Is DeAndre Ayton worth the max?

DeAndre Ayton
DeAndre Ayton, Credit: NBA

In 2018, the Phoenix Suns selected DeAndre Ayton with the first overall pick. Taking him two spots before Luka Doncic and four spots before Trae Young. Ayton had a rough start to his career, but he has blossomed into one of the league’s premier young centers. Ayton’s 2020 playoff run showed how valuable he can be to a playoff team. Ayton averaging an extremely efficient 15.8 points per game, with fantastic rebounding and mostly good defense (he struggled against Giannis in the finals, but who doesn’t). Due to this, DeAndre Ayton is looking for the max.

Come 2021, Ayton is expected to have an even bigger role for the defending western conference champions. DeAndre Ayton is eligible for the rookie max. The max comes in at 5 years, $172.5 million. With boosts and bonuses that could push it to a total of $207 million. So far Ayton’s camp will not budge on anything less than the max, his peers have received the same contract why shouldn’t he?

Reasons to not resign

The Suns have reservations about giving Ayton the max, they have seen how quickly the landscape of the league changes, especially with Bigs. Big men who can’t knock down 3’s, or run an offense have seen their value quickly deteriorate. Even the league’s best defender, Rudy Gobert has had trouble staying on the floor due to his offensive inabilities. The modern NBA big has a new role in the game, and many teams are still figuring out how they view these players.

Ayton will need to add more to his game, we have already seen his a capable mid-range shooter. Ayton shoots above league average from within 5 feet, 5-9 feet and 10-14 feet, where he struggles is anything over 15 feet where he is below league average. Adding a reliable 3 point shot to his game, would do wonders for Ayton and help keep him on the floor during the playoffs. We have seen traditional bigs add the 3 to their game, from Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge and Brook Lopez.

Reasons to resign

Ayton’s rare combination of size and athleticism combined with a consistent deep ball would make him one of the league’s best centers. His defensive IQ and footwork also need improvement. Physically Ayton has the tools to be an elite center, who disrupts the middle and shuts down other teams bigs. Thus far he has shown flashes of greatness but those have been few and far between. Ayton’s best defense performance to date, came against the Lakers in the first round of last years playoffs.

The Lakers averaged 42.6 points in the paint per 100 possessions with Ayton on the floor, with Ayton on the bench that number ballooned to 58.5. Ayton held Anthony Davis one of the league’s best to a pedestrian 40% shooting when guarded by him. Davis shoots 40% on just jump shots when guarded by the rest of the league. If Ayton can continue to take these strides on the defensive side of the ball, he could become one the league’s best two-way players.


The Suns need to be careful how they approach this situation, Phoenix does not have a great reputation for taking care of their guys. Suns owner Robert Sarver has been the center of media attention multiple times, and not for the right reasons. The longer this story goes, the worse the trust gets between the players and ownership. Ayton of courses feels as though he deserves the max.

Ayton is the second most important player for the Suns future. The combination of Devin Booker and Ayton are the keys to success. The Suns need to make sure both players continue to play for this team. Otherwise we could see the Suns short run of success doom itself very quickly. While I understand the risks that come with giving Ayton a max contract, the upside far outweighs the risk of possibly losing Ayton to a team willing to pay him the max.

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