The Tweet heard ‘round The Valley and the basketball universe at the conclusion of the rookie extension window might not have been what Phoenix Suns’ fans wanted to hear:
ESPN Sources: Suns talks with Deandre Ayton on rookie extension have ended --- without a deal. Ayton expected max contract and owner Robert Sarver hasn’t offered it. More coming on consequences for failing to reach deal with 2018 No. 1 overall pick. NBA Today debut, ESPN2. Now.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 18, 2021
The market dictates Deandre Ayton deserves a max. His playoff performance would indicate that Deandre Ayton deserves a max. His number one draft slot and avoidance of bust titles indicate that Deandre Ayton deserves a max.
Does any of this mean the Phoenix Suns are required to give him a max extension? No. A resounding no.
Let’s start with taking Robert Sarver at his word.
Jerry Colangelo told me he was "truly touched" that #Suns owner Robert Sarver donated $15K to his Integrity Scholarship Endowment. More on these two working together tomorrow.— Cameron Cox (@CamCox12) October 12, 2021
But first... I asked Sarver to update us on Deandre Ayton's contract situation. @12SportsAZ pic.twitter.com/eAPkkYdVsQ
During this interview with 12 News’ Cameron Cox, Sarver said “James [Jones] and [Ayton’s] agent are talking and that’s kind of up to them.”
You may have a hard time believing Sarver since he’s mentioned by name in Woj’s Tweet, and Jones is not. Remember that Woj’s information — and especially in this case — is often fed by agents.
Further support that Ayton’s agent, Bill Duffy, is behind the report can be found on the clock, literally. The Woj Tweet came three hours ahead of the official deadline for extensions, meaning the report may be a last-ditch effort to place even more pressure on Sarver and the Suns through the sharp knife that is public opinion.
So if it is general manager James Jones behind the lack of a max offer being put in front of Ayton, let’s ask ourselves: what’s keeping Jones from believing?
From The Timeline Podcast’s Sam Cooper:
James Jones has simply refused to acquire players who are afraid to put the ball on the floor. Even JaVale is doing it. Shamet not just a shooter either.— Sam Cooper (@scooperhoops) October 13, 2021
Only 1 guy on the entire roster who doesn't fit the bill
While Sam is absolutely right about the dribbling aspect, the same rule applies with playmaking. The numbers back it up: (all ranks are within the team)
2020-21 regular season:
- 8th in assists per game
- 15th in assist percentage
- 15th in assist-to-turnover-ratio; only rotation player with sub-1.00 ratio (0.96)
- 8th in assists per game
- 14th in assist percentage
- 12th in assist-to-turnover ratio; only player with 15+ minutes per game with sub-1.00 ratio (0.89)
- 9th in assists per game (tied with four others)
- 9th in assist percentage (tied with one other)
- 12th in assist-to-turnover ratio
B-Ball Index badges:
- Gold: Rebound Chaser
- Silver: Rim Protector, Intimidator
- Bronze: Box Out Guru, Giant Slayer
None of this is a recipe for a center deserving of a max in 2021’s NBA, let alone a big man who fits well in the “0.5 offense” that coach Monty Williams loves to run. Ayton is yet to show us that he can put the ball on the floor or create offense at a high and consistent level, though he has shown flashes like he did in the Lakers series in the playoffs:
That’s exactly the type of play that if executed consistently and aggressively, would render Ayton truly max-worthy. But until he shows things like that on a regular basis, all the Suns are dealing with now is bad optics. Nothing more. It’s okay.
I get that Suns fans are reluctant to trust Sarver and give him the benefit of the doubt, and that’s okay too! I’m not saying you should give Sarver the benefit of the doubt.
It’s James Jones who’s earned the benefit of the doubt. Through trades, acquisitions, and draft choices that are head-scratching in the moment, but led Phoenix to the NBA Finals just 100 days ago. He’s absolutely earned the benefit of the doubt and I’m giving it to him. Full stop.