Report: Suns not offering Deandre Ayton max contract extension

Suns center Deandre Ayton
Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Mavericks guard Luka Doncic got a (super-)max rookie-scale contract extension. Hawks guard Trae Young got a max rookie-scale contract extension. Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander got a max rookie-scale contract extension. Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. got a max rookie-scale contract extension.

The No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, Suns center Deandre Ayton… has not.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Phoenix Suns’ reluctance to offer a maximum rookie contract extension to 2018 No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton has stalled discussions on a deal, sources told ESPN on Tuesday.

Ayton, a key part of the Suns’ run to the 2021 NBA Finals, has no intention of accepting a deal less than the comparable max contracts signed by several of his 2018 NBA draft classmates, including Atlanta’s Trae Young, Dallas’ Luka Doncic, Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Denver’s Michael Porter Jr., sources told ESPN.

I don’t blame Ayton for refusing to accept less than the max (projected to be worth $173 million over five years). Given his stature as a former No. 1 pick and his role in helping the Suns reach the 2021 NBA Finals, it’s somewhat surprising the Suns haven’t offered him the max. He could probably get max offer sheets in 2022 restricted free agency (projected to be worth $128 million over four years).

For Phoenix, the decision is more complicated.

Reasons not to offer Ayton a max extension:

  • He’s not worth it. Ayton is both solid offensively and defensively, but he’s not elite on either end. He has never been an All-Star or even drawn significant consideration. Though he’s an excellent finisher and has mid-range shooting ability, he hasn’t expanded his range beyond the 3-point arc, and he’s not much of a passer. His ability to move defensively for his size is better than his rim protection, an area that’d be more impactful. In a league overflowing with at least solid centers, teams ought to be especially wary of overpaying one.
  • He’s already under contract for this season. The Suns would also have matching rights on him next summer. Taking another year to evaluate his value doesn’t at all mean letting him leave.

Reasons to offer Ayton a max extension:

  • He’s just 23 and improving. Ayton has so many raw tools – size, strength, athleticism, skill. There’s every reason to believe he’s on a clear upward trajectory. Phoenix would be paying not for what he is, but what he projects to be.
  • A max extension is the only way to lock in Ayton for five years, not just four (assuming he’s not demanding a player or early termination option). That might be worth overpaying. It looked like the Bucks got a slight discount on Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s rookie-scale extension. Instead, the big story became his ability to hit unrestricted free agency a year earlier. The extra year on Ayton could be particularly helpful if the salary cap skyrockets in a few years.
  • If they let him become a restricted free agent, the Suns could lose significant long-term team control on Ayton. He could sign a 3+1 or even 2+1 offer sheet. Heck, he could do something even more drastic: Sign his $16,422,835 qualifying offer, gain the ability to reject any trade during the 2022-23 season then become an unrestricted free agent in 2023.

The big variable: How would an extension affect Ayton this season?

Maybe getting extended would make him too content with what he has already accomplished and stagnate his growth. Or maybe it would make him feel comfortable, fueling productivity.

Maybe not getting extended would destroy his bond with the team and cause him to chase individual numbers. Or maybe it would drive him to even greater heights.

This is an important consideration for Phoenix, which is in the thick of championship contention.

The Suns, owned by Robert Sarver, also face questions about spending. Phoenix hasn’t paid the luxury tax since 2010. Even this summer’s big spending leaves the Suns well below the tax line this season.

But that’ll change the following season if Phoenix keeps its core together. Chris Paul and Cameron Payne got multi-year contracts this summer, joining Devin Booker, Jae Crowder and Dario Saric. Ayton and Mikal Bridges are up for new deals.

If the Suns pay, it probably won’t matter much whether they commit the money now or next summer. But these Ayton negotiations leave plenty of unease about Sarver’s financial commitment.

Three things to Know: Timberwolves in top six, are they a playoff sleeper?


Three Things To Know is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Timberwolves beat Kings, move into in top six, could be playoff sleeper

When talk turns to dangerous teams in the bottom half of the West bracket, the conversation gravitates toward the established big names — Stephen Curry and the Warriors, LeBron James and the Lakers, Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers.

But for the past few weeks (maybe since the All-Star break), the Minnesota Timberwolves have been the best team in that group. It hasn’t always shown up in the win column — although after beating the Kings Monday night they have four in a row — but there has been maturity and chemistry to their game. Fitting Karl-Anthony Towns back in after he missed more than 50 games could have been tricky, but instead, it has inspired game-winning shots and improved play (although he sat out Monday night on a back-to-back).

Monday night’s win is nothing to overlook — going to Sacramento and picking up a victory that denied the Kings the chance to officially clinch their first playoff spot in 16 seasons in front of their home fans is no small thing. The Timberwolves were attacking the rim.

And attacking.

“We know we have the talent and the personnel to be able to beat anybody on any given night,” Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert said, via the Associated Press. “Really out of urgency and consistency … we play every game like it’s our last and we play every game like there’s no tomorrow. That’s the mindset that we need.”

Minnesota is showing a balance and maturity of game that was lacking much of the season. It starts with trading away D'Angelo Russell and bringing in Mike Conley at the point, adding a traditional point guard and floor general to the mix (rather than a player who creates more for themselves). Conley’s veteran presence can be felt across this team.

Jaden McDaniels has been locking guys down on defense. Anthony Edwards — back quickly from a sprained ankle that could have been much worse — has turned into a quality shot creator but adds another athletic defender. Gobert finally started to find his space and had 16 points and 16 rebounds against the Kings. Naz Ried has been a force of nature off the bench lately.

With the win, Minnesota tied Golden State for the No.6 seed in the West at 39-37, and moved ahead of the Warriors officially because the Timberwolves have the tiebreaker after beating them Sunday. This Minnesota team could avoid the play-in if they keep racking up wins — and if they are the No.6 seed they likely draw this Kings team in the first round.

