3 Instant Reactions to Deandre Ayton's 4-Year, $133M Suns Contract

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVJuly 15, 2022

AP Photo/Matt York

It didn't take long for the Phoenix Suns to match the four-year, $133 max contract offer sheet Deandre Ayton signed with the Indiana Pacers on Thursday, per multiple reports. The move will keep Ayton with Phoenix, at least for the time being.

Shams Charania @ShamsCharania

The Suns made clear throughout free agency that the franchise intended to bring Ayton back – and were committed to spend in order to continue competing for a title around All-NBA star Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Ayton. Phoenix now goes approximately $15M into the tax. <a href="https://t.co/PCVHYtk6OH">https://t.co/PCVHYtk6OH</a>

Adrian Wojnarowski @wojespn

As soon as the Suns received the four-year, $133M offer sheet, the franchise matched it. Deandre Ayton returns to Phoenix and can't be traded without his consent for a full year. <a href="https://t.co/dBXGN3qbCK">https://t.co/dBXGN3qbCK</a>

But what does the news mean for the Suns, Ayton and the rest of the NBA?

Phoenix Just Became a Far Less Realistic Landing Spot for Kevin Durant

Even if the Brooklyn Nets likely couldn't have brought back Deandre Ayton in a trade for wantaway superstar Kevin Durant—a sign-and-trade would have hard-capped them, and signing Ayton to a max deal would have skyrocketed them over that threshold—he still could have been moved to a third team in a complicated sign-and-trade.

Now that he has signed, however, he can't be dealt until Jan. 15 and will have full veto rights on any deal for an entire year. Durant isn't going to wait around that long, one would imagine.

So, now the Suns would be looking to deal a package of Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, Landry Shamet and a boatload of first-round picks and pick swaps. Would that be enough to move the needle for the Nets?

If a market never materializes, perhaps. But it's hard to imagine another contender won't be able to put together a better package of young players and draft capital than what the Suns—who aren't about to trade franchise icon Devin Booker—can offer.

Perhaps the Suns Are Moving Past Their Frugal Ways

For most contenders, matching an offer sheet for a key player wouldn't have sparked much of a debate. Good organizations don't lose players without getting value in return.

But there was a question of whether the organization—with its frugal history, including not re-signing Joe Johnson and trading numerous picks for cash considerations—would dip $15 million into the luxury tax to retain Ayton.

Maybe the Suns will clear some of that luxury tax by trading a role player or two. But maybe, just maybe, managing partner Robert Sarver has learned that fielding a contender directly conflicts with avoiding the luxury tax altogether.

Matching Ayton's deal suggests that lesson is getting through. And with Booker firmly in his prime and Chris Paul having played excellent basketball over the past two seasons, this group of players deserved that level of buy-in from ownership.

The Relationship Between Ayton and Monty Williams Goes Under the Microscope

Are Ayton and Monty Williams OK?

That became a major storyline when Ayton played just 17 minutes in a blowout loss against the Dallas Mavericks in Game 7 of the second round of the playoffs in May, barely appearing in the second half.

Nate Duncan @NateDuncanNBA

This was Deandre Ayton's last defensive possession of the game that appeared to prompt Monty to sub him out for the final time. <a href="https://t.co/Bqj2w47mA9">pic.twitter.com/Bqj2w47mA9</a>

Williams didn't offer much insight into that decision, telling reporters, "It's internal."

And then B/R's Jake Fischer reported there was "consistent word—dating back to the trade deadline—from league sources with knowledge of the situation that Ayton is not particularly a favorite of Phoenix's head coach. Williams has purportedly griped about Ayton's waning focus, which some people contacted by B/R said has often been reflected by the ebbs of his playing time."

At least until Jan. 15, Ayton is going to be with the Suns, and any issues the two have will need to be ironed out. If they aren't, expect their relationship to become a major storyline.


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