Deandre Ayton Rumors: 'No Traction' with Suns on Contract Amid Sign-and-Trade Buzz

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJune 29, 2022

AP Photo/Matt York

The Phoenix Suns and center Deandre Ayton, an impending restricted free agent, have reportedly found "no traction" in discussions about a potential contract extension.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday on SportsCenter the Suns front office has been hesitant about making a lucrative long-term commitment to the 2018 first overall pick.

"Phoenix has simply decided they don't value Deandre Ayton on a max contract," Woj said. "The good news for Deandre Ayton is a number of teams around the league do, and I think as a restricted free agent most teams are expecting right now as they jockey to get involved with Deandre Ayton is a sign-and-trade scenario."

The NBA insider added it's become "more increasingly likely" Ayton starts next season with another team as free agency's negotiating period is set to begin Thursday.

Ayton's contract situation has been boiling under the surface for a while. The sides could have agreed to an extension last offseason, and the 23-year-old University of Arizona product expressed frustration in October when he arrived to training camp.

"I love Phoenix, but I'm really disappointed we haven't really gotten a deal done yet," Ayton said. "We were two wins away from winning a championship and I just really want to be respected, to be honest. To be respected like my peers are being respected by their teams."

After reaching the 2021 NBA Finals, the Suns posted the league's best record during the 2021-22 regular season at 64-18. They were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs by the Dallas Mavericks, though.

Ayton averaged 17.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists while shooting 63.4 percent from the field across 58 games during the regular season. He ranked 88th in FiveThirtyEight's WAR (4.0).

The Suns extended a qualifying offer to the 6'11'' post player, which gives them the right to match any offer he receives in free agency. Woj noted there are "several" teams that may offer a max contract, which could lay the groundwork for trade talks.

Teams linked to Ayton earlier in the offseason included the Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, Detroit Pistons, Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors.

While there's no doubting the center's efficient offensive contributions and ability to clean up the glass, it's fair to debate exactly how much value he carries in the modern game.

Ayton doesn't stretch the floor (19 three-point attempts in 2021-22), isn't much of a distributor from the post (1.4 assists per game) and saw his number of blocked shots reach a career low last season (0.7 per game).

So, while it may seem weird for the Suns to potentially move away from a core player who's helped the team enjoy high-end success the past two years, there's an argument Ayton has a ceiling for the type of impact he can make and the max-contract money could be better spent elsewhere.

It sounds like Phoenix may be willing to make that bet if a big offer comes along during free agency.


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