I’m not Doug Haller. I’m not Duane Rankin. I’m not Stephen A. Smith. I’m not Skip Bayless. I’m a college student sitting in their dorm room writing for a Phoenix Suns blog. During times like this, it’s important that I remember that. Everyone is giving their opinions left and right about Phoenix’s decision to trade Deandre Ayton.
Truthfully, my opinion has little to no importance on people’s lives, at least it doesn’t right now, maybe down the road it will, but that’s not now. So I’m not going to give my opinion on this trade for the Suns, at least not really in this piece because it’s not important.
Instead, I’m going to look at what the Suns did as neutrally as possible and only analyze what Phoenix did from a factual standpoint, which was create flexibility to do future deals.
As has been the case since the second Mat Ishbia took control of the Phoenix Suns, management has been abundantly clear in their attempt to maximize the team’s title hopes and do so immediately. However in that attempt, Phoenix has sacrificed a lot of financial and asset flexibility. The Suns don’t have a first-round pick to trade and they’re deep into the Second Apron. Also, due to only being able to only offer minimum contracts to players this offseason, in order to create leverage with free agents, Phoenix gave six of their minimum signings player options for the 2024-25 season.
As a result, Eric Gordon, Damion Lee, Keita Bates-Diop, Drew Eubanks, Yuta Watanabe, and Josh Okogie all essentially have no-trade-clauses, making it harder to deal them in trades.
(For further explanation on the power of a player option in a minimum contract, watch this clip from The Old Man and The Three, starting at the 14:33 mark of the video)
So, in order to create flexibility to improve the team, their only way of doing so was trading Deandre Ayton for a player significantly better than him, or trading the Arizona alum for a myriad of players or assets that match his salary.
Phoenix did the latter.
While it appears Jusuf Nurkić is a part of the Suns future plans, that remains to be seen with Keon Johnson, Nassir Little, and Grayson Allen, the three other players the Suns acquired in the deal. Allen, who is on a $9 million dollar expiring deal, and Little, who is entering the first year of his rookie extension that he signed with Portland last offseason for 4-years, $28 million may be enticing contracts that other teams may want to take on along with some of the few second-round picks that the Suns have in exchange for better players who may be on less desirable contracts.
While Nassir Little, Grayson Allen and a few measly seconds may not sound like an enticing package to offer any team for well, anything, this is the NBA. Value is a complicated concept. Good players, especially ones on expiring deals, get traded frequently for pennies on the dollar. Now the Suns can be in a position to take advantage of teams who are selling low on players.
This is an emotional time for Suns Nation. No matter how you feel about Deandre Ayton, through the good and the bad, he was a part of what made Suns basketball the last five years Suns basketball, and he is now gone. While people will continue to focus on what the trade potentially does for the Suns, it is just as important to understand what it will actually do with no caveats.