Is Deandre Ayton a max player? He will probably be paid as such

The day after a performance of five points and four rebounds in an elimination game where he argued with the coach of the year is probably not the right time to ask this question, but there it is. :

Is Deandre Ayton a max player?

The Suns didn’t put a maximum extension on the table for him before the season (leading to tension between the teams), with the result being that he’s on the verge of heading into restricted free agency. Would the Suns offer him a max now? When a reporter posed a softball question to Devin Booker after Game 7 about Ayton’s free agency – the kind of question that was usually answered with some version of “he’s an essential part of our culture and what we’re doing” – Booker wasn’t so enthusiastic.

After this playoff performance, will the Suns put a maximum offer on the table for Ayton?

If they don’t, another team will, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski told NBA Today.

Wojnarowski added that “at the start of the season, Deandre Ayton didn’t feel valued by this Phoenix organization.”

The Suns have the right to match any offer Ayton receives.

Ayton averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game this season, but he wasn’t a defensive stopper (the Suns’ defense was 2.3 points per 100 possessions worse with him on the floor). In the playoffs, there were games where he looked like a max player, and games where he fell into the background (like Game 7 against Dallas).

The list of teams looking for a center is quite established – Toronto, Charlotte, Atlanta and possibly the Detroit Pistons. (If the Hornets are going to hire Mike D’Antoni as coach, maximizing a traditional center may not be the smart play.) ESPN’s Zach Lowe, on his podcast, speculated on the Thunder, Knicks and other teams that kicked the tires on an Ayton contract. The challenge for any of these teams outside of Detroit is that they don’t have the cap space to sign him outright, any deal would be a sign and trade – is a team gonna maximizing Ayton and giving up picks/players to secure his rights? For a guy who admitted during the playoffs that he was losing sleep staying up late playing video games? That’s a huge bet on the former No. 1 pick.

After watching a team of five Mavericks push them out of the playoffs, the Suns could rethink their roster build and consider leaving Ayton. However, they’re not just going to give it away for pennies on the dollar.

It’s going to be a very interesting summer in Phoenix.

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