Zion Williamson is back and in better shape than ever. Meaning one of the most uniquely unstoppable forces in NBA history is in better physical condition than he has ever been. Combine that with joining a roster that proved they were a playoff team without him, and you have the recipe for an MVP season.
Far-Fetched Friday: Deandre Ayton Played His Last Game With the Suns
By: Khaqan Khan
Lost in the disarray of the Sun's embarrassing loss in game 7 against the Dallas Mavericks was the fact that DeAndre Ayton got benched in the second half. When asked to explain the decision after the game, Head Coach Monty Williams told reporters, "it's Internal," Is this the dramatic climax to the drama that started after last year's finals appearance? I think it is. I believe DeAndre Ayton played his last game with the Phoenix Suns.
Welcome back to Far-Fetched Friday, where every Friday we give you a bold prediction that we believe will come to fruition. This Friday, we look at a basketball team and a disgruntled young star.
One of the most unexpected storylines of last year's off-season was Phoenix not rewarding DeAndre Ayton with a rookie extension after playing a pivotal role in the Sun's run to the finals. Phoenix fans finally got to enjoy playoff basketball after so long, but before they could rest in that peace, they were reminded that Robert Sarver is still the owner. Sarver has a well-documented history of being frugal, constantly trading picks and players for Cash. However, as this past season played out, I got the sense the decision to not pay Ayton was more than Sarver trying to save money.
We all fell in love with Ayton during last year's playoffs. Here was a former 1st overall pick with gobs of potential who couldn't seem to get a break finally started to put things together and became a driving force for his team's success. Why not pay him?
He doesn't get paid, and next thing you know Suns have the best record in the league and are title favorites. Pay him!
Unfortunately, the perception of Ayton overshadows his inconsistent play and the value of his role.
Ayton posted 17.3 points and 10.2 rebounds per game this season, but the Suns' defense didn't perform at a high level with him on the court (2.3 points per 100 possessions, according to NBC Sports). In the playoffs, Ayton only had a few max contract quality performances, posting 28 points and 17 rebounds in Game 3 of the Suns-Pelicans first-round series and a 25/8 performance in Game 1 of the Suns-Mavs series.
So what is the value of a center if it's not Embiid or Jokic? If your team functions around its guard play, then why do you need to overpay for a screen setting, rim running center? Javale McGee and Bismack Biyombo could do the essentials for 20 million dollars less. Now I'm not saying they should run it back with McGee and Biyombo, but the NBA has proven you can get impactful centers at affordable contracts. Biyombo's per 36 averages are 15 points and 12 rebounds per game, comparing favorably to Ayton's 21 and 12. The Warriors, another guard-dependent ball movement team, won multiple championships with Kevon Looney and Javale McGee, but then again, they had Draymond Green, a generational defensive player.
The case I'm not making is Ayton is undeserving of an extension. He has proven he can use his athletic frame and skill set to help his team win. He has shown his willingness to sacrifice on the offensive end. What I am trying to say is that it's not as simple as just rewarding him with a big contract, especially if you feel like he is replaceable. On one hand, it's frustrating as a Suns fan to see a long-waited contending core get disrupted over not wanting to pay a guy. On the other hand, maybe reallocating Ayton's money to bolster the rest of the team is the smart-gutsy move that will prolong the Sun's success? For Ayton, he would love to stay home, but he would also love to get paid and get a bigger offensive role to show what he can do. I bet he's also tired of being yelled at by Chris Paul and Devin Booker.
If the Suns won't pay him, then somebody will.
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