LAS VEGAS – Long-awaited news out of Phoenix traveled all the way to Las Vegas, where Ish Wainright is headlining the Suns’ NBA Summer League team.
But basketball could wait Thursday after he learned Phoenix Suns restricted free agent Deandre Ayton signed a four-year, $133 million max contract offer sheet with the Indiana Pacers, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who later reported the Suns matched the offer.
Breaking: Deandre Ayton has agreed to a four-year, $133M maximum offer sheet with the Pacers, his agents tell @wojespn.
The Suns have 48 hours to match the offer. pic.twitter.com/qjbnQyqfal
— ESPN (@espn) July 14, 2022
Ayton’s decision comes after months of speculation about whether he would remain in Phoenix, and no matter what comes next, Wainwright won’t lose an ounce of brotherly love for his Suns teammate.
“He’s going to make decisions for him and his family,” Wainwright said. “That’s my brother for life, and he’s one heck of a player. So whatever decision he makes, I’m sure it will be best for his family and kids.”
Ayton’s offer sheet from the Pacers marks the largest in NBA history. If the Suns hadn’t matched the offer within 48 hours, it would have surpassed the previous largest offer sheet not matched by the original team in 2016 when Golden State let Harrison Barnes sign with the Dallas Mavericks for $94.4 million.
Ayton is no stranger to the Arizona area. In his junior year of high school, Ayton transferred to Hillcrest Prep Academy. From there, he attended the University of Arizona, winning honors for Pac-12 Player of the Year and being named consensus first-team All-American.
Following his collegiate success, the Suns selected Ayton first overall in the 2018 NBA Draft. He was an integral piece to the Suns’ NBA Finals run in 2021 – the franchise’s first appearance since 1993.
“He knows Phoenix is home, and I’m proud of him and what he’s done not only this season but overall,” Wainwright said.
Ayton averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds this past season, shooting a career-high 63.4% from the field and 74.6% from the foul line. The center’s improvement helped lead the Suns to a league-best 64-18 in the regular season.
Ayton played only 17 minutes in the Game 7 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2022 Western Conference semifinals. After the game, when asked about the decision after the game, Suns coach Monty Williams said, “It’s internal.”
The Phoenix Suns opted not to meet Ayton’s asking price of a max contract this past offseason. The organization’s decision led to heavy speculation about Ayton’s future.
This move could also potentially eliminate Phoenix from the Kevin Durant sweepstakes. Ayton would have to consent to a trade to another team and Phoenix would be unable to trade the big man to Indiana before the 2023-24 season.
The Suns were reportedly Durant’s preferred trade destination, but many analysts feel it’s unlikely that Phoenix would have enough to package for Durant with Ayton out of the picture.