Salary cap rules, more than loyalty or respect, could keep Ayton with Phoenix Suns

We don’t know what the Phoenix Suns will do this summer, but the hottest topic is and will continue to be Deandre Ayton’s status with the team.

Ayton’s contract expires on June 30, at which time he will become a restricted free agent (RFA). Ayton can test out the free agent market in search of that max-level contract the Suns were reluctant to offer a year ago.

Folks are stressed about the word ‘max’ but keep reading.

As an RFA, Ayton’s agent, Bill Duffy, can shop him to other teams in the hopes they will make an offer that Ayton wants to accept. From another team, the maximum he can get is 25% of the projected 2022-23 salary cap, with 5% raises, up to four years in length:

  • 2022-23: $30,250,000
  • 2023-24: $31,762,500
  • 2024-25: $33,275,000
  • 2025-26: $34,787,500

Total: Four years, $130,075,000

The $30 million salary would make Ayton somewhere around the 35th highest paid player in the NBA in 2022-23. In Suns terms, that’s behind Devin Booker, just ahead of Chris Paul and well ahead of anyone else.

The Suns would have two business days or until July 8, whichever is later, to match that offer and keep Ayton under those terms. Or, they could decline to match and let him sign with the new team outright.

It’s important to understand context here: that $30 million would place Ayton in the mid-thirties on the list of NBA salaries, from highest to…

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