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It was clear tensions between Suns center Deandre Ayton and head coach Monty Williams were high after the free agent began to lose playing time against the Mavericks. The media speculated for a few hours on why that went down and then Monty Williams came out postgame to say Ayton’s lack of playing time was “internal.”
We always knew the full story would be slow to arrive, however we finally got our answer. Monty Williams is just not a big of Ayton. Apparently he thinks the former no. 1 overall pick has a “waning focus” and Phoenix isn’t high on paying centers. Not a good combo there for a player that was looking for a max extension this past winter.
Asked why Deandre Ayton played only 17 minutes (0 in the fourth), Monty Williams says in the most stern voice I’ve ever heard him use: “It’s internal.”
— Rohan Nadkarni (@RohanNadkarni) May 16, 2022
What can the Suns do?
Provided Deandre Ayton accepts a max offer sheet from the Blazers, Hawks or Pistons, the Suns would still be financially tapped. Letting Ayton walk for nothing doesn’t award Phoenix an opportunity to pass that offer elsewhere — the Suns have a choice to blow past the cap taking advantage of their bird rights, let Ayton walk for nothing, or fork over the dough to then execute a sign-and-trade.
Based on numerous reports that say the Suns view centers as the most “replaceable” position on the court, that sign-and-trade looks awfully juicy. And with Devin Booker and a 37-year-old Chris Paul on the roster, we have to imagine the Suns want a short-term solution here. Dealing an outcasted max player for a more ideal fit could be the move they end up rolling with.
Phoenix had success with both JaVale McGee and Bismack Biyombo in reserve in 2022, so it’s not out the question why they’d believe Ayton was replaceable. Surely they know Ayton was a nice upgrade over their backups, but enough to warrant an extension surpassing $30 million annually?
Monty Williams’ feelings on Ayton
“There’s a stronger sense among league figures that Phoenix bras simply does not view Ayton, or any center, as a player worth greater than $30 million annually,” Bleacher Reports’ Jake Fischer wrote. “Williams has purportedly griped about Ayton’s waning focus, which some people contacted by B/R said has often been reflected by the ebbs of his playing time.”
Often, you say? That word choice is strong and it’d be foolish of us to ignore how that may impact the Suns’ willingness to match an offer sheet. Monty Williams is known as one of the game’s best coaches that’s proven to be a supreme leader — he’s well-liked by everyone in the organization.
If that someone, especially your head coach, says he isn’t sure about your mentality, change is on the horizon. Will the Phoenix Suns let Ayton walk for nothing? Or do they have a trick up their sleeve and pull the trigger on a deal to help Booker and Paul win now? Everything happened so fast for this organization.