Can Suns, Ayton Put Tumultuous Free Agency Behind Them?

Phoenix Suns, Deandre Ayton, Chris Paul, NBA News
NBA Analysis Network

The Phoenix Suns had a great regular season winning an NBA-best 64 games, earning them the top seed in the Western Conference playoff bracket. However, the Suns did not have a playoff to remember as they lost to the Dallas Mavericks in seven games, despite leading the series 3-2.

After winning Game 5, 110-80 at home, Phoenix lost Game 6 113-86 in Dallas, setting up a decisive Game 7 at home in the desert.

Things did not go the Suns way as they trailed by 30 at halftime, losing 123-90 for the only road victory of the series, which eliminated the Suns, who expected to go further in the playoffs.

The Phoenix Suns entered the 2021-22 season as the reigning Western Conference Champions, reaching their first NBA Finals since 1993.

Entering this offseason, Phoenix had a decision to make to either change the mentality of the players or change the roster.

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The Suns went the former, by extending both Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. Booker received a four-year, $214 super max deal while Ayton signed a four-year, $133 million deal to remain in Phoenix.

“We wanted Deandre here,” Suns GM James Jones said. “He’s vital to what we do, at the core of everything that we do. And throughout this whole process it was, it rang true. We wanted to keep him here, and the moment we can come to an agreement, we would. So, waiting 24 hours, 48 hours, that wasn’t something we needed to do because going into it, we knew this is where he wanted to be and where we wanted him to be.

“I’m one to just be direct. And if you’re convicted, if you know what you want to do, you do it. But if there’s any doubt from anyone that we wanted him, I think that the matching did that. It was urgent for us. It was important. It was critical for us. So, we just wanted to make sure that we handled our business quickly.”

The Suns had some pressure to sign the 6-foot-11 center as Indiana put out an offer sheet for Ayton and Phoenix had 48 hours to either match or raise their price, which they did.

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During the Game 7 eliminating blowout loss at home, Deandre Ayton played just 17 minutes, scoring five points on 2-of-5 shooting and four rebounds. Ayton’s lack of shots and opportunities was vital in that game as no Suns player recorded more than 13 points.

“Game 7 was an anomaly,” Ayton said. “We let that get away from us as a team. That is all in the past. We’re going to look forward. We are going to move on.”

The mentality going into the 2022-23 season for the reigning NBA Coach of the Year Monty Williams and the Phoenix Suns has to be that last season was just a reality check rather than this team hitting the panic button a season ago.

However, if the Suns don’t make it to at least the Western Conference Finals next season, the Suns will be leaning on that panic button.

Although the Suns did not win the NBA Championship in 2021, they have the opportunity to follow the footsteps of their Pacific Division foes, the Golden State Warriors when they lost in the Finals to Cleveland in 2016 and signed a coveted free agent who helped them reach the top and hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy in 2017 and 2018.

LATEST NBA NEWS AND RUMORS: This Trade Trade Lands Kevin Durant With Phoenix Suns

That coveted player has also been on the market this summer in Kevin Durant, who requested a trade from Brooklyn four weeks ago.

If Phoenix were to acquire a player like Kevin Durant, who is a two-time NBA Finals MVP, it would not only elevate but change the Phoenix Suns’ confidence numerously heading into camp before the regular season begins in a few months for Chris Paul, Booker, and especially Deandre Ayton and the role Durant would play down low with a 7-foot-5 wingspan.

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