Author: Dean Carr
Last Updated: July 15, 2022
The Kevin Durant sweepstakes have halted the progress of a number of deals throughout the NBA during the offseason.
When an all-time great player requests a trade, it is only natural for the other 29 teams in the league to do their due diligence and assess whether or not they can put together a trade package enticing enough to add them to their team.
The Durant bombshell created seismic waves throughout the league, but in turn saw other deals pushed to the side while teams decided if they should pursue the 12x All-Star. One player who was left waiting longer than they would usually expect is Phoenix Suns center DeAndre Ayton, who was a restricted free agent and one of the bigger names on the market this summer.
The first overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, Ayton has averaged 16.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game across his four seasons in Phoenix and played a key role in their run to the NBA Finals during the 2021 Playoffs. By re-signing their big man, the Suns are now in the unfamiliar position of finding themselves in the luxury tax, something that owner Robert Sarver has been reluctant to do in the past.
It is a cost that comes with avoiding losing the asset for nothing and the offer sheet presented by the Indiana Pacers has in fact saved the franchise money, compared to what they could’ve paid last year. In the summer of 2021, Ayton was eligible for a five-year, $175m deal, but the Suns held out, believing that he was not a max player and instead renewed Mikal Bridges.
The Pacers’ offer sheet forced their hand perhaps sooner than what they would’ve hoped for, but it does leave them still having an additional asset in hand that is arguably one of the top five centers in the NBA. From a gambling perspective, this is a move that has boosted Phoenix’s odds.
That means only the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks at +600 have shorter odds than the Suns to win the title next season, while they are also tied at +650 with the reigning champion Golden State Warriors.
In turn, the Brooklyn Nets’ title odds have also shortened pretty significantly in the wake of Ayton’s new deal. The Suns were the favorites to trade for Durant this offseason in a deal which almost certainly would’ve been headlined by Ayton.
However, the terms of his re-signing denotes that he can’t be included in any trade until January and he can veto any trade offer between January and the trade deadline. Ayton is unlikely to wish to help the Suns in any way after leaving him in limbo with regards to a new contract last season and that makes the likelihood of Durant being traded to Phoenix far more unlikely until next summer at the earliest. A deal centred around Ayton, Bridges and Cam Johnson was one of the best potential proposals on the market but the Suns are now likely to stand pat.
The need to retain Ayton became even more imperative after Phoenix lost their backup big JaVale McGee, who left to accept a starting role with the Dallas Mavericks on a three-year contract. They will be relying on Bismack Biyombo and Dario Saric as their backup options in the front court as the latter makes his return from an ACL injury that ruled him out for the entire 2021-22 season.