Last season, the Suns came up two wins short of capturing the first championship in franchise history, but their unexpected run to the 2021 NBA Finals served as a major step forward for a team that hadn’t reached the playoffs since 2010. The front office kept the good vibes going with a strong offseason, which included a new lucrative contract for All-Star guard Chris Paul.
But there is one question lingering in the background as Phoenix attempts to build off a 51-win season: Why haven’t the Suns given Deandre Ayton a contract extension yet?
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The 23-year-old center emerged as a key part of Phoenix’s core in his third season, and he had several impressive performances during his first trip to the NBA playoffs. It was widely expected that the conversation regarding an extension agreement between the Suns and Ayton wouldn’t last long considering that he should only continue to improve under coach Monty Williams.
And yet, with the start of the 2021-22 campaign fast approaching, discussions have stalled. What’s going on in Phoenix?
Why Deandre Ayton hasn’t signed a max extension with the Suns
Ayton is eligible to sign a five-year, $172.5 million extension that could reach $207 million, but Suns ownership believes that Ayton doesn’t belong in the same tier as Luka Doncic, Trae Young and other max extension candidates from the 2018 NBA Draft class, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Ayton doesn’t plan on signing for anything less than the max because of “his performance, his potential and the marketplace,” per Wojnarowski.
The deadline for rookie extensions is Oct. 18, the day before the start of the 2021-22 regular season. If Ayton doesn’t sign a deal by that deadline, he could enter restricted free agency next summer and sign an offer sheet with another team. Phoenix would have matching rights, but it may not necessarily be able to lock up Ayton long-term. Plus, Ayton could harbor some feelings of resentment if the Suns choose to go down that path.
Questions about Suns ownership
If Suns owner Robert Sarver refuses to give Ayton the deal that he wants, the decision would only reinforce the belief that Sarver isn’t willing to spend significant money to put together a competitive roster.
Sarver hasn’t paid the luxury tax since 2010, the last year that Phoenix had reached the postseason prior to the team earning a playoff berth in 2021. Even before that long stretch, Sarver had earned a reputation as a cheap owner, most notably failing to retain Joe Johnson in 2005 after he averaged 17.1 points per game on a Suns squad that reached the Western Conference finals.
“I beat myself up about that one because we were in a position where that piece could have helped us probably extend our chance to run for a longer period of time,” Sarver said in 2014 (via The Arizona Republic).
Now, Sarver finds himself in a similar spot. He has to make a call on not only Ayton but also promising young wing Mikal Bridges. Putting together a winner in the NBA can become expensive rather quickly. We’ll soon find out if Sarver is willing to pay what it costs to maintain a championship-caliber team.
Suns react to Deandre Ayton news
“It’s not my job to pay a guy. If it was my job, everybody would be rich. I’d pay everybody. The cap isn’t based on my heart. You know what I’m saying? The organization would be broke, but everybody would be happy. … It’s a new world. We’ve just to navigate that.”
“The cap isn’t based on my heart. The organization would be broke but everybody would be happy,” @Suns Coach Monty Williams on reports that extension talks with DeAndre Ayton have stalled. #AZFamily assist to @KellanOlson for question pic.twitter.com/BjBK4IYyXR
— Mark McClune (@MarkMcClune) October 5, 2021
“I’m not concerned. That’s the business of the game. Those contract talks happen as players, agents, all that stuff. We’ve got Mikal Bridges [up for an extension], another guy who’s a big part of our team, so hopefully, that stuff will take care of itself so we can get back to playing and doing what we do.”
Deandre Ayton stats 2020-21
|Regular season||Per Game||Playoffs|
|62.6||Field goal %||65.8|