Suns' Monty Williams on Deandre Ayton's Contract Talks: 'I Feel Like I Failed Him'

Erin WalshDecember 24, 2021

Phoenix Suns' Deandre Ayton dribbles the ball during first half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams feels "somewhat responsible" for Deandre Ayton failing to agree on a contract extension during the offseason. 

"From a personal perspective, I feel like I failed him," Williams said, per Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. "Because when we asked you to do all that we ask you to do and you go out there and do it and you still don't get what you want, that falls on my plate."

Williams added: 

"Let's be real. Coaches survive in this league by winning. That's a fact. And so when those guys did what they did for the team, they elevated me, which is what I didn't deserve. So I wanted him to get everything he wanted. And I think he still will.
"How do players survive? Stats. Yet we're asking people to sacrifice their stats, touches and all that."

Suns general manager James Jones told The Athletic's Sam Amick in October that contract talks with Ayton never advanced into "real negotiations." 

"We know it's important to us; it's important to him that we continue to progress and we continue to develop and we win [a title]. So when we talked about a focus this offseason, it was to continue to build this team," Jones said at the time. "So for us, unfortunately, we are where we are [with Ayton]. No agreement. We didn't have real negotiations."

Jones continued by saying the 2018 No. 1 pick wanted a five-year max extension, similar to the deals Luka Doncic, Trae Young and Michael Porter Jr. agreed to over the last year. Such a deal would have been worth a guaranteed $172.6 million.

Ayton's agents told The Athletic the Suns never offered Ayton a max deal and wanted to instead discuss shorter deals over three or four years. However, those talks never progressed, and an offer was reportedly never made. 

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported in October that the Suns didn't think Ayton belongs in the same group as Doncic, Young and Porter. However, the Arizona product has played an enormous role in Phoenix's success over the last several years, and the franchise might regret not locking him up when it had the chance. 

Through 22 games this season, Ayton is averaging 16.9 points (second on the team), 11.3 rebounds (first) and 1.6 assists while shooting 62.5 percent from the field. This comes after he averaged 15.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks during the 2021 postseason in which the Suns reached the NBA Finals. 

Because Ayton did not sign an extension, he is eligible to sign a $16.4 million qualifying offer to play the 2022-23 season, per ESPN's Bobby Marks, before becoming an unrestricted free agent.

In addition, Ayton could enter restricted free agency after the 2021-22 season and sign an offer sheet, though the Suns would be allowed to match any offer he receives. It's unclear if Phoenix has a contingency plan if Ayton moves on.