Suns’ Ayton became the second choice for a restricted free agency since 1985 – Arizona Sports

The Phoenix Suns made a qualifying bid for Deandre Ayton on Monday, making him the second-best overall pick for a restricted free agency since the birth of the NBA Draft Lottery in 1985.

Only Greg Auden, the infamous No. 1 seed for the Portland Trail Blazers, was not re-signed before he hit the restricted free agency. This paved the way for Kevin Durant to be drafted by the Seattle Supersonics at number two in 2007.

Odin did not play in his first season due to a knee injury. In Portland’s next two seasons, he averaged 9.4 points per game, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks.

For comparison, Eaton averaged 16.3 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists during his career in Phoenix.

Allowing the top pick to gain access to a restricted free agency is rare because teams will either extend the player or move on to acquire assets before the original starter deal expires.

The Suns front office chose not to give Ayton the maximum deal after his third season and the NBA Finals in 2021.

Other players who did not engage with the original team that drafted them, but avoided restricted free agency were: Markelle Fultz (Philadelphia 76ers, 2017), Anthony Bennett (Cleveland Cavaliers, 2013), Kwame Brown (Washington Wizards, 2001), Joe Smith (Golden State Warriors, 1995) and Pervis Ellison (Sacramento Kings, 1989).

Ayton can sign the qualifying bid and become an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season, while Suns have the decision to give the center the money they want, facilitate signing and trading or simply roll the dice and let them walk for nothing when the free agency opens on Thursday.

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