After a flurry of deals in the opening few days of free agency, business has essentially ground to a halt as the league waits to see what happens with the Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving trade talks. That’s left a number of big names unsigned, including Deandre Ayton.
Perhaps no player has been impacted by the Durant trade request as much as Ayton. As a restricted free agent, the big man was always going to have a somewhat complicated summer, but the events of the last week have left him in total flux. Will another team give him an offer sheet? If that happens, will the Suns match? Could the Suns sign him and send him to the Nets in a trade for Durant? Might the Suns work out a sign-and-trade with a different team?
All of those questions remain unanswered but at a certain point, teams are going to have to move on and make some decisions regardless of what’s going on with Durant and Co. That breaking point could be in the next few days, as the Indiana Pacers have an interest in acquiring Ayton, according to Brian Windhorst.
“[Ayton] at some point is going to get paid, and that could be by the end of this week. The Indiana Pacers are seriously considering giving him an offer sheet. They’re also interested in negotiating a sign-and-trade with the Phoenix Suns for Ayton, potentially involving Myles Turner to be his replacement at center.”
In addition to his restricted status and the Durant trade request, another factor complicating matters for Ayton this summer is his insistence on getting a max deal. It’s perfectly reasonable for him to want to get paid, but some teams, including the Suns, aren’t convinced he’s worth that much. and there weren’t many teams with enough cap space to even make him that kind of offer this year.
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But after trading Malcolm Brogdon to the Boston Celtics, the Pacers now have the flexibility to do so, and apparently, see Ayton as their center of the future. While Ayton, still just 23 years old, fits the timeline of their young team, it would put them in a potentially tricky spot.
Between Ayton, Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield (assuming he doesn’t get traded), Chris Duarte, Bennedict Mathurin and Myles Turner (again, assuming he’s still on the team) there’s too much talent there for them to be one of the worst teams in the league and get in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes. At the same time, that might not even be a play-in team considering the depth in the Eastern Conference. Where do you go with a Haliburton-Ayton-Mathurin core?
In any case, it will be fascinating to see what happens with the Ayton situation, and the ripple effects it will have across the league.