The Indiana Pacers are reportedly very close to giving former No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton an offer sheet, or acquiring him via sign-and-trade, according to Brian Windhorst Monday. If the Pacers were to give Ayton an offer sheet, the Suns would have two days to match Indiana’s offer, as the big man is a restricted free agent. If the Suns pass on matching the Pacers offer, Ayton is free to sign the offer sheet with Indiana to play there next season.
Per Windhorst, via ESPN:
“The Indiana Pacers have shown a lot of interest in Deandre Ayton this offseason. They now have salary cap space to offer him a contract. They had space before, but they had to wait until they completed the Malcolm Brogdon trade, which they just did over the weekend, and so effective now they have the cap space to sign Deandre Ayton outright to an offer sheet. … The league is waiting to see if Ayton signs it, as early as today.”
If Ayton does sign an offer sheet with the Pacers, it would put the Suns in a predicament. Though it was somewhat expected they wouldn’t bring Ayton back as the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement on what the big man was worth, there were reports Phoenix would try to use him in a trade package to get Kevin Durant from the Brooklyn Nets. But if Ayton signs an offer sheet with the Pacers, and the Suns match the offer, he won’t be eligible to be traded until Dec. 15, per CBA rules. If the Suns don’t match Indiana’s offer, they will then have lost Ayton for nothing, and their hopes of trying to acquire Durant would be severely diminished.
However, Windhorst also said that while the Pacers are in the position to sign Ayton outright, team owner Herb Simon doesn’t like doing offer sheets because he doesn’t like “hurting his fellow owners.” That leaves room for a potential sign-and-trade to be discussed by both sides.
A sign-and-trade would be beneficial for the Suns, because at least they wouldn’t lose Ayton for nothing. It’s unclear what the Pacers would be willing to give up in a sign-and-trade for Ayton, but it would make sense to send Myles Turner to Phoenix if Indiana is bringing in Ayton. Both players have similar skill sets, but Ayton has been far more productive over his career compared to Turner.
While no deals have been officially reported yet, if Ayton signs an offer sheet with the Pacers, it would force the Suns to make some tough decisions about their center. They can either match the offer sheet and retain him, or let him walk for nothing. While losing Ayton for nothing isn’t ideal, this is more about the Durant situation than anything else. There’s always the possibility the Durant saga gets dragged out into the season, and if the Suns retain Ayton, they could include him in a trade package after Dec. 15, but that’s a risky game of chance to play.