The Phoenix Suns cut free agent Deandre Ayton to the Indiana Pacers on Thursday agree to a four-year, $133 million max offer sheet, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
However, the Suns are expected to match the offer once it is signed, according to Wojnarowski.
Arizona Sports” John Gambadoro adds The Suns have yet to receive the offer sheet and that Phoenix is willing to do whatever it takes to win, including paying up to $100 million in luxury tax.
Phoenix has a choice of matching him or letting the 2018 No. 1 pick go, losing an asset for nothing in return.
Once Ayton signs the offer sheet, sign-and-trade deals centered around him are not allowed.
If the Suns decide to match the offer sheet and keep the center, Ayton has right of veto for every transaction for a whole year. The earliest the Suns could trade Ayton is Jan. 15.
The Suns surprised many around the league by not agreeing to a maximum contract extension with the first overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft last summer.
Now they will look to reset around franchise star Devin Booker and fellow All-Star Chris Paul.
Ayton, far from the only reason Phoenix fell in the conference semifinals to the Dallas Mavericks, had an inconsistent playoff run and was benched by head coach Monty Williams in a Game 7 shutout that ended the team’s season.
According to Arizona Sports” John Gambadoro and others, the Suns at least listened to an offer centered around then-Indiana Pacers big man Domantas Sabonis and Ayton before the February trade deadline. That deal did not materialize and Sabonis was instead dealt to the Sacramento Kings.
Still, Ayton, who turns 24 this month, has been a key factor all year.
He averaged 17.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 0.7 blocks per game this regular season, shooting a career-high 64.3 percent, although he expanded his offensive repertoire in short-throw situations and with middle class jumps. This happened after he set the contract aside.
A week before the deadline expired without an extension last offseason, Ayton called the negotiations frustrating.
“I love Phoenix, but I’m really disappointed we haven’t done a deal yet,” he said. “We’ve got two wins out of one championship and I just want to be respected, to be honest. Be respected as my peers are respected by their teams.
A five-year max extension for Ayton would start in the $172.5 million range and go up to $207 million with incentives. That or a shorter deal was still on the table this summer.
According to Wojnarowski, Ayton’s camp believed he deserved the max before last season. Speculation that a max deal would be completed before the Oct. 18, 2021 deadline was maintained by “league-wide executives.”
Four players selected by the No. 1 pick in the 2018 class agreed to max deals before the 2021-22 season: Denver’s Michael Porter Jr., Dallas’ Luka Doncic, Atlanta’s Trae Young and Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Ayton averaged 14.4 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.2 blocks per game in 2020-21 before Phoenix’s NBA Finals. His play directly translated into the Suns’ regular season and playoff success.
Any disagreement in Ayton’s value can be found in the jump he made from an impressive but inconsistent regular season to a nagging 22-game playoff streak.
Ayton’s playoff averages were up to 15.8 points, 11.8 rebounds plus a block and an assist per game. He shot 65.8% from the field.
Phoenix’s NBA Finals impact exceeded those numbers, as he was the primary defender for Los Angeles Lakers All-Star big man Anthony Davis, league MVP Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets and eventual Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo in three of four playoff appearances series.
Ayton’s harassment of the Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference Finals — he averaged 17.8 points, 13.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks — was highlighted by his Valley-oop dunk near the buzzer in Game 2 of that series .
The success under the bright lights of the postseason did not carry over to this past season.
Ayton averaged 17.9 points and 8.9 rebounds in 13 playoff games, shooting 64 percent, but suffered from his well-known bouts of inconsistency on the defensive end in scoring in series against the New Orleans Pelicans and Mavericks.
There have been rumblings that Phoenix wants to move Ayton beyond the failed to non-existent extension talks before the 2021-22 season.