Thursday, October 7, 2021
By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
AS the Phoenix Suns begin their campaign to repeat as Western Conference champions in the preseason, contract negotiations with Deandre Ayton have taken centre stage.
According to an ESPN report, Ayton and the Suns remain at odds as talks have “stalled” on an extension between the organisation and the former No.1 overall pick.
Ayton, 23, is eligible for a five-year, $172.5 million extension, that could reach as much as $207 million if he reaches benchmarks and incentives.
If a deal between both sides is not reached by October 18, Ayton will become a restricted free agent next season.
Suns leadership both on and off the floor have commented on the situation, optimistic that a deal will get done by the deadline.
Head coach Monty Williams deflected questions on the issue in his media availability.
“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,” Williams told reporters, “The organisation would be broke, but everybody would be happy,”
Suns guard Chris Paul regarded the issues around the contract negotiations as the business of basketball.
“I’m not concerned, that’s the business of the game,” Paul said.
“Those contract talks happen as players, agents, all that stuff. We got Mikal Bridges, another guy who’s a big part of our team (eligible for an extension), so hopefully that stuff will take care of itself, so we can get back to playing and doing what we do.”
Several players in Ayton’s 2018 NBA draft class have received max contract extensions including Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks, Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Michael Porter Jr of the Denver Nuggets.
In 2019, the Suns were just 19-63 and improved to 34-39 in the 2020 season, the first year under current head coach Monty Williams.
The Suns headed into the 2020-21 season buoyed by their 8-0 performance at the NBA Bubble and the addition of future Hall of Fame point guard Chris Paul. They went on to finish the regular season with a 51-21 record.
Phoenix won the Pacific Division title for the first time in 14 years and one of the league’s longest playoff droughts when they earned a postseason berth for the first time in 11 years. They also made their first NBA Finals appearance in 28 years.
Ayton appeared in 69 of the Suns’ 72 games in the regular season. He averaged a double double for the second consecutive campaign - 14.4 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.
Ayton’s memorable 2021 postseason run ended at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks, who won the series 4-2 to claim their first NBA Championship since 1971.
In Ayton’s playoff debut he averaged 15.8 points and 11.7 rebounds per game. He shot 65 percent from the field and finished with 14 double doubles.
According to StatMuse, Ayton is the first player in NBA history to average at least 15 points and 10 rebounds per game on 65 percent field goal shooting in a single playoffs (minimum of 10 games).
In the Finals, Ayton averaged 14.7 points, 12 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game on 54 percent shooting from the field.
Ayton posted 22 points and 19 rebounds in his NBA Finals debut and followed with 10 points and 11 rebounds in game two - both wins for the Suns. He followed with 18 points and nine rebounds in a game three loss, six points and 17 rebounds in game four and finally 20 points and 10 rebounds in game five.