Deandre Ayton is likely to leave the Suns this offseason (and Monty Williams may be okay with that on some level). Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers are interested, and the NBA rumor mill has Toronto, Detroit, Charlotte and other teams kicking the tires on a potential deal.
Add Atlanta to the mix, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report said on The Athletic’s NBA Show Podcast (hat tip Hoopshype).
“Atlanta is definitely another team that I’ve heard for Ayton. There’s one person I talked to pretty consistently who’s like convinced Ayton is the guy that Atlanta wants.”
Atlanta is looking for a second star to put next to Trae Young and draw pressure off him, but is Ayton that guy? Ayton averaged 17.2 points on 63.4% shooting last season, and grabbed 10.2 rebounds a game, but he doesn’t create his own shot, is not consistent, and is not an elite defensive rim protector.
Ayton is seeking a max contract extension (four years, $131 million from another team or in a sign-and-trade; the Suns could offer five years and $177 million) and Pheonix was not ready to commit to that before the season and doesn’t want to spend that much now. But if the Suns aren’t going to max Ayton out, some team likely will.
The other thing Fischer mentions with Ayton is that he likely moves in a sign-and-trade, which makes sense because the Suns aren’t going to let a former No. 1 pick walk about the door for nothing.
The Hawks, Raptors, Trail Blazers and other teams don’t have the cap space to sign Ayton to an offer sheet outright, so it would have to be a sign-and-trade. The only real threat to try and offer Ayton the max with their cap space is Detroit, and Phoenix has the right to match any offer and can threaten to do just that if the Pistons don’t work out a deal.
One way or another, bet on Deandre Ayton being in a new home next season. The only question is where.