Suns GM: Team never had 'real negotiations' with Ayton
The Suns and Ayton failed to agree on a rookie extension ahead of Monday's deadline, making the 23-year-old one of a handful of players from the 2018 draft set to become restricted free agents next summer.
According to Jones, Phoenix never seriously considered the demands of Ayton's representatives.
"You talk about conversations, it was five-year max extension like the other peers, the other former No. 1 picks, and that's where the conversation started and ended," Jones said to The Athletic's Sam Amick.
The Suns last agreed on a rookie max extension in 2018 when Devin Booker signed a five-year, $158-million deal. The league's collective bargaining agreement limits teams to no more than two players on rookie max deals, meaning a similar deal for Ayton could have limited Phoenix's ability to attract other star players in the near future.
"It's disappointing that it was a five-year rookie max or bust or nothing to talk about, and we just didn't have real, substantial conversations," Jones added.
Jones says the Suns were willing to negotiate a three- or four-year max agreement with Ayton. However, the player’s agents told Amick that Phoenix never even made an informal offer of any type of max deal.
Jones was named Executive of the Year for helping construct the Suns roster that reached the 2020-21 NBA Finals. He and team owner Robert Sarver have been a focal point of criticism over the failed Ayton talks, but Jones says describing Sarver as cheap is "inaccurate."
"If you look at all the moves we've made and the things we've done, from the practice facility to the roster itself to acquiring Chris Paul, going and acquiring Jae Crowder, extending the guys that we have, that's not accurate," Jones told Amick.
Paul re-signed on a four-year, $120-million deal this summer that includes $75 million guaranteed, and both Mikal Bridges (four years, $90 million) and Cameron Payne (three years, $19 million) penned new contracts with the team. Landry Shamet also signed a $43-million pact with Phoenix.
Ayton and the Suns open the season on Oct. 20 against the Denver Nuggets, and Jones asserts that the team's starting center remains a vital part of the plan.
"The contract issue will have to be resolved another day," Jones said. "But our commitment to him and to winning, and his commitment to us and to winning, hasn't changed."