Suddenly, what seemed like a done deal might not be so easy anymore. Although the Phoenix Suns are still expected to retain standout center Deandre Ayton during his free agency period this summer, his tense exit in a Game 7 collapse had the rumor mills churning all over Twitter.
Ayton logged just 17 minutes in an embarrassing home loss that sent the Suns packing early and had the world scratching its collective heads. After the game, it was revealed there was an altercation on the sidelines that led to him being benched for good.
The Suns can still match an offer for their coveted center over the offseason, but there's a growing belief among some NBA media that such a scenario shouldn't be thought of as set in stone. As it stands, ESPN projects the San Antonio Spurs, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, and Orlando Magic as teams with the necessary cap space to sign Ayton to an offer sheet. Portland could also join that group if they waive Josh Hart by June 25th.
I know Twitter can be extremely reactive in real-time, but still, there were a few established writers and NBA insiders expressing real doubts about Ayton continuing with Phoenix next season.
Even Suns star Devin Booker's answer to a question about Ayton raised some eyebrows.
The consensus remains among most that the Suns will figure out a way to keep their center who's started for them over the past four seasons, even if it means giving him the max deal they didn't offer before.
The door is at least cracked open for the Spurs
As I covered earlier this month, a league source recently said the Suns would be more than comfortable paying deep into the luxury tax as long as its roster is competing for championships. Well, they've now been beaten soundly by the 4th seed despite a franchise-best 64 wins in the regular season.
With the need to spend more money for contracts soon, the question of how much Phoenix is willing to spend for Ayton is very much up in the air. They were considered favorites by many to get back to the NBA Finals, but they took a significant step back by not even making the final four.
While I saw many takes from Spurs fans about not wanting Ayton given his poor series performance and confrontation with Monty Williams, that seems a bit like a knee-jerk reaction. He's still barely going to be 24 years old and has been a nightly double-double for four years running. Let's not forget why he finished in second place in our ultimate wish list rankings for this summer.
Of course, everything can change if the Spurs strike it big in Tuesday's NBA Draft Lottery and sneak into the top four, but with that scenario only having a one-in-five shot, it's time to pay some real attention to the developments in Phoenix. It might not be as cut as dry as it always seemed.