Ayton, who led the Suns to the 2021 NBA Finals and was the “most valuable player” in that run, according to his teammates, is eligible for a five-year, $172.5 million extension, with escalators that could reach $207 million. However, the Suns reportedly do not believe Ayton deserves that kind of contract, which fellow 2018 NBA Draft classmates Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks), Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks),, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Oklahoma City Thunder) and Michael Porter Jr. (Denver Nuggets) have each been comparably allocated.
If Ayton does not sign a max deal, he could become a restricted free agent next summer. The Suns can match any offer sheet next year, though their resistance to offer Ayton a deal could create friction.
Phoenix owner Robert Sarver has not paid luxury tax since the 2009-10 season, so this will be an important development to watch with his commitment to the team’s success.
During the Suns’ media day last Monday, Ayton said he feels like he’s the “most wanted big man in the league.”
“To be honest, I’ve set a foundation for myself and team to where they can depend on me, and my requirement is to protect to the paint, is to block shots, is to rebound,” Ayton said in an interview with Sirius XM radio. “But now, I want to add more. I already figured that part of what I can do on a night-to-night basis of playing hard and competing.”
In his third season, Ayton averaged 14.4 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game while shooting 62.6 percent from the field. His playoff run was even more impressive, averaging 15.8 points and 12.2 rebounds on 68.1 percent shooting.
It was highly expected Ayton would get paid, especially considering his high-level defense on the Los Angeles Lakers’ bigs — Anthony Davis and Andre Drummond — the Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Ivica Zubac. Do we think Phoenix starting point guard Chris Paul is still an advocate?
We’d have to think so.