The Phoenix Suns shocked the world when they made the NBA Finals last season, overthrowing Los Angeles as the kings of the West.
They ended up losing in the final round to a very good Milwaukee Bucks team, but that run might be the best stretch the franchise has had in over a decade.
Love him or hate him, Deandre Ayton was a major part of their successes, as his presence under the rim (on both offense and defense) gave Phoenix a major edge in the postseason, especially against the Lakers and Nuggets in the first few rounds.
But after failing to reach an agreement on an extension, it looks like Ayton is heading for the door -- and it's all because the Suns refused to give him the max contract he wanted.
Speaking to Michael Scotto, one NBA executive roasted Suns owner (Robert Sarver) for the move, calling him cheap and claiming that letting Ayton go is a move that will heavily damage their future.
Deandre and his representation, Billy Duffy and Nima Namakian, made it clear they wanted a max, and Phoenix made it clear they didn’t view him as a max player. With that in mind, I was checking in with executives around the league for their thoughts on the Ayton situation.
The first executive said to me, “That owner (Robert Sarver) is cheap, and he’ll get killed for it again. He finally had some goodwill making the Finals, and he pulls this (not extending Ayton). The fact is the kid earned it. Yes, prior to last season, I’d have questions about it, but he performed the whole season, and you invested a number one pick in him. He was a little bit, maybe, slow to develop, but he got there. I don’t think he’s mature enough to handle stuff like that (no extension), so I think it could hurt him for a while. Monty (Williams) seems to have a way with him, so maybe they can pull him back in and say, “Do your job and get paid.”
Ayton isn't necessarily on par with some of his peers (Trae Young, Luke Doncic), but he proved last season that he could play a pivotal role on a title-contending team.
Maybe, after another offseason of development, and with a major chip on his shoulder, Ayton will ultimately prove himself worthy of the max.
Either way, the Suns missed a critical window of opportunity, and there's no going back.