the Phoenix Suns They are currently suffering their worst loss in three years, having lost 16 of their last 21 games, while the majority of their preferred playing rotation is out with injuries/outs. They finished 10th today, just a match from 13th but also only a match from 6th in it narrow Western Conference mid-season.
Emotions are tense. The players attack the coaches, and the coaches get frustrated with the players. A lot of that comes off with wins, but the Suns don’t win anything.
It’s time to change the core of the team, even if they are all healthy in the next two weeks. Suns has less than four weeks before the February 9 trading deadline, and today another big asset is eligible to trade.
Phoenix Suns Center Deandre Ayton qualifies for day tradingAnd, while he still has veto power over the way he’s carried himself this year, you might expect him to welcome any trade that comes his way.
I’m prepared for the Suns to trade Deandre Ayton if they can bring back an All-Star who can help move the Suns deep into the 2023 playoffs. In the current recovery schedule, everyone but Jay Crowder is expected to be back in the lineup in two weeks. If the Suns can mix up a little talent with a big deal, they’ll have over 30 games to find their mojo and hit the playoffs playing their best basketball.
Current business assets include role players Dario Sarek, Jay Crowder, and Landry Shamet, as well as every upcoming first-round draft pick.
Ayton outperforms those assets by a wide margin.
According to collective bargaining rules, maximum-salary Ayton was ineligible to be traded until the day, January 15th, after the Suns matched a four-year offer sheet he had signed with Indiana Pacers To get the second contract he’s been wanting since the day he was drafted #1 overall in 2018.
Famously, while making the media rounds ahead of the 2018 draft, Ayton said that being successful in the NBA is “getting to my second decade; This is a success.” He was widely ridiculed for this comment because he failed to say the “be the best player in the league” or “win a championship” that every prospect says when asked a softball question. Instead, he openly admitted his longevity desire to make money*.
* Let’s be honest, readers. He is not mistaken. We all want longevity to make money. We just don’t say it out loud when asked in a job interview. Don’t say “good enough to keep getting paid!”. But we still want it, and it’s still the driving force for almost every adult decision we make.
In the same conversation, he indicated his desire to be a role model for the people of the Bahamas.
“It would be a huge blessing,” Ayton told ESPN in 2018, “having that chip on your shoulder and carrying a nation behind me. It’s a great opportunity to show the people of the Bahamas, we’re not just a country of athletics athletes.” [fellow Bahamian and Sacramento Kings guard] Friends HieldAnd [Michigan State guard] Tom Tom [Nairn], they respond too. It’s huge to be a part of that.”
In the four years since joining the Suns on a $40 million junior contract, Ayton has quietly given significant time and money to causes that help his Bahamian people. And when he signed a $133 million contract for the next four years, he was proud that he could now provide a generational fortune for his family and continue his good work.
“This is a blessing,” Ayton said. Andscape from ESPN In a telephone conversation after signing his contract. “This decade not only has a generational effect on my family, but also the way we can function in our Phoenix community and our home in the Bahamas. These are the things we go through.”
He has moved many of his family and friends to the Phoenix area over the past four years, and he often mentions huge family dinners every Sunday, or whenever available during the season. He’s been enjoying time with his son, who was born for nearly two years now, and is constantly sharing photos and videos of the two together on social media. His girlfriend and son are often at home games as well, and he always makes time for private interactions with his son during the pre-game warm-up an hour before warning. Off the court, Ayton has certainly made the most of his NBA career.
But in court, it was Ayton’s study of self-preservation that could easily have been predicted – and it was by many – in 2020.
Ayton’s carefree attitude never sits well with star Devin Booker, who sets standards for dedication to improving his craft.
During his 8-year career, Bock blossomed from a sharp-shooting sixth man type to a major league MVP nomination. Book finished 4th in MVP voting for the 2021-22 season and was in the top 5 this year until he was injured in early December.
Ayton’s attitude also angered Chris Paul, who made a career out of urinating his best big men by year three everywhere he went, and coach Monty Williams, who has gone on record numerous times that Ayton’s centered offense “isn’t the way we play”.
Meanwhile, Ayton 2023 looks a lot like rookie Ayton 2018 again. The skill set Ayton has been displaying this season basically matches the skill set he had when entering the league. He’s relegated back to playing mostly Matador-level defense, settling for long-range jumpers who rumble off the back edge, eschewing physicality when the ball is in his hands, and receding from any idea of leading the team through stretches where he’s far the best player. In the list of active Suns. He seems more interested in the shots he gets than the shots he stops.
Of course, 2018-19 is not the same as 2022-23. Rookie Ayton faced mostly uninterested opponents playing straight defense in an easy win over a terrible Suns team. Year five Ayton faces focused opponents with game-planned defenses that throw three-teams at him every time he catches the paint. The fact that he backs away under pressure is as much a blemish on Ayton as it is on his player development coaches. Correction, more on Ayton but at least some on how he trained over five years.
Unfortunately, the Ayton we are watching today are matches
above Right down to the profile his critics slapped him on for years.
flexible. Snaps for the easiest way out of the play. He refuses to fight.
