Phoenix Suns fans might be in for a rude awakening coming very soon. Breakout big man Deandre Ayton is eligible for a rookie max contract extension, but is still without one heading into his fourth year with the Suns. This comes with the territory when you play for a frugal owner who is mainly concerned with his bottom line, not with building a championship contender.
Ayton becomes a restricted free agent at the end of this season, and those around the team are beginning to wonder if a deal will be done. Some of his fellow draftees from that 2018 class have already been cashed out with big money extensions while Ayton is forced to sit back, watch, and await his turn.
Players like Luka Dončić, Trae Young, and even Michael Porter Jr. have already inked new deals. Now I don’t think anyone, even Ayton, will have a problem with Dončić and Young getting their contracts before the Suns center. But it’s the last name mentioned that leaves Ayton and Suns fans scratching their heads.
I’m not calling Porter a bum or anything like that. But at one point, MPJ could barely get on the floor because of his poor defensive efforts for the Denver Nuggets. No issues with Ayton in that department. Porter even saw a dip in his production across many key statistical categories in the playoffs last year, while Ayton saw an increase during a playoff run that ended in game six of the NBA Finals. Anyone that thinks Ayton hasn’t earned something close to the five-year, $172 million(up to $207 million) deal Porter signed just hasn’t been paying attention.
“I love Phoenix, but I’m really disappointed that we haven’t really gotten a deal done yet.” said Ayton. I mean, we were two games away from a championship, and I just wanted to be respected, to be honest. Just be respected like my peers are being respected by their teams.”
Not all hope is lost just yet on Ayton and the Suns agreeing on a contract extension. The deadline is Oct. 18, one day before the start of the NBA regular season. But if Suns owner Robert Sarver’s past is any indication, there will be no deal to be had by Ayton come the 18th.
Sarver let All-Star Joe Johnson get away in 2005, and the two sides were less than $850,000 apart per year in negotiations. Admittedly Sarver still regrets that decision to this day.
“I beat myself up about that one because we were in a position where that piece could have helped us probably extend our chance to run for a longer period of time,” Sarver said.
In 2010, General Manager Steve Kerr was chased away by Sarver primarily due to his alleged penny pinching, making it hard for Kerr to run the team. The penny pinching didn’t just stop on the court with players. It was reported that Sarver wanted Kerr to take a pay cut, and Kerr had other options, and look how his career has turned out over the last decade.
If Sarver being cheap weren’t bad enough, his arrogant attitude towards players is another horrible quality he apparently loves to flaunt. Raja Bell claims that Sarver once said the following to his face:
Do you deserve an extension? Yes. Am I going to give you an extension? No. Because I don’t have to.
“We didn’t even get to salads,” Bell proclaimed.
After the run Phoenix experienced last season, many people were beginning to think Sarver had finally learned his lesson and had turned a new leaf. Some were even shocked when Sarver gave Chris Paul an extension over the summer based on his past failures dealing with star players and their contracts.
I don’t expect a deal to be done by next Monday, and Ayton will play this year out and become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason. What is likely to happen is Sarver matching any offer another team extends to Ayton since that will probably be much cheaper than giving Ayton the max contract he deserves.