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Reasons why GM James Jones might not fully trust Ayton

The Suns center did not receive the contract extension many expected.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Phoenix Suns Photo by Barry GossageNBAE via Getty Images

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:

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.

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:

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)

2020-21 playoffs:

  • 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)

2021-22 preseason:

  • 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.

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