The questions about how this team will handle a small-ball team that can space the floor over a seven-game series remain, but they showed Monday against the Kings they may have the answer to that question.

The most dangerous teams in the playoffs are often the ones that look the best over the season’s final weeks, and in this Western Conference that makes the Timberwolves a threat.

2) Luka Dončić with the assist of the season.

Are. You. Kidding. Me.

Luka Dončić made the pass of the season Monday night. Trapped in the corner by two defenders, Dončić lept in the air, spun and threw a bullet skip pass to Jaden Hardy for 3.

Even Dončić was impressed with that dime.

The Mavericks entered the night desperate for a win after losing four straight, they needed the win to try to climb back into the play-in. Dončić wasn’t even expected to be on the court earlier in the day, but was cleared to play earlier when the NBA rescinded his 16th technical of the season, which would have triggered an automatic one-game suspension. With 25 points from Dončić leading the way, the Mavericks beat a shorthanded Pacers team without Tyrese Haliburton or Myles Turner, 127-104.

3) Jalen Brunson was out so Immanuel Quickley dropped 40

Losers of three straight, and with the Heat lurking just a couple of games back in the loss column, the Knicks needed a win. Enter the Houston Rockets.

Jalen Brunson remained out but Immanuel Quickley stepped up with a career-high 40 points on 14-of-18 shooting, plus he had nine assists, and the Knicks picked up a needed 137-115 victory.

Julius Randle added 26 points, RJ Barrett had 19 and Obi Toppin finished with 15 for the Knicks. New York was moving the ball and finished with a season-high 35 assists.

It was exactly the kind of win the Knicks needed. It’s hard to see them falling out of the No. 5 seed.

BONUS THING TO KNOW: Are you kidding me, Russell Westbrook?

The Clippers got the 124-112 win over the Bulls without that shot, but still.

Watch Luka Dončić throw the pass of the year to Hardy for 3



Luka Dončić was on the court for the Mavericks Monday — something that was not assured until earlier in the day — and once there made the pass of the season. Trapped in the corner by two defenders, Dončić lept in the air and threw a bullet skip pass to Jaden Hardy for 3.

That is your assist of the year. Even Dončić called it one of his best passes ever.

Dončić led the way with 25 points and six assists and the Mavericks — desperate for a win as they try to climb back into the play-in — beat a shorthanded Pacers team without Tyrese Haliburton or Myles Turner, 127-104. Dončić was cleared to play earlier in the day when the NBA rescinded his 16th technical of the season, which would have triggered an automatic one-game suspension.

Lakers’ LeBron James says he could need offseason foot surgery


LeBron James wanted back on the court. He saw the glimpses of what this current roster can do when healthy and focused — the same glimpses that have Laker exceptionalism running strong in Los Angeles — and he sees a West without a dominant team. Together those things mean opportunity.

LeBron could have shut it down when he felt something pop in his foot last month, admitting that two doctors told him to get surgery. However, the “LeBron James of foot doctors” told him he could be back this season — and he made that return Sunday. Still, LeBron admitted he could need off-season surgery.

“I don’t know. Right now, I don’t need it, so we’ll see what happens. I’ll probably get another MRI at the end of the season and go from there. But if I end up having to get surgery after the season, you guys won’t know. I don’t talk to you guys in the offseason, and by the time next season starts, I’ll be fine. I’ll be ready to go.”

As for what motivated him to get back on the court this season and not shut it down.

“Now we sitting at a chance to be able to… to hell with the play-in, we actually can be a top-[six] seed. That definitely changed my mindset on me coming back and trying to be a part of this, obviously, so — well, I don’t really want to say changed my mindset, it just enhanced what I was trying to do as far as my workouts, as far as my treatment and everything”

The Lakers sit tied for 9/10 in the West, one game below .500. While LeBron can say, “to hell with the play-in,” his Lakers would need help from the Clippers or Warriors to climb into the top six even though they are only 1.5 games back (time is short for L.A., if the Warriors or Clippers go 4-3 the rest of the way, the Lakers need to go 6-2 over their last eight). Los Angeles also is just a game up on Dallas for the 11 seed, and if the losses pile up they could fall out of the play-in completely.

With LeBron back, missing the play-in is unlikely. But having him back (and eventually a healthy D'Angelo Russell, who was out Sunday with a hip issue) also is no guarantee of wins — the Lakers still need peak Anthony Davis to compete. When he has a solid game of 15 points, nine rebounds and five assists (as he did Sunday), they lose. The Lakers need bubble Davis every night, or even if they make the postseason it will be short-lived.

Dončić dodges suspension, NBA rescinds 16th technical

Dallas Mavericks v Charlotte Hornets
Brock Williams-Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

This was unexpected, especially after crew chief Kevin Scott said after the game last night: “Doncic was assessed a technical foul for his use of profanity directed at the officials in protest to a no-call that was correctly judged in postgame video review.”

The NBA league office reviewed the incident (as it does with all technicals) and rescinded what would have been Luka Doncic’s 16th technical.

That 16th technical would have triggered an automatic one game suspension. With it rescinded, Dončić is clear to play Monday night when the Mavericks take on the Pacers.

Sunday night in Charlotte, Dončić was given a technical when he didn’t get a call on a leaning baseline jumper and said something to the nearby official.

This incident comes days after Dončić was fined $35,000  for making a money gesture towards a referee in frustration after a  Mavericks loss.

Through all this the Mavericks have lost four straight, 7-of-9, and have slid back to 11th in the West, outside even the play-in. Their team is disintegrating and if they don’t pick up some wins fast they have less than two weeks until they are on summer vacation.