Suns’ Deandre Ayton Benched In Game 7 Before Free Agency?

Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns, NBA Rumors
NBA Analysis Network

The Suns bowed out of the NBA playoffs Sunday night after an embarrassing 123-90 home loss in Game 7. The Dallas Mavericks dominated the Suns from the opening tip in a game where they led by as much as 46. The offseason begins earlier than expected for the 64-win Suns, and the offseason questions now need answers.

Perhaps the biggest offseason question for Phoenix is what to do with restricted free agent Deandre Ayton. Ayton played just 17 minutes in the Suns’ embarrassing defeat, raising questions of a rift between the center and coach Monty Williams.

When the Suns coach was asked post-game about the surprisingly low minute allotment for Ayton, he had a brief answer. “It’s internal,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. It’s unclear if it was an effort issue on defense, or a matter of Ayton simply not wanting to play in such a big blowout.

The above clip shows Ayton failing to close out on a shooter on his last defensive possession of the game. Perhaps it was this effort that upset Monty Williams and led to Ayton’s benching.

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The apparent rift could not have come at a worse time for Phoenix. Heading into the offseason, Ayton is a restricted free agent. Suns and owner Robert Sarver refused to sign Ayton to a max extension before the season. Ayton has expressed his displeasure with the situation throughout the year. After such an ugly ending, it’s possible Ayton will not want to return at all.

The Suns selected Deandre Ayton first overall in the draft. That was ahead of Luka Doncic, the player that just led the Dallas Mavericks over Phoenix in 7 games. He could be the first number one overall pick to not sign a rookie extension since notorious bust Anthony Bennett. Even Markelle Fultz signed such an extension, though he was traded to Orlando first.

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The 123-90 loss was a disastrous way to end the season for Phoenix for many reasons. With rumors of displeasure with the franchise’s star center, things could go from bad to worse for Phoenix very quickly.