.