Deandre Ayton's comments prove Phoenix Suns were right to give up on him

Deandre Ayton has struggled since being traded by the Phoenix Suns, and his recent comments show the team were right to give up on the former first overall pick.
Portland Trail Blazers v Utah Jazz
Portland Trail Blazers v Utah Jazz / Alex Goodlett/GettyImages

They say that in the NBA, life can come at you fast. Thankfully for the Phoenix Suns, this has had a positive meaning in recent weeks, as they currently ride a seven-game winning streak and surge up the Western Conference standings.

It certainly wasn't always like this though, as as recently as a month ago, the Suns were floundering near the bottom of the Western Conference. The return of Bradley Beal from injury has helped, while Grayson Allen has had a fantastic season. Kevin Durant is an MVP candidate, while Devin Booker continues to close the gap on the best players in the league today.

But if recent comments by former Suns center Deandre Ayton are anything to go by, then trading him for Jusuf Nurkic has been just as important to this team's growth.

Despite the Suns' front office for giving up a former first overall pick in Ayton for Nurkic, Allen, Nassir Little and Keon Johnson, so far this season they have been completely vindicated for making the move when they did. Most importantly of all Nurkic has been able to stay on the court for over half of the season, a big part of why he has been the perfect center for this Suns team.

Trading the 25-year-old Ayton was always going to be a risk, and the belief was that he would land with a rebuilding Portland Trail Blazers group and immediately put up big numbers on a not very good roster. Next to rookie Scoot Henderson and Anfernee Simons, the stage was set for Ayton to do what he claims to do best... some DominAyton.

Only Ayton has done anything but, putting up a paltry 12.8 points and 10.5 boards (the same number of rebounds per game as Nurkic) in a worrying 28 games played so far this season. In a low point for him personally, he recently missed a game while trapped in his house because of some ice. Not what you expect from a guy who is still owed over $100 million on his current deal.

That is max player money, and Ayton is in no doubt that he is worthy of not only that bag with how he is playing right now, but also in the future as well. In news that is sure to worry Trail Blazers fans - while also delighted fans in The Valley who were quick to forget all about the player - Ayton has this to say to Basketball Intelligence's Mark Medina recently;

"I got nothing to prove in this league. I’m a max player, and I’ll continue to be a max player."

Deandre Ayton

That is... quite the opinion for Ayton to have. Right up there with Jordan Poole recently claiming that his legacy is secured thanks to the championship he won while with the Golden State Warriors. The only technically correct part of what Ayton is saying is that he is a max player because he is currently playing on a max contract.

Beyond this current deal though - which runs until the summer of 2026 - it is hard to see Ayton ever making the kind of money he currently is again in the league. The nothing to prove part would seem to be exactly why the Suns allowed him to leave in the first place, because with an attitude like that he was never going to help them win a first championship.

Ayton certainly did look like he had something to prove in 2021 when the Suns made it to the NBA Finals. He was locked in defensively on most nights, and often played with an intensity which has been sorely lacking ever since. Then again, perhaps it was playing with Chris Paul during this period which unlocked Ayton's true potential.

After all, Paul also made Suns backup big man Bismack Biyombo look like a destroyer in the paint with how they worked together in pick-and-roll situations, and Ayton was no different. So to believe that he is going to get another max deal down the road would appear to be delusional, because few players have seen their stock drop so rapidly in such a short space of time.

Next. The Suns should steer clear of Miles Bridges. The Suns should steer clear of Miles Bridges. dark

To be able to say the Suns now absolutely won this trade - when all they got back of use was a fragile Nurkic and role player in Allen - is an scathing take on Ayton's career since departing. At a time when he should be putting up numbers and emerging as one of the best young big men in the league, he can't even get close to replicating the numbers of Nikola Vucevic on a terrible Orlando Magic team.

Which is why the Suns are so much better off with Nurkic in his place. A veteran big who has no problem sacrificing his own personal numbers and touches, all so the team can win. To be doing this while making just over half what Ayton is this season alone is even better. Big men will always get multiple opportunities in the NBA, but the Suns were right to give up on him when they did.