Suns doesn’t offer Deandre Ayton maximum contract extension

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Mavericks guard Luka Doncic has secured a (super-) max rookie-wide contract extension. Hawks goaltender Trae Young has earned a maximum contract extension on a rookie scale. Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has secured a maximum contract extension on a rookie scale. Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. got a maximum contract extension on the rookie scale.

The No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, Suns center Deandre Ayton… didn’t.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski:

The Phoenix Suns’ reluctance to offer a maximum extension of the 2018 No.1 rookie contract Deandre Ayton has stalled talks on a deal, sources told ESPN on Tuesday.

Ayton, a key part of the Suns’ run to the 2021 NBA Finals, has no intention of accepting a deal lower than the comparable maximum contracts signed by several of his classmates in the 2018 NBA Draft, including Trae Young of Atlanta, Luka Doncic of Dallas, Oklahoma Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of City and Michael Porter Jr. of Denver, sources told ESPN.

I don’t blame Ayton for refusing to accept less than the maximum (which should be worth $ 173 million over five years). Considering his stature as a former No.1 pick and his role in helping the Suns reach the 2021 NBA Finals, it’s somewhat surprising that the Suns haven’t offered him the maximum. He could likely get maximum bid sheets in 2022 in restricted free agency (estimated to be worth $ 128 million over four years).

For Phoenix, the decision is more complicated.

Reasons not to give Ayton a max extension:

  • He is not worth it. Ayton is both strong offensively and defensively, but he’s not part of the elite on either side. He was never an All-Star or even attracted significant consideration. While he’s a great finisher and has a mid-range shooting ability, he hasn’t extended his reach beyond the 3-point arc and he’s not much of a passer. His ability to move defensively for his size is better than his rim protection, an area that would have more impact. In a league full of at least solid crosses, teams should be particularly wary of paying too much.
  • He is already under contract for this season. The Suns would also have the corresponding rights to him next summer. Taking another year to assess its worth doesn’t mean letting it go at all.

Reasons to give Ayton a max extension:

  • He is only 23 years old and improving. Ayton has so many raw tools – size, strength, athleticism, skill. There is every reason to believe that he is on a clear upward trajectory. Phoenix wouldn’t pay for who he is, but for what he plans to be.
  • A maximum extension is the only way to lock Ayton out for five years, not just four (assuming he doesn’t require a player or an early termination option). It might be worth paying too much. It looked like the Bucks got a slight discount on Giannis Antetokounmpo’s rookie level expansion. Instead, the big story became his ability to hit unrestricted free agency a year earlier. The extra year on Ayton could be especially helpful if the salary cap skyrockets in a few years.
  • If they let him become a restricted free agent, the Suns could lose the team’s long-term control over Ayton. He could sign a 3 + 1 or even a 2 + 1 offer sheet. Heck, he could do something even more drastic: sign his qualifying offer of $ 16,422,835, gain the chance to reject any trade in the 2022-2023 season and then become an unrestricted free agent in 2023.

The big variable: How would an overtime affect Ayton this season?

Maybe being extended would make him too satisfied with what he has already accomplished and stagnate his growth. Or maybe it would put him at ease, fueling productivity.

Perhaps not being extended would destroy his bond with the team and cause him to chase individual numbers. Or maybe it would take him to even higher heights.

That’s a big consideration for Phoenix, who is at the heart of the championship fight.

The Suns, owned by Robert Sarver, are also facing spending questions. Phoenix hasn’t paid the luxury tax since 2010. Even the big spending this summer leaves the Suns well below the tax threshold this season.

But that will change the following season if Phoenix keeps its core together. Chris Paul and Cameron Payne secured multi-year contracts this summer, joining Devin Booker, Jae Crowder and Dario Saric. Ayton and Mikal Bridges are ready for new offerings.

If the Suns pay, it doesn’t matter if they commit the money now or next summer. But these Ayton negotiations leave a lot of unease about Sarver’s financial commitment.


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