A few days ago, the Phoenix Suns gave their center Deandre Ayton a maximum contract worth $133 million. The story wouldn’t have resonated had it not been for the franchise’s intentions to get rid of the first pick of the 2018 draft, something you could bet on after the bet365 sign up. Why did Ayton end up staying with the club, how did he get the max contract and what did the Indiana Pacers have to do with it?
Phoenix has had a great last two seasons, and even without championship titles, the team can be considered the most successful franchise in the NBA by making the tournament finals and winning the regular season with 136 wins in 2 years. Phoenix’s roster is almost unchanged: the star has spent more than 2,000 minutes on the floor combined, and that’s a first in the tournament.
It wasn’t just the play of Chris Paul and Devin Booker that kept the club stable: Jay Crowder and Mikel Bridges played elite defense, and two Camerons – Payne and Johnson – were a feast on offense.
Ayton’s role in Phoenix
The Suns’ most puzzling piece was center Deandre Ayton. He was picked under the first pick in the 2018 draft, and he went above Luka Doncic and Tray Young. Obviously, surpassing the play of those guys was impossible for Ayton, despite his pretty good numbers the past few seasons. With Chris Paul, Ayton has become a machine and could be considered the X-factor of Phoenix’s passage to the 2021 NBA Finals.
Players of this caliber are usually taken on maximum contract right away. Phoenix was in no hurry to do so. The club offered a non-maximum contract a year ago, but the center fretted, deciding he was worthy of more, the consequence of which was rejection. But in the end, the Suns went for the max max deal. Why?
They pay special attention to centers in the league. There are superstars like Jokic, Embiid, Towns and Gober, and with all due respect, Aiton falls short of that. He’s very talented, has good NBA, playoff, Finals experience. But that’s not a key position on a team capable of bringing Phoenix a championship title. The league didn’t need Ayton with his demands: San Antonio and Detroit could afford Deandre Ayton ‘s contract, but they don’t need a player like that.
The Knicks were clearing the payroll, but not for him, for Brunson. There’s no one to get an offer from.
But then suddenly, Indiana shows up with a spot on the payroll and offers Ayton a $133 million contract. The Pacers traded Brogdon and got 5.6 million free money on the payroll. That said, Indiana has a bunch of centerbacks: Turner, Bitadze, Theis, Jackson. But all of the players listed have their flaws. Ayton, on the other hand, fits this lineup perfectly for a starting center role, and the potential pick-and-rolls with Haliburton in perspective had Pacers fans excited.
And Indiana offered Phoenix a buy-and-hold deal that the Suns weren’t happy with at all. In the end, Phoenix managed to get Indiana to agree to their terms, and Pacers managers handed the contract to Eaton to sign.
That’s when things started to heat up. Indiana was short under the 5 million ceiling. All it had to do was the following:
- Expel Washington.
- Drop Morgan, Stauskas and Fitts.
- Use the stretch rule: split their guaranteed salary over 3 years.
Eaton signed the contract. And all that was left to do was wait until Sunday for Phoenix to decide whether to waive Aiton or repeat the Pacers’ offer. Now let’s look at it minute by minute:
- 20:01. Eaton signed with Indiana.
- 20:17. Shams Charania announced that Phoenix will repeat the Pacers’ offer.
Bottom line: Ayton accepts Phoenix’s offer and stays with the team.
He cannot be traded until January 15, 2023; a trade is possible before the end of the season, but with Deandre Ayton’s approval. And not to Indiana (until June 2023). What did Phoenix accomplish with that? Certainly not an opportunity to trade an asset for Durant this summer.
But the relationship with the center is clearly complicated now. How it will affect the team will be revealed in the upcoming season, which will be very interesting to follow.
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