The Phoenix Suns’ season unexpectedly came to a screeching halt in the second round of the 2022 NBA Playoffs. The favorites to win the NBA Finals coming into the postseason after finishing with the best record in the regular season were eliminated in seven games by the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Semifinals.

With their quest for the Larry O’Brien Trophy now over, the Suns will turn their attention to their offseason plans. The No. 1 thing that they will have to figure out is what to do with center Deandre Ayton.

Ayton and the Phoenix Suns were unable to agree to a rookie extension before the season, which has resulted in him being a restricted free agent this summer.

Ayton was looking for a max contract like his draft mates Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Michael Porter Jr. agreed to with their respective teams.

Suns’ ownership did not believe that Ayton was worth a max extension and did not budge off of that stance. As a result, no deal was made, clouding his future with the organization.

Ayton continued to play well this season and looks like someone that will garner a max contract from someone this offseason. If the Phoenix Suns are dead set on not paying him the max, there is a real chance that he does depart in free agency.

The Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers are two teams that have been linked to him most recently. The Pistons have the cap space to sign a player to a max contract this offseason and the Pacers connection goes back to the trade deadline when the framework of a deal involving Ayton and Domantas Sabonis was discussed.

Those are far from the only organizations that will check in on Ayton. Who are some dark-horse teams to keep an eye on?


Portland Trail Blazers

One dark horse team to keep an eye on is the Portland Trail Blazers. They can open up a ton of cap space this offseason and are looking to strike it big.

Signing Deandre Ayton to a max deal would provide the Trail Blazers with someone that can help them compete right away but also provide a building block for the future.

Lillard will be 32-years old when the regular season kicks off, so they need a future face of the Trail Blazers franchise which Ayton, who will be 24, can provide.