Deandre Ayton will be a restricted free agent this offseason after the Phoenix Suns were unable to sign him to an extension. "Going into this season, Deandre Ayton did not feel valued by this Phoenix organization," said Adrian Wojnarowski on Monday. "They were not able to come to an agreement on a rookie extension. He saw many of the top players of his class get extensions. He wanted a max deal. He would not move off that. "So now he moves toward restricted free agency this summer where now he'll have some more options. But ultimately Phoenix can still match an offer out there and keep him if he signs an offer sheet with another team."
"Deandre Ayton is going to get a max contract in the marketplace somewhere. Phoenix really has to look at the allocation financially of how they want to distribute salaries. "The relationship with Monty Williams had been one of the real benefits. I think their ability to work together and build a relationship. It will be interesting how that season ended impacts this. It will really be one of the stories of this offseason because there are a lot of teams figuring out how to acquire [Ayton]."
Gerald Bourguet: Monty Williams on whether DA is a part of the Suns' long-term plans: "Deandre's situation is something that we'll deal with this summer. I don't want to say anything in regards to that. James and I are going to have conversations about the team in general."
But what happens if Phoenix uses the threat of restricted free agency and a limited market of teams with available cap space as leverage? Would the Suns tell Ayton to go out and get an offer sheet from another team, with the belief it would get matched? ESPN is projecting four teams -- the Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Orlando Magic and San Antonio Spurs -- to each have more than $30.5 million in available cap space. A fifth, the Portland Trail Blazers, would need to waive starter Josh Hart to create a max slot. Each of the four teams (and possibly Portland) can offer a four-year, $131.1 million contract.
Considering Phoenix is now getting a discount of $46 million (but with one less year), the likelihood is that the offer is matched. In total, 17 players have signed an offer sheet, with seven going unmatched. The latest was in 2020 with Bogdan Bogdanovic and the Sacramento Kings. The risk for the Suns is a contract laden with an advance payment, trade bonus and fewer years. Instead of having Ayton under contract through the 2026-27 season, there would be the possibility of him becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2024 or 2025. A sign-and-trade is also an option, but that would require the Suns to cooperate.
Ayton will be eligible to re-sign with the Suns for up to five years, $176.9 million. That would give him a starting salary of $30.5 and would propel Phoenix into a luxury tax payment starting in the low $30 million range. He is also eligible for up to four years, $131.2 million either through an offer sheet or sign-and-trade to another team. He will have a qualifying offer worth $16.4 million he can fall back on which would allow him to hit unrestricted free agency in 2023, but that scenario is unlikely.
The full maximum salary could be a sticking point in negotiations. If the Suns don’t offer it, it’s possible Ayton receives a maximum offer sheet for them to match. Just about every team with significant cap space could conceivably haveinterest in him, such as the Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Memphis Grizzlies, Orlando Magic, Portland Trail Blazers, and San Antonio Spurs. It seems more likely than not that the Suns will do what it takes to keep Ayton since losing him could ruin their title odds.
Given how you played this year, what is your optimism on getting the contract that you feel that you deserve from Phoenix? Deandre Ayton: I put that in God’s hands and my agent’s hands. I’ve just got to do my part and make sure we’re the last team standing in this thing when it is all said and done. The only thing I can control is getting a dub.
Michael Scotto: I’ve heard some people in that front office that have an eye for Jalen Brunson. I’ve also heard there are people in the front office that could see Mitchell Robinson, who’s an unrestricted Knicks free agent, as a guy that they’d also look at. Deandre Ayton’s name has been floated out there too. My observation on this is guys like Brunson and Robinson are targets for Detroit because they’ll command less money (than Ayton). With Ayton, you’d have to give him a full max to try to get him there and out of Phoenix going into his (restricted) free agency. I think that would be tough. Whereas, with Brunson, Dallas knows there’s going to be a market for him. One of the reasons they got Spencer Dinwiddie was a hedge to cover themselves depending on what the market bears for Brunson. The Knicks have Robinson entering free agency and also have an eye for Brunson with the relationship with Leon Rose. They do need a point guard looking ahead. Immanuel Quickley is there, but it seems like he’s viewed as a microwave scorer off the bench, and Tom Thibodeau likes him off the bench in that role.
James Edwards: I agree. I like Ayton. I don’t think they’re going to go that deep into the well for him. Same for Miles Bridges. He’s a guy that’s been attached to them because he’s from Flint, Michigan. I like Miles, but if you end up with a forward in the draft and you already have Saddiq Bey, I don’t see committing that type of money.
Scotto: Detroit is a team I’ve heard that has interest in him. They’ll be linked to Deandre Ayton as well. The price gap between Mitchell Robinson and Ayton is going to be pretty significant. If Detroit can get other free-agent acquisitions, I think they’re certainly going to look at Robinson. Harold Ellis, who used to work for the Knicks, is with Detroit, so they’ve got some good inside knowledge on Robinson there.
