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Suns’ worst move of 2022 NBA offseason

Phoenix Suns, Deandre Ayton

The Phoenix Suns had an incredibly impressive regular season last year but disastrous playoff results. Their NBA-best 64-18 record is largely overshadowed by the blowout Game 7 loss at the hands of the Mavericks in the Conference Semifinals. The 123-90 loss seemed cause for major change and left a sour taste going into the offseason.

Surprisingly this has not been the case. The Suns’ most notable addition has been Damion Lee who they signed to a one-year deal worth just over $2 million. They also signed Josh Okogie to a one-year deal. While each of these guys will prove to be solid rotational pieces, it has been surprising there have not been more notable moves.

Most of the Suns’ offseason has been overshadowed by the Kevin Durant rumors and the Deandre Ayton situation. While there still could be more in the works, here is why the Deandre Ayton signing is Phoneix’s worst move of the 2022 NBA offseason.

Suns: Phoenix’s worst move of 2022 NBA offseason

It is essential to keep superstars happy in today’s NBA. The growth in player power and the importance of a significant contributor team puts NBA franchises in a unique position. When the Suns selected Deandre Ayton with the number one overall pick in the 2018 draft, it was expected he could grow into this level of star. Now four years into his NBA career, there is a lot to like about Ayton. The big man has career averages of 16.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.0 blocks per game. He is a capable two-way center and one of the rare big men who are playable in just about every situation.

It has been clear dating back to the last offseason that Deandre Ayton and the Suns do not see eye to eye when attempting to quantify his value. Ayton demanded a five-year max contract from the Suns but they refused. The franchise made it clear that they did not believe he was worth that level of money. Ayton suited up and played the final year of his contract at a high level. He had another very impressive overall year although was benched in the Game 7 blowout loss. Monty Williams did not elaborate other than to say it was an “internal” decision to give the big man just 17 minutes of play.

Given the ending to the season and the disagreement on his value, it appeared Ayton was headed elsewhere. The soon-to-be 24-year-old was a restricted free agent and was free to test the market. Ayton found what he was looking for and got signed a max offer sheet with the Indiana Pacers. Despite not being willing to offer him the max contract previously, the Suns elected to match the deal. This ensures that the Arizona product will be under contract in Phoenix for four more years.

On one hand, this was the right decision by the Suns. It is a poor business model to allow a former top overall pick and a top 50 player in the league to walk away for free. He also has played a crucial part in the team’s success over the past few years. However, the franchise let the situation play out extremely poorly. They openly did not believe Ayton was worth the money and ended up giving him it anyway. This addition also pushed the Suns past the luxury tax threshold. The salary cap implications and poor public perception are not wise considering it is a player they don’t seemingly want.

While in the end, it is positive that Deandre Ayton is returning, the damage in negotiations may be too notable. It also is important to note that he is ineligible to be traded until January 15th. Ayton will also hold the right to veto any trade in the first year of his deal. While players must acknowledge the business aspect of things, the red carpet was not rolled out for Ayton’s return. For the time being it appears both sides have shed a new leaf and have a clean slate moving forward. However, it is tough to imagine these are true feelings for both sides.

It is unclear what exactly the issue is behind the scenes. However, there does not seem to be a ton of optimism that Phoenix is the long-term home for Deandre Ayton. It is still to be determined how fractured the relationship truly is. However, the feeling is certainly that this was a decision made due to not being willing to lose Ayton for free rather than wanting him back. January 15th may very well be a date that both sides are looking forward to. It will be interesting to see how the market for Ayton continues to develop.