The Phoenix Suns assume their positions on the floor, surrounded by a nuclear crowd ready to meet its detonation. Jae Crowder takes the ball, looking to inbound along the baseline. He first looks down the floor toward Cameron Johnson, and then glances at Mikal Bridges out by the corner. Neither appear open.
Then it happened.
Coming around a Devin Booker screen, Deandre Ayton started gliding toward the basket. Crowder gently tossed the ball above DeMarcus Cousins’s nine-foot-five standing reach, as well as the backboard’s top left corner. It cascaded down with only one intention: to find Ayton’s hands.
Soaring over Ivica Zubac, Ayton secured the rock, and flushed it through the net. The buzzer rang with fury, echoing the barbaric cheers from the seats. Ballgame…Suns win again.
That play, deemed the “Valley-oop,” poises to go down as an all-time great moment within Phoenix history. So did the player responsible for it, only until quite recently.
Earlier this week, ESPN’s Adrain Wojnarowski reported that contract talks between the Suns and Ayton recently stalled out. Due for an extension past his rookie deal, Ayton’s camp wants nothing more than a max-deal, on par with the others signed by his fellow draft class members.
However, the Phoenix front office is hesitant to invest so heavily in their former first overall pick. With Mikal Bridges also up for extension this year, and Cameron Johnson the next, the Suns know that several potentially large expenditures lie ahead for them to decide on.
Although understandable at some levels, this move to deprive Ayton from a max extension still feels like a greedy one for Phoenix’s “higher ups.” Last year, Ayton contributed mightily to their Western Conference conquest, even outside from his game-stealing “Valley-oop” play.
Before things turn ugly, the Suns need to recognize these three factors, pony up, and deliver Ayton the money he deserves.