2022 NBA Free Agency: It’s Becoming More Likely That Deandre Ayton Will Leave the Suns, but Is He Worth a Max Contract?

Jun 7, 2022

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It’s looking like a max contract for Deandre Ayton as he became a core part of Phoenix’s Finals team in 2020-21. On the heels of that run, he was up for a rookie extension, but the Suns opted not to grant him that one. That raised some questions about his long-term future with the franchise.

It’s like an extended audition for max money this season. This summer, Ayton will become a restricted free agent. Phoenix would have the right to match offers that will come his way. But it doesn’t look like the franchise is interested in keeping him on the team if the price becomes too high. 

In a report from The Athletic, it’s more likely that Ayton will be playing for another team next season.

One can’t help but think: Is Phoenix being stringy or do they know something that we don’t? The report revealed that Ayton spends hours playing video games and hasn’t been getting enough sleep as a result. It may sound childish, but if you’re considering paying a 24-year-old player not too far south of $200 million, it certainly warrants concern.

Aside from Ayton’s commitment, there’s another question that needs to be answered by the Suns and other teams: Is Ayton really a max player? For that matter, is any center not named Nikola Jokic or Joel Embiid a worthy max player? It’s common to see these big guys get marginalized, even played off the court totally in the playoffs. 

But there are teams that win because of size. Offensive rebounds are still important to the game and in last year’s postseason, Ayton was incredible at them.

Ayton likely wants a bigger offensive role than the usual one he occupies in the shadows of Devin Booker and Chris Paul. 

The Athletic also mentions that Ayton could have a potential landing spot with the Pistons. As for Phoenix, they would likely attempt to negotiate a sign and trade if they want to wash their hands off the whole Ayton business – this way, the franchise won’t lose him for nothing. After all, this is the guy they drafted over Luka Doncic. It would be a catastrophe if they let Ayton walk about four years with zero to show for passing on a generational superstar.

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