Are Suns And Deandre Ayton Headed For A Split?

Suns center Deandre Ayton is expected to receive a maximum contract offer this summer as a restricted free agent, a scenario that would give the Suns an opportunity to match and keep him.

But there’s skepticism they will do that, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.

Ayton and the Suns seemed to travel a rocky road this past season, which concluded with a blowout loss to the Mavericks in Game 7 of the Western Conference playoffs. Before that, the Suns compiled the league’s best record (64-18), making this one of the all-time meltdowns.

Ayton was hardly anymore responsible for that than anyone else, but it was clear that the former No. 1 overall pick was not thrilled when he didn’t get a new deal from the Suns at the start of the year.

His agent, Bill Duffy, relayed as much.

“We’re disappointed. We wanted a max contract,” Duffy said on SiriusXM Radio, via RealGM. “He went out and was a solider the whole year, played well, improved his statistics. So, we’re proud of him. A lot of guys handle things differently, but he was very mature about it.”

That is why Duffy believes Ayton is in line for a big raise.

“Things will work out for Deandre. He’s a valuable player,” Duffy said. “There’s other teams in the league as well. He’s a restricted free agent, so we’ll see how this process unfolds.”

“Deandre had an amazing season and he’s progressed every year and improved every year,” Jones told reporters. “He’s been here and so he’s a big part of what we do. His future with us is something we will address at the proper time which is in the future. He’s a free agent and I’ve said all along: he’s about the same things were about, which is winning. We’ll address it at the proper time.”

That said, the Suns are already heavily invested in Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Mikal Bridges, and giving Ayton a max deal would handcuff them when it comes to other roster moves.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski recently indicated that someone will offer Ayton a max contract this summer.

“Deandre Ayton did not feel valued by this Phoenix organization,” Wojnarowski said. “They were not able to come to an agreement on his rookie extension. He saw many of the top players in his class get 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.”

Ayton, 23, averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds this season while shooting a career-high 63.4 percent from the field.

As Wojnarowski noted, Ayton was not happy with his contract situation entering the season. It ended prematurely in the Game 7 home loss to the Mavericks, in which Ayton played just 17 minutes and sat for most of the second half.

There was also a brief confrontation with coach Monty Williams on the sideline, something that has led to speculation involving Ayton’s desire to return to Phoenix. Fischer reported that Ayton may not exactly be among Williams’ favorites — another reason to believe both Ayton and the Suns are ready to move on.

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