The Phoenix Suns are expected to “aggressively” explore the trade market for center Deandre Ayton this coming offseason, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.
Ayton, who nearly left the Suns last offseason as a restricted free agent, reportedly would be excited about a fresh start at this stage in his NBA career.
“Ayton would be excited about a fresh start with another franchise, sources told ESPN,” MacMahon wrote. “The Suns are expected to aggressively explore the trade market for him this summer, league sources said.
“Although Ayton had a disappointing series against Denver — getting benched down the stretch of the Suns’ Game 3 win and frequently dominated by two-time MVP center Nikola Jokic — league sources expect several teams to show interest in acquiring the 24-year-old, who averaged 18.0 points and 10.0 rebounds per game this season.”
The Suns almost let Ayton walk last offseason, allowing him to sign an offer sheet with the Indiana Pacers in free agency before eventually matching it to keep him in Phoenix.
While the former No. 1 overall pick put up solid numbers in the 2022-23 regular season, he wilted in the Western Conference semifinals against Jokic.
Phoenix was knocked out of the playoffs on Thursday night, losing in a blowout at home. Ayton sat out of the game with an injury, leading to the team giving Jock Landale and Bismack Biyombo minutes at the center spot.
Ayton was held to less than 10 points in two games in the second round against the Denver Nuggets and failed to grab double-digit rebounds in all five games he appeared in during the series.
With Kevin Durant and Devin Booker entrenched as the team’s top offensive options, the Suns could look to move Ayton to bring more depth to the roster. Phoenix traded away key wing help in Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson in order to acquire Durant this season.
Phoenix took Ayton first overall in the 2018 NBA Draft, but he has not developed into the franchise cornerstone that the team was hoping for. He’s still a solid player, but the Suns’ decision to trade for Durant showed that they weren’t comfortable with Ayton as a top option behind Booker and Chris Paul.
With Paul aging, the Suns don’t have a huge window to win a title with this current core, and they’ve been embarrassed in elimination games in each of the last two seasons.
Paul might even be on his way out of Phoenix this summer.
It’s ‘pretty likely’ that Chris Paul will be playing for a different team next season 😳
(h/t B/R) pic.twitter.com/nEgtpBooEy
— NBACentral (@TheDunkCentral) May 12, 2023
For his career, Ayton averages 16.7 and 10.4 rebounds per game on 59.7 percent shooting from the field. It will be interesting to see how his trade market shapes up in the offseason.