Suns center Deandre Ayton will remain in Phoenix after his team matched a 4-year, $133 million offer sheet from the Indiana Pacers, agents Bill Duffy and Nima Namakian told ESPN.
Ayton had been seeking a rookie max extension from the Suns after his strong performance during the 2021 playoffs that took the team to a Finals loss against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Still, the Suns did not offer Ayton a new contract and would have lost the 2018 Draft No. 1 pick if they did not match the Pacers’ offer.
Phoenix will now have to hold on to Ayton until January 15 and can not trade him for a full year without Ayton’s consent.
The move foreseeably takes Phoenix out of the hunt for Kevin Durant, who listed the Suns as his first choice for a trade.
Ayton was a member of the All-Rookie first team in 2019 and averaged 17.2 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 1.4 assists last season for the Suns, who finished with the best record of the regular season.
Their playoff series loss to the Dallas Mavericks was not only disappointing but also exposed a possible rift between Ayton and coach Monty Williams.
During the Suns’ Game 7 loss to the Mavs, Ayton spent most of the second half on the bench.
When asked during postgame comments about Ayton sitting, Suns coach Monty Williams said, “It’s internal,” while Ayton refused to speak with the media after the game.
Ayton’s fellow class of 2018 draftees, Atlanta Hawk Trae Young, Maverick Luka Doncic, OKC Thunder Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Denver Nuggets Michael Porter Jr., all signed max deals.
The Phoenix center was eligible for a five-year, $172.5 million extension, making the Suns’ match of Indiana’s offer seem that less impressive for Ayton.
Last season’s coach of the year, Williams, may have an even tougher job this season getting Ayton on board to battle what will be an even stronger Western Conference.