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Crisis Averted: Deandre Ayton returning to Phoenix is a win for the Suns

The Suns avoided any worst-case scenario situation by quickly matching the Pacers’ offer sheet on Thursday.

NBA: Playoffs-Dallas Mavericks at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Deandre Ayton situation felt like it had been going on for a decade.

On the fourteenth day of his free agency journey, the Indiana Pacers awarded him with a 4-year maximum offer sheet.

It did not take long for the Suns to match. In fact, it will probably take you longer to read this far in the article than it did for Phoenix to formally match the offer sheet. It took them a grand total of three minutes of being “on the clock” to submit their decision to match.

The general public was quick to fire off the overreaction takes that the Suns got played by the Pacers, when in fact, the end result paints the picture that it was the complete opposite.

Even if the process was a bit unconventional, the Suns ended up right where they wanted to be.

January 15th is the key date now, should the Suns look to flip him down the road. He has a full no-trade clause for a year and cannot be traded to Indiana for a full year as well.

As our Dave King highlighted in this Ayton piece, here are the rules attached to this Ayton contract.

Ayton will now return to the Phoenix Suns and here are the rules:

All terms outlined in the offer sheet will be matched by the Suns. This includes $133 million over the next four years. Plus, any other terms in the sheet (such as player option years, trade kickers, and up front bonuses) will have to be matched by the Suns as well.

Ayton cannot be traded from the Suns until at least January 15, 2023

Even then, Ayton has veto power over any trade for a full year

Ayton cannot be traded to the Indiana Pacers under any circumstances for at least one full year.

Since that article was published, word has come out that there were no extras in the offer sheet at all. Just simply 4 years, all guaranteed, no options, no trade kicker, no extra up front.

Big Man Rotation

Despite losing JaVale McGee to the Dallas Mavericks this offseason, the Suns’ current big man rotation is as versatile and strong as ever.

Bigs: Deandre Ayton, Bismack Biyombo, Dario Saric, Jock Landale

Forwards/Wings: Jae Crowder, Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Torrey Craig, Josh Okogie, Damion Lee

Guards: Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Landry Shamet, Cam Payne

Taking a look at the bigs, Bismack will essentially serve as the JaVale replacement. Dario’s return gives them the floor spacing connector they missed at times last season, and Jock Landale will fill the Frank Kaminsky role.

They have just as much depth as last season, if not more, at this point thanks to Saric’s expected return. I, for one, am glad they are not solely relying on the Bismack/Jock/Dario trio logging all of the center minutes.

Nothing against those guys, but having Ayton in the middle just adds that level of comfort at the center position.

Free Agent Market

The free agent market is fairly thin at this point, as you can see in the list below there aren’t any needle-movers.

If they were to hypothetically lose Ayton for nothing (which was never a true option) then these would be the names they’d be choosing from.

  • Montrezl Harrell (has a felony charge and jail time hanging on him)
  • Dwight Howard
  • Juancho Hernangomez
  • Hassan Whiteside
  • DeMarcus Cousins

Yeah, I think it’s safe to say it’s a good thing that the Suns aren’t relying on their reserves and one of the bigs above to man the center position full-time for them.

Taking a look at the current roster, it doesn’t seem like the Suns will be adding a ton of free agents any time soon. They only have one roster spot as things stand, but of course, a trade for Kevin Durant could hypothetically open up four or five roster spots depending on how wild things get.

It’s been a wild journey to get here, and I don’t think the Ayton saga is “over” by any means, but it’s good to have him back on the Suns.