As noted, the Pistons are believed to be targeting a big man with their projected cap room this summer. Deandre Ayton may be their primary target, but many around the league expect the Phoenix Suns to retain him despite failing to reach an extension with him before the season.
But the deadline for Ayton came without the Suns presenting a max offer, thus making him a restricted free agent next offseason. “It didn’t work out and I got it out of my mind right away,” Ayton, 23, said. “What I can do to make it rub in everyone’s faces is to bust my ass, work hard and win games. At the end of the day, it’s all about winning. If you want to get something and earn something in this league, you have to be a winner. Do something that leads to winning. Me putting my head down and working is just closing out all of that noise. I’m not really worried about all of that.
“You had the time to do the negotiations. You had a deadline and it didn’t work out. Boom, Bada, Bing. You still got to work. You still got to play in between the lines. Still got to make sure this dude don’t dunk on me, score on me or do something to win the game. Still got to do that. And that’s just my competitive spirit.” Ayton, who is averaging 16.3 points and 11.1 rebounds per game this season, plays like a throwback center, from his game to his sideburns to his competitive spirit. The 2019 NBA All-Rookie first-team selection can score in the post, knock down the midrange jumper and block shots. The spotlight of the class of 2018, however, has often shined on two hot-scoring popular guards in Doncic and Young, who have both been NBA All-Stars while Ayton has not.
Far away from home in Phoenix, it’s that Bahamian mindset that has helped Deandre Ayton have peace with his unrewarded contract situation with the Suns. “I’m not really worried about things like that and having all the stuff mixed in my head,” Ayton told The Undefeated recently. “I’m just putting my head down and working. Me? I’m from the Islands. We work for what we want. It is well-deserving with how I am playing right now. I’m going to bust my tail and get something I deserve.”
Deandre Ayton was upset an extension didn’t get done coming off a trip to the Finals and the way he played in the playoffs. So far this season, I’ve been told that he’s happy because he loves winning. His goal is to play at an All-Star level and get back to the championship with the Suns, and the rest of it (his next contract) will play itself out. Kudos to Monty Williams and Mark Bryant, who’ve been able to get through to him to keep his mindset in a good place. He’s on the edge of being top-15 in player efficiency rating in the league right now.
Part of the issue with Deandre Ayton not getting the extension was other guys getting the max extension and him believing that he’s just as important as those guys are, and he went to the Finals. He had some help with Chris Paul and Devin Booker, but he got to the Finals and was an integral part of that, so he’s looking at that, and he’s looking at the guys who got a max. The whole part of respect was huge for him, and not getting it was a sign of disrespect in his estimation.
Winning cures a lot of things, but a lot of it, too, is Deandre Ayton is playing for his future. If he keeps playing like this and they make another deep run, the negotiations that went on this past offseason will become serious discussions going into the next offseason. He’s setting the table early right now of what he is and what he’ll command this offseason.
Looking ahead towards the summer of 2022, teams with outright cap space are the Pistons, Magic, and Spurs. Deandre Ayton not really a good fit for the Magic, but I certainly think the Pistons or Spurs could use a guy like him. If you look at teams with around $20 million projected space according to SpoTrac, the Grizzlies, Thunder, and Knicks would be interesting to watch. If he leaves, and he plays at this level, it would be via a sign-and-trade if Phoenix doesn’t pay this guy. If he plays the way he has, he’s going to get a max or extremely close to it.
As the leader here, and a guy who is so good when it comes to the interpersonal stuff, what’s your perspective on DA (Ayton) and the question of whether there might be a butterfly effect negatively from his situation? And if so, how do you massage that? Monty Williams: Yeah, I don’t believe there will be because you still get to play ball. We all still get paid. For me — and I can’t speak for anybody else — my goal is to help guys win and get paid. So when a guy doesn’t get what he wants, and (the two sides) don’t agree, I take that like I didn’t do enough, you know what I’m saying? Like, that’s my job. And that’s how I look at it. You know what I mean? I heard all the stuff (about his situation), and I’ve been privy to information and conversations. But for me as a leader on the floor, that’s what I take seriously. Now I’m not the reason guys get paid. But when they don’t get what they want, or negotiations go awry. I’m like, ‘Well, how do I help them out?’ Because that’s my job is to help that guy achieve all those goals. That’s how I look at it.
The 23-year-old big man admitted he was not happy with how negotiations went and in turn will become a restricted free agent following the 2021-22 season. “With D.A. and his situation, we talked about it,” Paul told Yahoo Sports. “He knows what he has to do. The goal for everybody is to see everyone getting paid. His situation is what it is, but it’s going to work out for him. We hope it works out for him. The biggest thing we know we can do is go out there and win games.”
