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On constructing an Ayton sign-and-trade with Rockets for Christian Wood

SB Nation’s Dream Shake and Bright Side negotiate trade terms for Ayton to Houston. Should the Suns side do it?

Phoenix Suns v Houston Rockets Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

We are three to four weeks away from knowing where Phoenix Suns restricted free agent Deandre Ayton will play next season. He and his agent David Falk are set to start taking free agent calls on June 30 at about 6pm eastern time. Ayton is looking for the maximum possible salary next season for player of his experience, which starts at about $30.5 million next year with raises each season thereafter.

The Phoenix Suns will either sign him to that contract right away, allow him to leave to another team or, more likely, negotiate a trade with the other team to get back some players to replace up to half of Ayton’s new salary slot.

You all know the how of trading Phoenix Suns restricted free agent Deandre Ayton this summer is complicated. He’s got that weird Base Year Compensation rule that basically prohibits the Suns from acquiring equal talent back in a trade of Ayton, but if they’re dead set on trading him the adage ‘something is better than nothing’ holds true.

It’s the why that continues to baffle me. Why would you would trade your youngest core player whose skillset is completely unique to the Suns and fairly unique in the game of basketball — three level defense + two level offense + budding third level of offense + really good playoff performer as a 22 year old.

That why is still a question for each individual to answer unto themselves, but rumors persist that the Phoenix Suns are interested in seeing what they can get for Ayton this summer in trade.

The trade offers will be limited, partly by the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between players and teams and partly because he wants so much money.

Yet, there are a handful of teams who have the cap flexibility and the need for young big man who would fit both a rebuilding timeline (he just turned 24) and a contender timeline.

This past weekend, I had a good discussions with Justin_DS, a blogger who covers the Houston Rockets with SBNation’s TheDreamShake.com.

The Rockets had the worst record in the league last year, so their rebuilding timeline is 2-4 years away from playoff contention. Unless, of course, they can make all the right moves this summer to speed up that effort.

In the exchange we hashed out what the Rockets can and cannot offer, and came to terms on a potential agreement centered around Christian Wood and a pair of prospects in return for Suns center, Deandre Ayton.

At the end, I’ll ask you for your take on the potential deal.

Here’s the email exchange...


Justin_DS, TheDreamShake.com:

It’s a pretty straight forward offer centered around Christian Wood and Eric Gordon for Ayton. Wood being a capable replacement big and Gordon being someone the Suns have tried to acquire in the past.


Dave King, BrightSideoftheSun.com:

So the weird thing about Ayton is his ‘base year compensation’ issue that only allows the Suns to take back roughly half of Ayton’s new salary. Let’s assume the Rockets are giving Ayton a full 4-year max (because he otherwise would not threaten to sign an offer sheet), the Suns can only take back just over $19 million.

Eric Gordon is out of the picture.

A trade could be Christian Wood for Deandre Ayton straight up from the Suns side, but then the Rockets can’t do that. The Rockets are over the cap and cannot send out less than $22.875 million in a trade to acquire $30.5 million. With that $3.6 million difference (Suns can’t take back more than $19.2 million, Rockets can’t send less than $22.875 million, and Wood makes less than $15 million himself), the Rockets would have to spin off the difference in player salaries to a third team who can take the player into cap space or a trade exception with nothing coming back but cash or pick(s).

I personally would not settle for just Wood in an Ayton trade, even if the Rockets figured out the third team thing. However, you could consider including someone like Sengun (which you probably wouldn’t) or Kevin Porter Jr. (which the Suns prob wouldn’t want) to the Suns to sweeten the pot before using a third team to take on whatever’s left. And still the Suns might not think it’s enough.

Frankly, it would have to look something like this:

—Suns get Wood, Sengun/Porter and a protected pick

—Third team gets David Nwaba

—Rockets get Ayton

Another iteration is working harder to make the Suns happy, if you really want Ayton in Rockets red and are not convinced Jalen Green is the future in Houston. Both the Suns and Rockets can add players as long as they continue dealing with the salary matching issue (Rockets MUST bring back 75% of what they send out, Suns MUST bring back only 50% of Ayton plus the trade rules buffer).

