Deandre Ayton Rumors: Hawks Have Interest in Suns Star for Less Than Max Contract

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVJune 24, 2022

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - APRIL 24: Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns drives with the ball against the New Orleans Pelicans during Game Four of the Western Conference First Round NBA Playoffs at the Smoothie King Center on April 24, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. 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. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks reportedly are intrigued by the possibility of adding Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton in free agency, though their level of interest depends on Ayton's salary.

According to Chris Kirschner of The Athletic, the Hawks like Ayton, but pursuing and signing him would be contingent on him taking less than a max contract.

Kirschner added that the lack of desire to sign Ayton to a max contract could result in the Hawks missing out since the Detroit Pistons have room for a max contract and "are expected to be aggressive in their pursuit of Ayton."

Ayton's agent, Bill Duffy, essentially confirmed last month that the Suns were not interested in giving Ayton a max contract.

During an appearance on SiriusXM NBA Radio (h/t Sam Quinn of CBS Sports), Duffy said the following about the lack of a max offer from Phoenix: "We're disappointed. We wanted a max contract. He went out and was a soldier the whole year, played well, improved his statistics. So, we're proud of him. A lot of guys handle things differently, but he was very mature about it."

Ayton is a restricted free agent, meaning the Suns have the right to match any offer he receives from another team provided they extend a qualifying offer to him.

It seems likely the Suns will let him walk if a team like the Pistons or Hawks gives Ayton a max offer, but anything short of that makes things a bit less certain.

The 23-year-old Ayton was the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA draft out of the University of Arizona, and while he hasn't reached All-Star status, he has been a highly productive player for the Suns.

In 236 career regular-season games over four seasons, Ayton owns averages of 16.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.0 block, while shooting 59.9 percent from the floor.

Last season, Ayton averaged 17.2 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 0.7 blocks in 58 games. He also shot a career-best 63.4 percent from the floor.

Ayton has also been a big part of the Suns' playoff success over the past two seasons. When Phoenix reached the NBA Finals in 2021, he averaged 15.8 points, 11.8 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.1 blocks.

Although the Suns were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs by the Dallas Mavericks last season, Ayton delivered with 17.9 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists per contest.

Ayton would seemingly be an ideal inside complement to the outside play of Hawks All-Star guard Trae Young, although it would lead to some questions about Atlanta's other interior players.

Power forward John Collins has been the constant subject of trade rumors, so bringing Ayton in would perhaps spell the end of his tenure with the Hawks. That said, parting ways with center Clint Capela would perhaps make more sense given the position he plays.

A frontcourt with both Ayton and Capela would be potentially dominant on the defensive end, but it would lack versatility on offense.

Regardless of what it means for other players on the roster, a splashy signing like Ayton seems like a possibility for the Hawks since they would undoubtedly like to shake things up after a first-round playoff exit last season.