• Deandre Ayton's relationship with the Phoenix Suns has been rumored to end soon
  • Ayton could do one of three things this summer
  • The Suns could be closer to keeping Ayton than expected

The Phoenix Suns’ season was surprisingly cut short by the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals, and they are now facing an offseason of uncertainty after the storyline surrounding Deandre Ayton’s future.

The 2018 first overall pick was reported to have been at odds with this season’s NBA Coach of the Year Monty Williams because of his role within the Suns' offense.

When asked by the media about their supposed spat, Williams simply replied that it was “internal” and that moment spawned the speculation about whether Ayton will be staying within The Valley.

Suns fans, in particular, have been closely monitoring Ayton’s relationship with the front office after both sides failed to come to terms on a contract extension this past summer that saw fellow 2018 draftee Mikal Bridges sign a four-year, $90 million rookie extension.

Ayton, 23, was asking for a five-year, max contract similar to other top picks in the draft like that of Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic and the Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young, but general manager James Jones and team owner Robert Sarver were not willing to do so out of concern for his commitment to the game.

Because of this, Ayton can opt to do one of three things this offseason: sign whatever deal the Suns offer him and run it back with All-Stars Chris Paul and Devin Booker, sign the qualifying offer, or force a sign-and-trade situation.

With how several rumors have emerged in the past few weeks, the first option seems like a near impossibility at this point.

However, it would give Ayton some sense of financial security and a chance to make amends with the franchise.

Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton
JUNE 30: Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns celebrates with teammates Deandre Ayton #22 and Chris Paul #3 following the team's series win against the LA Clippers in Game Six of the Western Conference Finals at Staples Center on June 30, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Signing the $16 million qualifying offer basically means he would be betting on himself to become such an undeniable force of nature that any team that wants him would have to pay him the max.

The sign-and-trade situation is a bit trickier in this regard because of how limited other teams are in their ability to offer Ayton a suitable contract.

Among the three, it still seems that the first scenario is still the likeliest to happen just because of the scarcity of teams that can offer Ayton a max this offseason.

Since news broke out of Ayton’s unwillingness to re-sign with the Suns, fans have been split down the middle between wanting to keep him and wanting to trade him elsewhere.

At this point, the Suns' front office has to consider whether losing Ayton is a net positive or negative for their team.

As it stands, Phoenix has no center on board for next season since both JaVale McGee and Bismack Biyombo were signed just for this season, plus there is no other center on the free-agent market that can produce like Ayton at his age.

While the NBA has yet to announce when free agency will officially begin, many presume that it will start on June 30 at 6:00 PM ET.

The Suns' front office, led by Jones, will be working overtime to consider the pros and cons of both keeping and moving Ayton as they look to bounce back after a disappointing end to their franchise-best season.

Whether Ayton knows it or not, both sides need each other in order to succeed as they have proven last season by forcing their way into the NBA Finals thanks to an improbable run that featured his unforgettable dunk against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns
Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns slam dunks against the Dallas Mavericks during the second half of Game Two of the Western Conference Second Round NBA Playoffs at Footprint Center on May 04, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Mavericks 129-109. Christian Petersen/Getty Images