By not signing him to a contract extension, the Phoenix Suns made it so center Deandre Ayton will be a restricted free agent next month. And now they have an idea of who they may end up competing with for the former Arizona Wildcats star.
The Athletic is reporting that the Detroit Pistons are “heavily expected to pursue” Ayton, whom Phoenix took first overall in the 2018 NBA Draft. To help with that cause, on Wednesday Detroit traded forward Jerami Grant to the Portland Trail Blazers for draft picks while also giving it extra salary cap space.
Ayton, who played at the UA in 2017-18 and was the Pac-12 Player of the Year, averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds for the Suns this past season.
Phoenix and Ayton failed to come to terms on an extension last October, with the Suns unwilling to offer Ayton a max contract worth $172.5 million over five seasons. That made him a restricted free agent, which means the Suns can match any offer made by another team.
The 7-foot-1 Ayton can still get the most by signing with the Suns, who could also make a qualifying 1-year offer that if he accepted would make Ayton an unrestricted free agent after the 2022-23 season.
Thursday’s NBA Draft, in which three Arizona players are expected to be taken, could shed further light on what Phoenix’s intentions are with Ayton.