Suns Believe They Can Replace Deandre Ayton

Deandre Ayton is a restricted free agent that most in basketball believe is highly skilled and deserving of a big-time payday.

Well, the Phoenix Suns aren't as impressed as recent reports say the team believes Ayton is replaceable. ESPN's Brian Windhorst spoke on Ayton's impending free agency early Wednesday.

"The Suns believe that they could find a number of other centers who can give them the type of production Deandre Ayton can." They could've said nothing and chose to go this route. An ugly look that shows how frayed the relationship really was.

From what we know, Deandre Ayton and Suns head coach Monty Williams butted heads all throughout the 2022 season and things began to fester in the playoffs.

Williams eventually benched the big man, citing "internal reasons," then left it up to us to wonder if they'd work it all out. Clearly, Ayton was upset Suns owner Robert Sarver and general manager James Jones wouldn't fork over that max deal earlier in the year, and it eventually soured the relationship.

Everyone wants to be paid. But the league now prioritizes guards and forwards that can score on the break and shoot the ball from deep. Ayton possesses none of these qualities. A skilled big, for sure — just doesn't provide the companion the Suns believe Devin Booker and Chris Paul deserve.

What's also entirely possible is that the Suns view Chris Paul as a star over the hill that needs to be replaced in the near future. Keeping Booker happy should be priority No. 1 and we'd be foolish to believe the team's best player, Devin Booker, didn't have a hand in the team's decision to forgo a max offer to Ayton.

Deandre Ayton deserves to get paid, but how far should a No. 1 seed in the Western Conference be willing to go to retain their third or fourth-best offensive option?

While averaging 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game, Devin Booker and Chris Paul were absolutely more reliable pieces on offense, and then there's a case for Mikal Bridges and even a young Cam Johnson as he continues to develop under Monty Williams.

A max contract, or close to it, is likely in play for Deandre Ayton — it's just not coming from Phoenix. They've got bigger fish to fry.

Still probably shouldn't be talking about a player like this, though. It's in bad taste.