Not every season can end in winning a championship, but for the Phoenix Suns, this is their expectation after trading for superstar Kevin Durant. Firing Monty Williams after a handful of successful seasons as their head coach, the Suns are entering an offseason in which they will also have to re-evaluate Deandre Ayton's long-term future with the franchise.
Returning to Phoenix on a four-year deal after signing an offer sheet with the Indiana Pacers last offseason, Ayton's fit with the Suns continues to be in question, and it would not be shocking to see the team look to move on from him in the offseason. As frustrations mount following their brutal exit from the NBA Playoffs this 2023, ESPN's Zach Lowe and Tim MacMahon discussed where the Suns go from here with Ayton on the latest episode of The Lowe Post podcast.
“The organizational discontent, impatience, eye-rolling, whatever with Ayton, go way beyond Monty Williams,” Lowe stated. “There's a lot of people in that organization that are tired with Deandre Ayton. You can see it in the game. You don't even have to be at the game to see the body language, the eye-rolling, the ‘what is this guy doing?'”
The idea of the Suns being tired with Ayton should not come as a shock, as the Suns' center looked to leave the team in free agency last offseason. The disconnect between the player and those higher up in the organization is very apparent. While a good amount of blame can be put on the Suns' leadership for this, blame must also be put on Ayton for his unwillingness to adapt.
“I do think there is going to be a tendency to pile on Ayton and say that's his fault, he's immature, he wants to be a certain kind of player that he can't and shouldn't be on this team with three players who are better than him and all need the ball,” Lowe went on to say. “If you are Deandre Ayton, like yeah, tough s**t buddy, you're not going to get ten post touches a game with Kevin Durant and Devin Booker on your team. Welcome to real life. You're the number one pick in the draft, you're the guy your whole life, you're not the guy anymore. That's not the way it works.”
In eight regular season games with Durant on the floor, Ayton averaged just 13.0 points and 9.4 rebounds per game while shooting 61.4 percent from the floor. Prior to KD's arrival this season, Ayton averaged 18.6 points and 10.0 rebounds per game while shooting 58.6 percent from the floor in 59 games.
It's obvious to see that Ayton has been an efficient center for the Suns and has contributed in his role as a screener, roller and rebounder, but the former top pick is wanting more. Unfortunately for him, that just won't happen with Durant and Booker on the same team, as Lowe mentioned in his podcast.
The Suns have a big decision to make entering the offseason regarding their 24-year-old center and the most plausible scenario right now is that they will look to trade him. Not many teams around the league are looking for a center this summer, but Ayton is a former first overall pick that has shown flashes of being a Top-5 center in this league through the years. Getting a new opportunity elsewhere seems to make the most sense for Ayton at this time.