NBA: Position-less era placing Ayton, Bagley III in a spot
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by Henry L. Liao
The 2021 NBA runner-up Phoenix Suns have given huge contract extensions to veteran stars Devin Booker and Chris Paul and extended big-enough rookie contract extensions to guard Landry Shamet ($43 million over four years) and forward Mikal Bridges (fully guaranteed four-year contract extension worth $90 million that will take effect in 2022-23) but left out the top pick in the 2018 NBA draft, Deandre Ayton, when the deadline for rookie contract extensions concluded at 6 this morning Manila time.
Ayton, the Suns’ 6-11 starting center, sought a rookie max contract extension identical to those given to Dallas’ Luka Doncic (No. 3 overall selection), Atlanta’s Trae Young (No. 5), Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (No. 11) and Denver’s Michael Porter Jr. (No. 14).
The max deal is worth $172.5 million over five seasons and can reach up to $207 million with various incentives.
In the case of the multi-dimensional 6-7 guard Doncic, the 22-year-old native of Slovenia is already assured of the landmark $207 million designated rookie supermax extension, having been named to the All-NBA First Team in each of the last two seasons in just three years in the league. The new deal includes a player option in the fifth and final years. Doncic will be paid $10.2 million in 2021-22 in the final year of his original rookie contract.
Ayton, a 23-year-old Bahamas native, is set to become a restricted free agent. He, together with those players from Draft Class 2018 without an extended deal, will be allowed to ink an offer sheet with another NBA team next summer but the Suns own the right of first refusal and can retain his services by matching the offer sheet. Last season, Ayton set an NBA all-time single-season playoff record for the highest field goal percentage, shooting .658 in 22 appearances with the Suns.
The No. 2 selection in the 2018 NBA grab-bag, Marvin Bagley III, also failed to snare a rookie contract extension with the Sacramento Kings.
It seems that big men like Ayton and Bagley III are becoming extinct in the position-less era of modern NBA.
Those players from the 2018 draft Class that were able to secure rookie contract extensions that are less than the maximum are Memphis’ Jaren Jackson Jr. (No. 4, four years and $105 million), Orlando’s Wendell Carter Jr. (No. 7, four years and $50 million), Atlanta’s Kevin Huerter (No. 19, four years and $65 million), Milwaukee’s Grayson Allen (No. 21, two years and $20 million) Shamet (No. 26), and Boston’s Robert Williams III (No. 27, four years and $54 million).
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