23-year-old Deandre Ayton is one of the best and brightest young centers in the league. As a versatile two-way big man, he has been a key player for the Suns since his rookie debut in 2018.
Unfortunately, Ayton's future has fallen under doubt after extension talks failed over the summer. And now, with the former no. 1 pick apparently displeased with the franchise, reports about a potential trade have already begun to surface.
“The Suns still have a lot of the leverage in this," one general manager told Heavy.com "But if they really don’t think the situation is going to change, then yeah, they’d have to consider maybe making a move sooner than later.”
At this point, it's still too early for the Suns to start shopping around on Ayton, but things could change if Phoenix struggles out of the gate this season.
Still, there is a chance the Suns will get desperate to move Ayton, especially if they lose some of the momentum the team gained coming out of last year’s impressive playoff run. The team paid Chris Paul a handsome contract this summer, giving him four years and $120 million. It also gave Mikal Bridges four years and $90 million in an extension. Bridges was also drafted in 2018.
That could open an opportunity for a team looking to pry away a young former No. 1 pick. But the Suns are not close to that point now. They do have leverage here, namely restricted free agency. Ayton will be able to sign with any team next summer, but the Suns will have the right to match any deal, even for the max. And the max he would get elsewhere won’t match the five years and $172 million he wanted from Phoenix.
Through three games, Ayton is averaging just 10.3 points per game, the lowest mark of his career.
While hope and optimism still exist on what the Suns can do this season, Ayton's uncertain future could become a distraction over the next few months.