Few teams have made louder entries to the 2021-22 NBA season than the Phoenix Suns. While boasting a league-best 31-9 record, the team stands well equipped with young talent and veteran poise, attracting everyone’s attention from coast to coast.
In fact, the Suns have been so loud, that they’ve managed to drown out the noise stemming from a massive error on the front office’s part this offseason: neglecting to extend Deandre Ayton.
Despite Ayton putting together a postseason for the ages last year, the financial benefits, and Chris Paul’s public endorsement of the idea, the Suns neglected to offer Ayton the max-extension he desired over the summer. The team did manage to extend Mikal Bridges and recently acquired sharpshooter Landry Shamet, but now needs to deal with Ayton as a restricted free agent after this season ends.
Although Ayton becoming a restricted free agent still leaves the Suns decently positioned to bring him back on a new deal, it does make him somewhat available to others all the same. In compliance with the NBA’s restricted free agency rules, the Suns can match any offer put up for Ayton by opposing teams, but if any of those opposing teams make offers that are too big for Phoenix’s liking, then Ayton gets to walk.
With Ayton looking like a future star at the league’s driest position, he promises to attract significant attention, including some serious consideration from one of the last teams you might expect—the Detroit Pistons.
Mentioned in an article earlier this week by Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, the Pistons plan to use their projected cap space this summer to make a run at Ayton. Pincus said that Ayton “may be [the Pistons] primary target,” after noting their general intentions to sign a big man this summer.
With Blake Griffin‘s contract finally coming off the books this summer, the Pistons are projected to go into the 2022 NBA offseason with nearly $30 million in cap space, making themselves one of just four teams with enough room to dish out a large contract. That flexibility paired with Detroit’s intent to make a serious run at Ayton certainly makes things dicey for the Suns, who already find themselves with little cap space while also hoping to extend Cameron Johnson at the same time.
Going back to Pincus’s report though, he did note that it remains widely expected that the Suns will reach an agreement with Ayton even with these risky circumstances.
Without Detroit’s ability to offer him more money considered, it makes zero sense for Ayton to go there with the Pistons likely to sit out the playoffs for the next few years. Ayton also hails from the desert having attending high school and college in Arizona, giving it that hometown appeal.
But regardless, the Suns need to stay on their toes this summer. Other teams seem to want Ayton badly, and they cannot let him slip through their fingers even if it forces them into the luxury tax.