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On constructing an Ayton to Portland trade for Nurkic and a high draft pick

Portland Trail Blazers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

We two 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.

The Portland Trailblazers are one such team that has the flexibility to make an acquisition of Deandre Ayton in a sign-and-trade to join Damian Lillard, and now Jerami Grant.

Portland just acquired Grant on Wednesday, the day before the NBA Draft, in exchange for cap space and future draft pick(s). Grant is being absorbed into a trade exception, allowing the Blazers to simply take him on for basically nothing. Now Grant will be under contract with the Blazers for the next year, before becoming a free agent next summer.

Could Deandre Ayton join them?

I had an exchange with Dave Deckard, a master blogger with, who reached out to me to try to work out a trade for the Suns young big man.

Dave thinks he got a simple solution for the Suns:

  • Blazers receive a signed-and-traded Deandre Ayton for $30.5 million in 2022-23 and $130 million over four years
  • Suns receive a signed-and-trade Jusuf Nurkic (he’s projected to get something around $15-18 million per year) and the No. 7 overall draft pick. Dave even suggested Josh Hart or Nassir Little in the deal.

Okay, well, good try Dave. Sorry it’s not that easy.

The money won’t work, unless the Suns send more back. By just trading Ayton, the Suns can only receive up to $20 million back (it’s a little higher than other scenarios because Portland has cap space).

The Blazers price tags:

  • Nurkic — $15m plus
  • Hart — $12.96m
  • Little — $4.1m
  • No. 7 overall draft pick — $5.9m

So the Suns have to throw more money back to Portland, something like Landry Shamet and/or Torrey Craig.

I can construct trade package of

  • Blazers get Ayton, Shamet and Craig to Blazers
  • Suns get Nurkic, Hart/Little and whoever the Blazers pick for the Suns at No. 7 overall

Speaking of that No. 7 pick, let’s pretend the Suns have actually scouted the lottery level of the draft. According to leaks, the Suns at least interviewed if not also worked out Tari Eason, Jeremy Sochan and A.J. Griffin — all big, long wings. More on them here:

By picking at No. 7 the Suns would likely have their choice of all three players they’re said to have worked out personally or at least interviewed.

Here’s a screenshot of the lottery board:

The Suns could have their pick of a very nice young player to add to their core.

Wouldn’t it be funny if, after yet another backhanded slam by Kevin Arnovitz, the Suns show it was a smokescreen to ‘devalue the draft’ and take Jones’ highest pick yet?

What say you, Suns fans?


Would you trade Ayton/Shamet/Craig for Nurkic, No. 7 pick and another player?

This poll is closed

  • 36%
    Yes - with Hart as the other player
    (292 votes)
  • 11%
    Yes - with Little as the other player
    (91 votes)
  • 3%
    Yes - but skip Nurkic and get Hart and Little as the players
    (29 votes)
  • 48%
    No, none of that is good for the Suns!
    (383 votes)
795 votes total Vote Now

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