Analyzing the potential consequences for the franchise ahead of the 2021-22 NBA season

The Phoenix Suns and Deandre Ayton were expected to come to an agreement that would keep the talented center in Phoenix for the foreseeable future. After the big man’s impressive 2020-21 NBA season, it seemed as if it was only a matter of time before the front office rewarded him with a hefty pay increase. However, it now looks like his extension might come at a much later date.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has reported that the Suns will not come to an extension agreement with Ayton at this time.

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.

After an impressive NBA Finals run that resulted in the Phoenix Suns coming up just short, many expected it to be a busy offseason in the Arizona desert.

The Suns had a hefty to-do list this summer, the first being signing All-Star Chris Paul to a contract extension. The 36-year-old was signed to a four-year extension deal worth up to $120 million. The franchise then re-signed valuable backup guard Cam Payne while also trading for Landry Shamet.

However, the most obvious order of business was the contract extensions of both Deandre Ayton and versatile wing Mikal Bridges. The Phoenix Suns would go on to give Bridges a four-year $90-million deal that will keep him at the franchise for the near future.

The elephant in the room then quickly became Ayton and his pending extension with the Suns.

The Phoenix Suns are suddenly playing with fire

Can the Phoenix Suns keep their big man happy now?
Can the Phoenix Suns keep their big man happy now?

There are a number of questions as to why the Phoenix Suns organization would want to wait for a potential extension for Deandre Ayton. It makes even less sense when you think about the opportunity the Suns had at their hands.

In 2018, the Phoenix Suns selected Deandre Ayton first overall, making it clear that they believed in his potential to become a franchise-building block. Three years later, it has become obvious that Ayton is quickly turning into one of the brightest young centers in the league.

Ayton was impressive last year as he averaged 14.4 points and 10.5 rebounds per game while shooting 62.6% from the field. He also took significant strides defensively, becoming one of the most important pieces of the Suns’ roster during their NBA finals run.

It now looks as if the Phoenix Suns are potentially playing with fire when it comes to keeping the big man happy.

ESPN insider Bobby Marks previously explained why the Suns should consider this offseason a failure if they don’t secure extensions for both Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges. He said:

“They have a golden opportunity here to lock up two of the top potential free agents next offseason…the caps going up. I understand Chris Paul was a priority. I understand Cam Payne was a priority. But these two players have not been a priority to Phoenix…”

Many thought that the Phoenix Suns ownership was attempting to play hardball with Deandre Ayton in order to avoid the luxury tax. However, after they eventually gave extensions to Mikal Bridges and Landry Shamet, some are now wondering what is really going on in the franchise.

Bobby Marks then explained that none of these decisions would change the fact that the Suns will be a luxury team in the upcoming season. He said:

“I don’t wanna hear it’s financial… Chris Paul saved you $30 million this year by declining his option… You’re going to be a luxury team next year Phoenix with Deandre Ayton on a max contract or Deandre Ayton at $26 million… You are going to be in the luxury tax Robert Sarver for the first since 2009-10.”

What happens now for Deandre Ayton?

Phoenix Suns fans will wait patiently to see what happens with Deandre Ayton
Phoenix Suns fans will wait patiently to see what happens with Deandre Ayton

Deandre Ayton is obviously not going to be happy with the Phoenix Suns organization’s decision. He is worthy of a contract extension and has shown signs that his best basketball is on the horizon. However, this is where things get interesting.

Due to the Suns’ decision not to extend Ayton’s contract before the deadline, there are now a number of dangerous paths for the team.

If the 23-year-old goes on to have an outstanding year with the Phoenix Suns, he could sign a qualifying offer that would make him a restricted free agent. That would give the Suns the right to match any offer. The problem with this is that it is going to cost the organization more down the road when it comes to cap hits.

Another option is for Ayton and his agent to sign a short-term deal with an opt-out after three years. That would give Ayton the ability to become a free agent when the rumored new TV deal money is expected to increase the cap size. This would make it even more difficult for the Phoenix Suns to keep him around.

The Suns are swimming in dangerous waters when it comes to Ayton, and this is something to keep an eye on in the future.

Edited by Rachel Syiemlieh

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