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With Ayton trade-eligible now, who might be interested?

The Phoenix Suns have some decisions to make.

Phoenix Suns v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

With Phoenix Suns max-contract center Deandre Ayton eligible to be traded as of today, it’s time to talk suitors.

The window is short — just 25 days between open eligibility and the trade deadline — so Phoenix Suns president of basketball operations and general manager James Jones will have to act quick if he chooses to act at all.

There’s also the tricky CBA quirk of Ayton having veto power during this trade window (and even through after the draft) over which team he goes to, and that already leaves the Indiana Pacers off the board since they’re the team he signed his offer sheet with; Indiana has to wait at least a year post-offer sheet.

How did we get to a point where a contending Phoenix Suns team might want to trade one of their best players? Dave King has that covered:

All that withstanding, there should be a number of teams interested in the big man’s services with plenty of appealing packages to be had. We’ll talk here about what those packages might look like.

Toronto Raptors

Pushing all the chips in for All-NBA forward Pascal Siakam would be a true shot at getting Devin Booker a running mate and true second star. In 33 games this season, Siakam is averaging 25.7 points (48/34/78 shooting), 8.2 rebounds, and 6.4 assists (2.6 turnovers) per game and is expected to be an All-Star out of the East.

There’s a real chance that without including Mikal Bridges or Cam Johnson, the package would take another first round pick or two, and that’s a price I’m willing to appease if it gets me Siakam next to Booker.

Plus, Siakam has one more year on his contract after this (at a similar number to Ayton), so it wouldn’t be a rental like someone like Kyle Kuzma for example would be (I won’t mention Kuzma here because I don’t believe Washington would be interested in Ayton, but I actually believe Kuzma would be very interested in sticking around in Phoenix long-term at a reasonable number, so in a way that’s a bad example).

Chicago Bulls

The Bulls don’t have the perimeter defense to survive a center like Nikola Vucevic the way the Suns do — adding Alex Caruso as well would help to insulate the bench’s perimeter defense too — so this trade-off makes sense, especially since having a popping big on offense could be more beneficial for Phoenix’s guard-reliant offense.

On the contract front, I like that Vucevic is only has one year left while Caruso has two since Caruso seems like the more surefire fit while I can see reasons why Vucevic wouldn’t, despite blistering shooting numbers for a 6-10 big at 37.7% on 4.4 threes per game.

A few outstanding suitors remain, but truth be told, the money situations of Ayton’s contract juxtaposed with opposing rosters make some of the matchmaking hard. That includes Charlotte, who by all appearances would be interested, but can really only make financial sense smoothly by trading Gordon Hayward, who has two years left of ~$31 million.

Orlando and San Antonio are two other suitors that make sense, but Orlando may prefer Wendell Carter Jr. at the center spot at this point while San Antonio would probably rather wait to see how the ping pong balls fall in their pursuit of Victor Wembanyama, who spent time in the ASVEL system in France, which Tony Parker is president of currently.

Three-team options will likely be out there as well; some have already been reported about involving Jae Crowder, and Ayton being eligible now as well could open up similar avenues. It is still a very short window, so I wouldn’t too eagerly await news, but that also ups the stakes, despite everything going on with the ownership transition.

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