This week’s reports continue to suggest that the Sun tanning and Deandre Ayton may be headed for divorce, with a sign-and-trade agreement being considered the most likely outcome. However, it remains unclear which teams will be Ayton’s best candidates in the restricted free agency.
Prior to last week’s draft, the Pistons were seen as a strong candidate to make a play for Ayton, but they landed Jalen Duren on draft night and commit to using most of their available cap-room to accommodate salary deposits, reducing the likelihood that they will seriously play for the former No. 1 overall pick.
On the latest episode of his Hoop Collective podcast, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said to keep an eye on Indiana. Pacers spoke to Phoenix about a possible deal with Ayton ahead of the February trading deadline (tip to Timothy Rapp of Bleacher Report).
Indiana would make sense as a landing spot for Ayton if the team trades the incumbent center Myles Turner† The Pacers have some flexibility in the limits and wouldn’t be as bothered by the base year compensation rule affecting Ayton, as some of his other suitors might be.
As a result of the base year compensation rule, Ayton’s incoming salary will count in full from a new team’s perspective (on a maximum wage contract, that would be about $31 million), while from the Suns’ perspective, the outgoing salary would only count by half. of that amount (about $15.5 MM).
That will make salary matching very challenging in some cases, but not for the Pacers, who have the maximum flexibility needed to meet Ayton’s new contract while spending less than the $24-25MM+ it would require. to meet the matching requirements.
Here are a few more rumors of possible landing sites for Ayton:
- The Timberwolves, who are believed to be looking for a rim protection center, are “another team to keep an eye on” for Ayton, Windhorst said on the aforementioned episode of his Hoop Collective podcast. The Wolves will be over the limit and should strike a sign-and-trade deal. It is unclear if they have the pieces necessary for such a move.
- The nets like Ayton, according to Chris Mannix of SI.com, who suggests Brooklyn could put together a package around Joe Harris† That would be extremely difficult, however, as acquiring a player via sign-and-trade would harden the Nets, who were expected to be well above the load. It’s hard to see how they can take such a step without leaving Kyrie Irving or Ben Simmons†
- The birds of prey have been mentioned as a possible Ayton suitor, but Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link) doesn’t believe there have been talks of Toronto taking over the big man.
- John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 (Twitter link) suggests that the imminent possibility of a Rudy Gobert trading can affect Ayton’s market as some teams in the impact center market prefer the Jazz star to Ayton.