Author: Dean Carr
Last Updated: May 26, 2022
It’s fair to say that the NBA Playoffs didn’t go exactly to plan for the Phoenix Suns. Having finished the regular season with a league-best record of 64-18, Monty Williams’ team was defeated in dramatic circumstances.
Despite being heavily favored in their Western Conference Semifinals matchup against the Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix was stunned after blowing a 3-2 lead with back-to-back defeats in Games 6 and 7. Game 7, in particular, is one that will go down in infamy in the Valley.
Dallas played the Suns off the floor in a humiliating 123-90 home loss where the Mavericks had led by as many as 52 points. Chris Paul and Devin Booker were complete no-shows, while Deandre Ayton played just 17 minutes.
Ayton’s future with the Suns has long been a topic of discussion since the front office decided not to offer him the max extension he was eligible for last summer. They instead chose to offer forward Mikal Bridges a four-year $90 million deal, leaving their starting center to wonder where his long-term future lies.
The 23-year-old will have no shortage of suitors and his agent has already made it clear that they will not be signing anywhere for a discounted price. Ayton has been a walking double-double ever since he entered the NBA, averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds to date.
That, combined with his imposing size and ability to stay on the floor in the Playoffs and punish subsequent mismatches makes him a very valuable commodity in the league. There will be a team that offers him the money he is after this offseason — the question is, will the Suns match it?
Owner Robert Sarver hasn’t always been known to go the extra mile financially to keep successful Suns teams together and the money given to Bridges last summer is a strong indication of which direction they will be heading in.
There are plenty of teams with cap space this summer that will have the ability to offer Ayton the money he is searching for. The Orlando Magic, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs and Portland Trail Blazers will all have in excess of $20 million in cap space this summer and can create even more by moving pieces of their roster.
All five are intriguing propositions for a young player in the league. The Orlando Magic have the first overall pick alongside a young core that includes Jalen Suggs, Franz Wagner and Cole Anthony. As for the other four situations, they all come with the chance to form a dynamic duo alongside a talented point guard in Cade Cunningham, Tyrese Haliburton, Dejounte Murray and Damian Lillard.
- Detroit Pistons +125
- Indiana Pacers +400
- Orlando Magic +400
- San Antonio Spurs +500
- Portland Trail Blazers +600
- Oklahoma City Thunder +900
- Houston Rockets +1200
- Chicago Bulls +1200