The team chose to match the four-year, $133 million offer sheet Deandre Ayton signed with the Indiana Pacers, Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported Thursday, meaning he’ll now remain in Phoenix.x
It was the logical move for a team that reached the NBA Finals two years ago, was the top seed in this year’s Western Conference playoffs and faced the possibility of losing a key contributor without receiving anything in return.
As a part of matching the offer sheet, Phoenix cannot trade Ayton until Jan. 15, and he will have full veto power on any proposed deal for one full year.
Ayton, 23, averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game last season, pairing with Chris Paul to form a truly dynamic pick-and-roll duo. The former No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft has proven to be a solid offensive weapon for the Suns who is a decent defensive player, if one who lacks elite rim-protection ability.
The Suns, however, clearly have not felt he was a player worthy of a max contract, declining to make him such an offer before this past season. Once Ayton found such an offer as a restricted free agent with the Pacers, however, the Suns were backed into a corner.
How long this partnership continues remains to be seen.
There were questions of potential internal strife between Ayton and head coach Monty Williams after the center was subbed out of the team’s Game 7 blowout loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Semifinals early in the third quarter.
Ayton only played 17 minutes in the game, and when reporters asked Williams about the situation, he responded by simply saying, “It’s internal.”
B/R’s Jake Fischer also reported in late May that there was “consistent word—dating back to the trade deadline—from league sources with knowledge of the situation that Ayton is not particularly a favorite of Phoenix’s head coach. Williams has purportedly griped about Ayton’s waning focus, which some people contacted by B/R said has often been reflected by the ebbs of his playing time.”
Fischer also noted in that report that the Suns “quietly gauged his trade value in February,” so a future divorce between the two sides would not come as the biggest surprise.
However, for now, Ayton remains in Phoenix and the Suns—traditionally a team that has not broken the bank to put a contender on the court—finds itself about $15 million into the luxury tax.
It is a brave new world for these Suns.