Deandre Ayton 'did not feel valued' by Phoenix Suns

When Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams was asked why Ayton's role was so limited, he replied "that's internal."

DeAndre Ayton in a file photo, Image credit: Twitter
By Amruth Kalidas | May 18, 2022 | 2 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

DeAndre Ayton came two games short of winning his first NBA championship a season ago, yet when the offseason arrived, he had to watch his contemporaries from the 2018 NBA Draft get paid before him. Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Michael Porter Jr. and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander all got max deals. Ayton was drafted before any of them. The Suns refused to pay him the max, but they did extend teammates Mikal Bridges and Landry Shamet. So he went into his fourth season in Phoenix without a long-term deal.


That season ended on Sunday when the Suns lost Game 7 of their second-round series against the Dallas Mavericks. Ayton played just 17 minutes. When Suns coach Monty Williams was asked why Ayton’s role was so limited, he replied “that’s internal.” Now, it seems, some of the tension that bubbled underneath Phoenix’s success all season is beginning to surface.

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“Going into the season, Deandre Ayton did not feel valued by this Phoenix organization,” Adrian Wojnarowski said. Ayton did not speak to reporters after the loss. He appeared to have a confrontation with Williams on the sideline at one point in the second half, but what exactly was said has not been confirmed.

Should Ayton venture out into the market this offseason, Wojnarowski expects him to receive a max offer from somebody. Five teams are currently positioned for major cap space this offseason: the Spurs, Magic, Pistons, Pacers and Trail Blazers. If Ayton’s goal is merely to get a four-year max deal, one of these teams could help him out by giving him such an offer sheet with the understanding that the Suns could match it. Only the Suns can offer him a five-year deal. If his goal is to get out of Phoenix, things become more complicated.

Phoenix must tender Ayton a one-year, $16.4 million qualifying offer in order to maintain the right to match any offer he receives this offseason. If Ayton accepts that offer, he would become an unrestricted free agent in 2023. Of course, anything could happen if Ayton accepts that offer. He might have a bounce-back season and become the most coveted free agent on the 2023 market. He could get injured and lower his own long-term value. Very few players ever actually take the qualifying offer for this reason. The risk-reward ratio is rarely favorable.

Ayton could also try to find a team willing to orchestrate a sign-and-trade for him. He wouldn’t need to limit his search to teams with cap space, though teams above the tax would likely struggle to fit Ayton onto their balance sheets sign-and-trades trigger a hard cap. Phoenix might be amenable to a big enough trade offer. The Suns went 16-6 without Ayton this season. Their pick-and-roll-heavy system is extremely friendly to centers. JaVale McGee and Bismack Biyombo both filled in admirably for Ayton this season.