Suns GM James Jones Expects Deandre Ayton to Return to Team in NBA Free Agency

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVMay 19, 2022

PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 15: Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns shoots the ball against the Dallas Mavericks during Game 7 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Semifinals on May 15, 2022 at Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)
Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Deandre Ayton's season may have ended with some clear tension with coach Monty Williams, but Suns general manager James Jones expects the center back next season. 

"Deandre had an amazing season, and he's progressed every year and improved every year," Jones told 98.7 FM's Burns & Gambo. "He's been here, and so he's a big part of what we do. His future with us is something we will address at the proper time, which is in the future. He's a free agent and I've said all along, he's about the same things we're about, which is winning. We'll address it at the proper time."

Ayton played only 17 minutes in the Suns' Game 7 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Semifinals. His conspicuous absence led to questions for Williams after the game, leading the coach to tersely say it was an "internal" matter.

Williams was also non-committal when asked about Ayton's future with the Suns during his season-ending press conference. Ayton has not addressed the media since the end of Game 7.

"It's one of those things where you're playing an emotional game and at an emotional point," Jones told reporters Wednesday. "It's a game of emotions and feelings, and sometimes your feelings get hurt and you process it and you move on, but we're adults. We're teammates. We're grown men. Those things you handle and you move on and improve from."

Ayton, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft, is a restricted free agent this summer. The Suns chose not to give him a maximum contract extension last summer, a move that some questioned after Ayton's breakout 2021 postseason.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Ayton "did not feel valued" by the Suns as a result of the contractual stalemate.

Ayton is going to get a max contract by someone this offseason; it's all a matter of whether it happens in Phoenix. The Suns could explore a sign-and-trade with an interested team and seek a scoring option on the wing to ease the burden on Chris Paul and Devin Booker in the postseason.

That said, if the market for a wing isn't available, Phoenix will likely choose to match whatever contract Ayton gets on the open market and bring him back. The likelihood of them allowing him to walk for nothing is minuscule.