After five seasons in the Valley of the Sun, Deandre Ayton is no longer a member of the Phoenix Suns.
His name has recently been floated in numerous rumors and on Wednesday those rumors came to fruition. The first ever number one overall pick in Suns’ history is no longer with the organization as he has been traded with 2023 second round pick Toumani Camara in the Damian Lillard deal.
Lillard goes Milwaukee as part of a 3-team deal with Jrue Holiday, Deandre Ayton, Toumani Camara, a 2029 unprotected MIL 1st, and unprotected MIL swap rights in 2028 and 2030 to Blazers. Phoenix lands Jusuf Nurkic, Grayson Allen, Nassir Little and Keon Johnson. https://t.co/Ge0H91AiIA— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 27, 2023
It is the end to an argumentative era in Suns basketball. Few players have been as polarizing as DA in recent years, and while his departure leaves only Devin Booker on the roster that played for the 2021 NBA Finals team, it is probably for the best. At least for the psyche of the player and the fan base.
We will surely spend the next few days discussing whether or not this was the right transaction for the team, as they are on the precipice of a historic season with a roster that has stellar top-end talent. With Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, and Bradley Beal slotted to be starting, the Suns had formed their first ever non-organic super team. It appears that Deandre Ayton will not be a part of those plans.
An organization that has sacrificed much of their future relative to draft capital and roster flexibility has taken the remaining $102 million that Ayton is owed over three years and diversified it.
It has been an inconsistent career for Ayton in Phoenix. Infamously drafted over four-time All-Star Luka Dončić, Ayton ‘s first season saw him score 16.3 points and grab 10.3 rebounds. The team, however, won only 19 games with Igor Kokoshov at the helm. DA was suspended 25 games at the beginning of the 2019-20 season following an illegal substance in his system and ultimately played in 38 games in the COVID-shortened season. He put forth career highs in points (18.2), rebounds (11.5), and minutes played (32.5) that year.
Phoenix added a future Hall of Fame point guard in 2020 and the thought was that, given Chris Paul had made other big men successful, the trend would continue with Ayton. Regression occurred as he averaged 14.4 points and 10.5 rebounds with CP3 in the lineup during the 2020-21 season.
It was the 2021 postseason that showcased his potential; a potential rarely seen afterwards. While the numbers weren’t legendary – he posted 15.8 points and 11.8 rebounds in 22 postseason games – the impact was felt as his effort and motor put opposing defenses on high alert. No other player in the history of the NBA has had a higher field goal percentage (65.8%) on 150 of more field goal attempts in the postseason. DA had 234 attempts.
The chatter began following his postseason run as he was eligible for his rookie extension prior to the start of the 2021-22 season, and it was an extension that was not provided by the organization. Ayton did not get the Booker treatment. He played in 58 games that season for the record breaking 64-win Suns, and when the season ended he entered restricted free agency.
The Indiana Pacers provided Deandre with a maximum contract extension, which James Jones and the Suns immediately matched. “The contract stuff is behind us, and our focus now is how do we help him improve and continue to improve,” Jones said of the deal. But it appeared that the contract stuff never was behind DA.
Ayton went for 18 points and 10 rebounds in his final season with the Suns and had two stellar runs during the season in which ‘Engaged DA’ seemed to have turned the corner. From November 25, 2022 to December 11, 2022, he averaged 21.8 points on 70.2% shooting, adding 11.6 rebounds. The injury bug bit him, much akin to numerous teammates, but he put up 28 points on 74.7% shooting and 11 rebounds from February 4, 2023 to February 14, 2023.
Ayton had a less-than-stellar postseason, averaging 13.4 points and 9.7 rebounds in 10 games. Highlights of him watching the opposition grab multiple offensive rebounds while he stood and watched is a lasting impression that will now live rent free in the minds of Suns’ fans.
The guard-centric offense that the Suns deployed since the arrival of Chris Paul negated his touches and ability to become a dominant offensive force, and it was apparent at numerous times throughout his last three seasons that he wasn’t as engaged as he could have been. His effort, especially from a #1 overall pick, was continually questioned.
His athleticism, shot deterrence, and lateral quickness as a defender made him someone who was unique in his position. But ultimately, he never realized his full potential with the Suns.
On the other side of the deal, Phoenix obtains Jusuf Nurkic, Grayson Allen, Nassir Little, and Keon Johnson. The additions will certainly result in more roster movement for Phoenix as they sent out two players and obtained four. With less than a week until training camp, the upheaval brings doubt into the minds of Suns’ faithful.
This is NOT a deal that’s good for the Suns IMO https://t.co/NZ3aPtLTxT— Dave King (@DaveKingNBA) September 27, 2023
Phoenix serving as the third team to allow Milwaukee to land Dame AND getting worse in the process is certainly a choice.— Zona (@AZSportsZone) September 27, 2023
Not a fan of this move at all.
We’ll continue to discuss and cover the fallout of this deal right here on Bright Side.