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Contract negotiations between the Suns and center Deandre Ayton have reached an impasse, with Phoenix reluctant to give Ayton a max contract, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Ayton, 23, was selected by Phoenix with the 2018 1st overall pick, but his growth stagnated during the 2020-2021 campaign. Ayton averaged a career low 14.4 PPG with 10.5 RPG, although the addition of Chris Paul meant fewer scoring opportunities for Ayton.
He did, however, help lead the upstart Suns to the 2021 NBA Finals, before they lost to the Bucks in six games. Ayton’s play was much better in the playoffs, averaging 15 PPG and 12.2 RPG on 68.1% from the field, but not enough for Phoenix to dish out top dollar for his services long term.
Ayton is eligible for a five-year, $172 million max contract extension, which could reach $207 million. That is the same contract that the Nuggets handed out last week to fellow 2018 draft class member, Michael Porter Jr.
Ayton will become a restricted free agent in the summer of 2022, should he not sign an extension with the Suns. The Suns will still be able to match any offer sheet next year, but it’s likely a team would give Ayton the max, sending him elsewhere.
During the NBA’s Media Day on Sept. 27, Ayton addressed his future, calling himself “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. “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.”