—Suns get Wood and Jalen Green ($23.7 million total)

—Rockets get Ayton and Torrey Craig ($30.5 + $5.1 = $35.6 total — meaning the Suns can take back $(15.25 + 5.1) + 25% = $25.4)

—Third team gets $3 million+ in player(s) from Rockets into their cap space or a trade exception


Justin_DS, TheDreamShake.com:

I think we can agree that Wood would be the main headliner going to Phoenix in a deal for Ayton. He’s certainly skilled and it’s likely that he’d get his talent maximized playing with a distributor such as Paul. He likely won’t ever command the same amount of money as Ayton does and I think that would be more aligned with Phoenix’s management because if not, Ayton would have been extended long ago.

Jalen Green should be considered off the table and I don’t see Houston parting with Porter Jr. unless it’s for an established floor general. Of course a majority of the Rockets’ interest hinges on who they take in the draft and with it trending that we go with Paolo Banchero in most mock drafts, I’d say Sengun has become more dispensable for the right price. So assuming that Banchero or Jabari Smith is the pick later this month I think it’s fair to offer the following:

—Rockets get: Ayton (sign him to new contract. First year is roughly $30.2)

—Suns get: Wood, Sengun and a 2023 Bucks 1st rounder

—OKC gets: David Nwaba and a 2024 Rockets 2nd rounder

How does this sound?


Dave King, BrightSideoftheSun.com:

That’s interesting. I don’t think the draft compensation is good enough — the Bucks pick will be much lower than the Rockets pick, and you were likely to lose Wood in a year anyway if you go big in the draft with Banchero.

Might have to include a protected Rockets first, like top-5 or top-8 protected.


Justin_DS, TheDreamShake.com:

Anything dipping into the top 10 is probably too steep of a price given that Ayton might just become available as an UFA next year. If anything, just let us know what feedback you get from the post and we’ll see if there are other tweaks to be made from there.


So there you have it, folks.

Phoenix Suns v Houston Rockets Photo by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images

The 27-year old Wood is tall (6’10”), talented and likes to dunk and shoot threes, which some Suns fans would say is all that’s needed to improve on Ayton. He already produces stat lines that rival Ayton’s.

But he would also be on his 7th NBA team in 8 years, including one year where he was out of the league entirely. He wants to win, according to his twitter, but he doesn’t have the greatest attitude and could now be let go by the worst team in the league twice in a row (Detroit first, now Houston).

Phoenix Suns v Houston Rockets Photo by Logan Riley/NBAE via Getty Images

The 19-year old Sengun is an interesting young prospect. At 6’9” he’s like a young Dario Saric with a little better athleticism. He doesn’t stretch the floor quite yet, but is a heady big who can pass, shoot, rebound and shows the ability to defend a bit.

Here’s the Ringer’s Kevin O’Conner talking about Sengun being the steal of the 2021 Draft.

As a 19 year old rookie for the Rockets this past year, and one of four first round picks on the team, Sengun did pretty well. He averaged basically a 10/5/2.5/1/1 line in only 20 minutes per game.

The Suns won’t be betting better in any Ayton trade, due to the salary matching rules I mentioned above. So the best they can hope for is a high level young player or two that can either stick with the team or be spun off in a bigger trade to reset the top end of the Suns roster.


Would you make this trade?

  • Suns get Christian Wood, Alperen Sengun and the 2023 Bucks pick (or maybe a top-10 protected Houston pick)
  • Rockets get Deandre Ayton
  • Thunder get David Nwaba and a future Rockets second rounder to make the money work

Poll

Would you make this Ayton trade with the Rockets?

  • 36%
    Yes
    (373 votes)
  • 63%
    No
    (640 votes)
1013 votes total Vote Now