And that really frustrates me, as a longtime advocate of Ayton. For supporters like myself, he has progressed tremendously in other areas during the third and fourth years of his career. He’s become a really good and proud defender, and has anchored one of the best defenses in the league. His ability to compete in shots in the paint without fouling was a key part of the Suns’ ability to ‘shut off the water’ whenever they really needed it. His nimble feet allowed him to compete in shooting and contain big ball coaches on the perimeter as well. He becomes connected to audio cues as the back line of defence, helping perimeter defenders know which way to aim and what shots will appear on them. In 2020-21, the Suns were ranked sixth in defense during the regular season and improved to third in the playoffs during the Finals. In 2021-22, they finished third in defense during the record-setting regular season before falling to #14 in the playoffs.
By the end of the 2022 playoffs, all of Ayton’s progress had vanished, and a new low point had been discovered—his coach accused him of resigning from the team in the midst of a 30-point loss to the Mavericks that would end the Suns’ title hopes.
Then came the contentious contract negotiations in July 2022. He still wanted a five-year extension max ($173 million over 5) and the Suns still wouldn’t hand him over. So free agency started and he had to go out and find someone else to do the best he could do ($133m over 4). Finally, the Pacers played along, only to see the Suns quickly match the bid and keep Ayton anyway.
“I understood this was a business,” Ayton told Landscape when he signed. “So, I was more anxious to know the bottom line so I could focus and move on and get back to work. I took everything like a business. Just keep being professional, handle everything professionally and don’t look too deeply into it.”
Treating everything as a business can take away from your loyalty. Oh, and he’s a great friend to many of them, including Booker, Bridges, Johnson, Payne, and more. Their bond will last forever.
But when it comes to the coaches and the Suns front office, you can imagine by his play that his loyalty to them has waned in the wake of their longstanding loyalty to him. He no longer constantly talks about being that defensive anchor. He no longer speaks proudly of not getting the ball enough, and his picks and rosters create space for others to stand out, even if it’s not him.
Recently, Ayton and Monty Williams could be seen leaving the road circuit in a very busy discussion, which was later described loosely as wanting more shots but being told he couldn’t get them if defenses were getting them soaked in the paint every time. . Two or three on him means one or two teammates can take and make an easier shot.
Ayton’s touches have risen since Devin Booker was on the injured list with a sore thigh on December 18, but his production is much the same.
- Before Book Lands: 29 minutes, 17 points (62% FG, 12 FGA, 2.8 FTA), 9.5 rebs, 2.2 Assists, 2.0 TO, .8 Blocks, with a +0.2 plus minus compared to Bridges +4.2 and Book’s +4.6
- Since the book touchdown: 31 minutes, 18 points (51% FG, 15.3 FGA, 2.6 FTA), 10.7 rebs, 1.9 assists, 2.4 TO, .5 Blocks, with -6.9 plus minus compared to Bridges’ -5.9 and Paul’s -6.9
- Overall: +2 minutes, +1 point (-12% FG, +3.3 FGA, -0.2 FTA), +1.2 rebs, -0.2 assists, +.4 TOs, -.3 Blocks.
The takeaway: It’s the same iTunes no matter what. He won’t advance if he’s the focal point, but he’s more productive if he’s surrounded by all the stars. See Kyle’s article a few days ago for details on Ayton’s ranking this year in gross production among the big men, and you’ll see he’s not up to the stars but he ranks pretty well for his salary.
The other takeaway is my GOD, the team is pretty bad without Book. Take him out of the lineup and the team won’t be able to put together any real consistent positive play. Without Booker, including his four-minute stint on Christmas Day, the Suns lost 13 of their next 16 games.
Ayton is now eligible for trading.
If this past month has told us anything, it’s that no one in The Suns, including Ayton, can step in for Booker if he’s out. Last qualifier, Chris Paul went up for one round against the Pelicans, but that seemed to drain every last bit of 37-year-old Paul’s magic. She’s gone now.
Now there is no one left to lead the sun into the future from Devin Booker. Booker can do it — he’s led the team without Paul, Johnson or Crowder to a 15-6 record in the West to start the year before injuries hit — but he needs help and the Suns need a new insurance policy and the threat of secondary dismissal once the playoffs are a success.
What the sun needs is a second, fresh banana.
And if it takes trading Deandre Ayton to get this guy, do it.
Because I’ve seen everything I need to see here – Ayton can help you win the championship if he’s involved and nothing more than the third best attacking option on your team. But don’t expect him to lead a team through bad times.
Even worse, he appears to be mentally checked on the Suns, while simultaneously appearing to star Chris Paul and Monty Williams as equals. They will certainly continue to continue as long as necessary, but that is a “should” not a “want to”.
Starting today, it’s easier to trade Ayton than at any time since Suns made 2021 NBA Finals 18 months ago. He got a clean price of $30 million, which is the minimum price for a second-banana rookie rookie the Suns need.
Being able to trade Ayton—still only 24 years old, on a long-term contract, highly productive and still with a very high ceiling—may be essential to catching big fish.
Now James Jones’ job is to get that fish.