In the Phoenix Sun’s season-ending Game 7 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, everything that could’ve gone wrong did. The Suns were simply outclassed from buzzer to buzzer, and their franchise-record 64 wins were all for naught as they exited the playoffs after two rounds.
Out of the many Suns player who had a rough Game 7 outing, Deandre Ayton’s performance raised a good deal of questions. In 17 minutes of action, Ayton finished with five points and four rebounds on 2-5 shooting from the field. Ayton’s 6’11 frame and 7’6 wingspan would’ve been an advantage against a Mavericks team that had no answers for a player like Ayton who can score on the inside and dominate the gas.
When Coach Monty Williams was asked about Ayton’s minutes, he gave an answer that led to more questions about Ayton’s future with Phoenix. The former No. 1 overall pick of the 2018 NBA Draft is headed into restricted free agency after his representation, and the Phoenix front office couldn’t agree to a long-term extension. Which reportedly led to some tension between Ayton and the front office.
Monty Williams on Deandre Ayton only playing 17 minutes tonight: “It’s internal.”— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) May 16, 2022
According to multiple reports, Ayton and Williams had a few words after the Suns head coach benched him shortly into the second half. The Suns didn’t come out of the break with the necessary sense of energy, allowing the Mavs to raise their lead to as much as 46 points.
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.
When Devin Booker was about Ayton’s contract negotiations, he didn’t necessarily give his long-time teammate a resounding endorsement or demand that Phoenix re-sign the former Arizona Wildcat.
“His contract situation is between him and the front office. I care about him as a brother. Just making sure his mental is right…whatever happens, happens. Kind of hard to look so far in the future.” – Devin Booker on Deandre Ayton’s contract situation— Gerald Bourguet (@GeraldBourguet) May 16, 2022
The Suns running it back with a similar roster might be the best plan; perhaps add another All-Star level playmaker to help alleviate the pressure off Devin Booker and Chris Paul from having to create shots for their teammates and themselves
Both participants of the 2021 NBA Finals are eliminated from the playoffs after Phoenix and the Milwaukee Bucks lost their respective Game 7s on Sunday.