Phoenix Suns Neglecting to Extend Deandre Ayton, What Comes Next?

Phoenix Suns, Deandre Ayton. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Phoenix Suns, Deandre Ayton. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

As we inch closer toward the NBA’s regular season tipoff, the clock continues to run on the Phoenix Suns and former first overall pick Deandre Ayton, with both sides having just two weeks to agree on an extension.

Several notable players from Ayton’s draft class like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Trae Young, Luka Doncic, and Michael Porter Jr. have already done so with their teams, but the former Arizona Wildcat remains the odd man out. The same goes for teammate Mikal Bridges, who Phoenix took nine picks after Ayton.

Tick tock.

But this morning, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that negotiations between Ayton and the Suns recently stalled out. Ayton apparently wants a max extension on par with those signed by Gilgeous-Alexander, Young, Doncic, and Porter Jr., but the Suns feel hesitant to dish out that much.

Last year, Ayton largely contributed to Phoenix’s spectacular run to the NBA Finals, averaging 15.8 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game. His buzzer-beating alley-oop finish to steal a game from the Los Angeles Clippers during the Western Conference Finals also poises to go down as an all-time great play in Suns history.

With all that considered and with impactful centers coming as rare talents in today’s NBA, it feels reasonable to conclude that Ayton whole-heartedly deserves the five year, $172.5 million-$207 million extension which his camp seeks.

But with ownership thinking otherwise, that leaves the Suns and their future in a precarious position.

What Comes Next for the Phoenix Suns and Deandre Ayton?

Even with this discouraging news, this conflict could reach its end during the next few days. The Suns might just be playing hard ball with Ayton, trying to test his patience and encourage him into taking a less lucrative deal than originally desired. If Ayton holds his ground though, the Suns likely cave last minute and pull off their own buzzer-beater by striking a deal right around the deadline.

This might seem like an unfair position for the Suns front office to take, but at the negotiating table, all codes and morales more or less go out the window. Phoenix needs to scratch and claw for as much cap space as possible with Bridges still up for extension and Cameron Johnson also becoming eligible next year.

But if both sides indeed fail to reach an agreement, Ayton will play out his contract’s final year, and then become a restricted free agent this coming summer. Under those terms, the Suns can match any offer presented by other teams for Ayton, or just let him walk.

However, dangling him around like bait might sour his relationship with the team as they continue to build a championship squad. The Suns thrived largely due to their impressive team chemistry last year, and with Ayton possibly carrying all this extra baggage this season, things might turn south.

At the same time, if the Suns were to extend Bridges before Ayton, that might spoil things to an even worse extent, as it might pit Ayton and Bridges up against each other with jealous rage.

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With all this considered, Phoenix needs to move forward into this season with great caution, unless they want to watch their impressive young core slip right through their fingers.