Report: Deandre Ayton likely to leave Suns
But he could draw a max offer sheet in restricted free agency. Keeping Ayton is Phoenix’s most direct path to a player anywhere near his caliber. Capped out, the Suns would be limited to about the mid-level exception for an outside free agent barring other major moves. In championship contention with an aging Chris Paul, this is not the time to take a step back.
How will Phoenix handle this dilemma?
The way free agency takes off well before it officially opens, this could be more than mere speculation.
A sign-and-trade might be the solution for everyone involved. The Suns would get return for their talented 23-year-old. Ayton would get to a team willing to pay him and, therefore, more likely to give him a larger offensive role. The acquiring team would get Ayton without fearing Phoenix matching an offer sheet. If the acquiring team lacks cap space, a sign-and-trade would be even more helpful to that team.
It’s a lot to sort out.
Which is why teams and players sometimes get a head start on moves like this – and that maneuvering can leak.