The Suns refused to give 2018 No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton a five-year max contract.
The Suns then spent $133 million in extensions for wings Mikal Bridges and Landry Shamet.
The Suns’ decision-making is puzzling after the investment into Ayton and Finals run last season.
The Phoenix Suns made some eyebrow-raising business decisions on the eve of the NBA season.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst, the Suns broke off extension talks with center Deandre Ayton. The 2018 No. 1 pick was seeking a max contract extension, but the Suns were hesitant to give it to him.
However, ahead of a Monday deadline to give out extensions, the Suns did give out some hefty deals. According to Wojnarowski, the Suns signed guard-forward Mikal Bridges to a four-year, $90 million deal, then guard Landry Shamet to a four-year, $43 million deal.
Ayton was eligible for a five-year, $175 million extension, with escalators that could have brought it to $207 million. According to ESPN, it was a deal that executives around the NBA thought would get done easily, but the Suns reportedly insisted that they did not view Ayton as a max player.
The lack of an extension for Ayton only make the deals for Bridges and Shamet more noteworthy.
The extension for Bridges was widely applauded across the NBA world. Bridges has emerged as a reliable 3-and-D wing, capable of guarding four positions while spreading the floor. Last year, he showed growth on the offensive end that suggested he could further improve and expand his game.
The extension for Shamet is a bit more puzzling, however. Still just 24, Shamet is on his fourth team in as many years. Shamet is a good three-point shooter (39.7% for his career), but hasn’t expanded his game much beyond shooting. He’s been traded in back-to-back years by championship contenders (the LA Clippers in 2020, then the Brooklyn Nets this year) after seeing his minutes decline in the postseason.
Shamet’s deal isn’t completely head-scratching – roughly $11 million a season isn’t a terrible price for a rotation guard who can spread the floor. Wojnarowski reported on Monday that Suns head coach Monty Williams was a proponent of the trade and plans to give Shamet a big role.
But the lack of a commitment to Ayton is a negative reflection on a team trying to turn a new page as a franchise. The Suns drafted Ayton first overall in 2018 – notably passing on Luka Doncic and Trae Young. Ayton played inspired, disciplined basketball in the Suns’ first postseason appearance in 10 years, which saw them come two wins away from the championship.
Extending Ayton would have locked in the Suns core of Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and Bridges for the foreseeable future. The price would have been steep, but that is the cost of championship contention in the NBA – ask the Golden State Warriors, Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Lakers, or Milwaukee Bucks.
According to ESPN, the Suns discussed a possible three- or four-year max contract for Ayton but never officially made an offer. It’s the type of petty haggling that can lead a franchise player to become disenchanted with his squad.
Ayton is set to make $12.6 million this season before hitting restricted free agency next offseason (assuming the Suns extend the qualifying offer to make him a resitrcted free agent) as a notable difference-maker in a weak free agent class.
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