The Phoenix Suns are still digesting the Game 7 loss that sent them home earlier this week. It was a truly ugly way to end the season, and it has many fans wondering if this team will look the same in October.
Mostly, it's big man Deandre Ayton who is stirring up the rumors. He was denied a max extension earlier this season and his relationship with the organization is deteriorating.
"Deandre Ayton did not feel valued by this Phoenix organization," said Ayton. "They were not able to come to an agreement on his rookie extension and he saw many of the top players getting extensions and he wanted a max deal, he would not move off that. So now, he moves towards restricted free agency this summer where he'll have some more options. But, ultimately, Phoenix will still match an offer out there and keep him if he signs an offer sheet with another team. [He] is going to get a max contract in the marketplace, somewhere... There are a lot of teams lining up to figure out: how can we acquire him?"
Now, Ayton is entering a summer of uncertainties as a restricted free agent. On 'Inside the NBA' on Wednesday, Shaquille O'Neal pleaded with the Suns to take care of him and applauded Ayton for handling the whole situation the right way.
“The kid did it the respectful way,” O’Neal said. “Me, I’m different. OK, you’re not going to play me? Alright, don’t worry about it. He didn’t complain. He made one statement about it and he played and he played his tail off. Played like a true big man. Give that kid what he wants. You’ve got other people signed for four (years), $270 (million), they don’t deserve it. Give this kid what he wants.”
It raised a lot of eyebrows when Ayton logged just 17 minutes in Game 7, which head coach Monty Williams attributed to 'something personal.' It remains to be seen if he will return for another season in Phoenix.
Whatever the case, Ayton is a young and talented center that can make a big impact in the right situation. Given the time to grow and adapt his game, he could become a dominant force in this league.