Duane Rankin: "One thing about me, throughout my whole life, I've always learned to control what I can control. At the same time, obviously I'm disappointed, but I'm still trying to get us back to the finals." #Suns big Deandre Ayton addressing contract talks as they ended w/o an extension. pic.twitter.com/nJPmkUMqCi
The 2018 No. 1 overall pick — who helped lead Phoenix to the 2021 NBA Finals — was reportedly expecting an offer, but it never came. Ayton expressed his disappointment about the development. He can still re-sign with the Suns in restricted free agency after fielding offers from around the league. “My biggest advice for him is: control what you can control and that’s how you go out and hoop,” Paul said, per AZ Central’s Duane Rankin. “Things happen, the business of the game, but I know DA’s heart … and how competitive he is. At the end of the day, he wants to do a good job for our team. And I appreciate him for that. I know when we step out on the court tonight, it’s going to be all about what he’s gotta do to help our team win.”
Scotto: Deandre and his representation, Billy Duffy and Nima Namakian, made it clear they wanted a max, and Phoenix made it clear they didn’t view him as a max player. With that in mind, I was checking in with executives around the league for their thoughts on the Ayton situation. The first executive said to me, “That owner (Robert Sarver) is cheap, and he’ll get killed for it again. He finally had some goodwill making the Finals, and he pulls this (not extending Ayton). The fact is the kid earned it. Yes, prior to last season, I’d have questions about it, but he performed the whole season, and you invested a number one pick in him. He was a little bit, maybe, slow to develop, but he got there. I don’t think he’s mature enough to handle stuff like that (no extension), so I think it could hurt him for a while. Monty (Williams) seems to have a way with him, so maybe they can pull him back in and say, “Do your job and get paid.”
Another executive focused on it from an optics standpoint. He was saying, “It was one thing not to do an extension with Ayton, but then to do one for Landry Shamet, who hasn’t even played for their team yet was surprising.”
Deandre Ayton maintained his “max or no deal” stance and will look to secure a maximum contract next offseason. After Mikal Bridges and Landry Shamet signed their respective extensions, the Suns are set to be significant taxpayers next year once they presumably give Ayton his next contract. Phoenix could have a luxury tax bill close to $45 million next season if Ayton receives a maximum salary. There certainly should be a team willing to offer a maximum deal to Ayton like the Pistons or Spurs next offseason. The maximum a new team can offer Ayton is $44.6 million less than the one the Suns can offer him.
Phoenix now faces an uncertain future with Deandre Ayton. The franchise center is unhappy with the franchise's consistent stance to his representatives that the organization simply didn't foresee him as a max player -- regardless of which of his peers in the 2018 NBA Draft class earned max deals this offseason, sources said.
Ayton, a key part of the Suns' run to the 2021 NBA Finals, held firm on wanting a full, five-year, max contract -- which would've been worth a guaranteed $172.5 million plus possible escalators -- but talks never progressed to the Suns making a formal offer on a max deal ahead of Monday's 6 p.m. ET deadline, sources told ESPN.
In recent weeks, Phoenix raised the concept of a shorter maximum contract deal -- perhaps over three or four years instead of the full five years -- but never formally made the offer or broached the idea again, sources said.
June 28, 2022 | 3:09 am EDT Update
Jake Fischer on Jalen Brunson: From everything I’ve heard, it really does sound like things have shifted, and he is more more likely than not to become a member of the Knicks as opposed to the Dallas Mavericks.
“Kevin Durant was very loyal to Kyrie Irving through this process… So the expectation right now is that Kevin Durant & Kyrie Irving will move forward for the Nets on this roster this year.” 🗣️ Adrian Wojnarowski
Nets Daily: Woj on KD: “Kevin Durant now has what he wants, which was Kyrie Irving back on the Nets season, so the expectation is that right now, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving will move forward … but Kevin Durant hasn’t talked yet. has not expressed that publicly. We’ll wait and see.”
Adrian Wojnarowski: Irving has until Wednesday at 5 PM to file the paperwork on his opt-in. The Nets can still move Irving as an expiring contract, but the opt-in means he’s no longer eligible to get the immediate long-term deal he wanted as part of a sign-and-trade.
Speaking via ESPN, Windhorst said Monday: “Let’s take a look at Miles Bridges. He’s not being offered, from what I’m told, a max contract from the Charlotte Hornets right now. So, he’s going to go out into the market place, starting on Thursday or Friday, and see if he can get that offer from somewhere else.”
The Athletic conducted a poll, asking 16 officials in NBA front offices what they would deem a fair number for Barrett in an extension this summer or fall. Responses ranged from $15 million to $30 million a year. No one advocated for the Knicks to give him the max. Exactly half of the responses were a nice, clean four years, $100 million, making it by far the most common proposal from the polled executives.