We’re all processing the specifics of the trade that the Phoenix Suns made on Thursday, just days before training camp is set to commence. It was a monumental deal seeing as the Suns lost the best talent in the trade (I’m not including Dame Lillard or Jrue Holiday as this was more of a Suns to Trailblazers transaction). History has shown us time and again that if you trade four quarters for a dollar, the dollas is the better deal.
Regardless of how you felt about Deandre Ayton as a member of the Phoenix Suns, one fact we can all agree on is that he is no longer with the team. Killer analysis, right?
Another thing we can all agree on is that we will not truly know who wins this trade for quite some time. I’m fully prepared to see the comments on Bright Side and on Twitter every time the Suns lose, reminding us of the talent that was Deandre Ayton.
“The Suns would’ve won that game if DA had been playing!” “Nurkic is a bum.” “See, dumb trade!”
It’s what’s going to happen. It is our reality now.
There’s no doubt, at least, in my opinion, that Deandre Ayton ultimately was the best player in the deal with the Portland Trailblazers and Milwaukee Bucks out of the players that Phoenix received back. Compare DA to Jusuf Nurkic all you want. Throw me the advanced analytics and his ability to shoot the three. Nurkic is older, slower, more injury prone, and less athletic than Ayton.
But James Jones and Frank Vogel wanted the Bosnian Beast because he’s going to fit the Suns scheme. And more importantly, he is going to mesh better with superstars Devin Booker and Kevin Durant.
So the Suns swap Deandre Ayton in favor of depth:— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) September 27, 2023
There wasn't trust from Devin Booker and Kevin Durant in Ayton, and the Suns already found out Ayton wasn't slowing down Nikola Jokic.
No one can, so there's some logic in…
That is a valuable piece of this equation that, unless you are part of the actual conversation, we can only speculate on. If there is any merit to it, then it is worth submitting into evidence in the case of Deandre Ayton. Filed as exhibit 22 in case number 5:23-da-0927-PHX.
We’ve seen the body language play out on the court for the past five seasons between Booker and Ayton. It has been one of frustration and disgust at the lack of DA’s effort. Devin has a fire and competitiveness about him that is hard to replicate in the NBA. Kevin Durant is one of the few who possesses that same desire. Deandre Ayton never had it.
It always felt as if it was big brother little/brother between the two, and while Devin Booker and Kevin Durant were carrying the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Second Round against the Denver Nuggets, Deandre Ayton wasn’t doing his part. He was allowing rebounds to occur while he stood and watched. It was embarrassing. Unfortunately this video might be a lasting memory we have of DA.
Deandre Ayton loved watching Nikola Jokic getting rebounds pic.twitter.com/Sh3vzGLtIf— Ahn Fire Digital (@AhnFireDigital) April 30, 2023
We can only assume as to what sort of discussions took place behind closed doors, but it is certain that the bond — or lack thereof — between Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, and Deandre Ayton was a driving force behind this move. The elite players on the team couldn’t trust DA when the chips were on the table. They gave their all every night while he’d turn it on and off like a water hose.
Marc Stein observed in the latest The Stein Line, “Too many key figures in the Phoenix organization were clearly ready to move on from Ayton after a rocky five years together.”
As the rumors began percolating last week, the “who” of the trade began to leak. And I didn’t like it. We focused our energy on Nurkic and debated whether or not he’d fit, noting his health issues, and discussed who else could be part of a potential trade.
The “who” was part of the reasoning for Phoenix, but tt is the “why” that ultimately drove this deal. That “why” was more than the fan base’s perception of his effort and engagement. It was an internal conversation that assuredly Booker and Durant signed off on.
Again, will tell if it was the right move. But if Book and KD were part of the driving force, it has to be the right move. If they don’t believe, based on their day-to-day interactions with Ayton, that his interests align with that of the team, then he never would have been successful in Phoenix. Is that right or wrong? That’s a different discussion. It’s reality.
That market dictated DA’s value this offseason and it safe to say it was disappointing. A Mavericks deal that included Tim Hardaway, Jr., Richaun Holmes, and JaVale McGee was laughed at. But that is what the market offered. Until a Dame Lillard mega-trade brought us Grayson Allen, Nassir Little, and Keon Johnson along with Nurk. At the end of the day, that is all he was worth.
DA wanted to change the narrative this season and he’ll have the opportunity to do so in Portland. He’s gone from a team with a guard-centric offense who did not necessarily need his offensive production, given their top-heavy trio, to a team that will be at the bottom end of the Western Conference, allowing him more freedom as they initiate a rookie Scoot Henderson into the league. The narrative will change.
This deal will be the fulcrum at the center of debate, no matter how the season ends. Win a championship? It’s because of this deal. Lose in the postseason? It’s because of this deal. This transaction, for better or worse, will be a tipping point in Suns history.
James Jones bent the knee to Devin Booker and Kevin Durant, so no matter what we think, it was the right move.