Indiana made it easy on Phoenix.
According to Bobby Marks of ESPN, the deal contains:
- No trade bonus
- No trade kicker
- No salary advance
Maybe the Suns would’ve matched, anyway. But these terms certainly made it easier. (Of course, it’s a two-way street. If Phoenix didn’t match, the Pacers would’ve gotten Ayton on more-favorable terms than if the offer sheet were loaded with goodies).
Besides matching this offer sheet – which, to be fair, is the loudest statement possible – the Suns had indicated they don’t see Ayton as worth a max salary. Unclear: What is their preferred contract length for him? Ayton is just 23. There are a wide range of possibilities for his value in two, three, four and five years.
The Jazz let Gordon Hayward get an offer sheet that included a player option after three years rather just signing Hayward to a contract that could have been for up to five years. Utah regretted that. The Bucks signed Giannis Antetokounmpo to a cheaper rookie-scale extension, which could be for only four years, rather than the five-year max. Milwaukee regretted that, though survived the ensuing super-max drama.
Another question: How long of a contract did Ayton want? It sounded like he would’ve signed a five-year max deal if Phoenix offered. Maybe he would’ve signed for shorter if the salary were right.
Whatever the terms sought by each side, Ayton is now headed toward unrestricted free agency in 2026. Not sooner. Not later.
We’ll eventually see how he and the Suns feel about that.