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Rumor: Pacers could make move on Suns RFA Deandre Ayton

Deandre Ayton and Myles Turner in Phoenix Suns v Indiana Pacers

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - JANUARY 14: Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns handles the ball while being guarded by Myles Turner #33 of the Indiana Pacers in the first quarter at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on January 14, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

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With James Harden returning to the 76ers, Deandre Ayton is the top free agent available.

But maybe not for long.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

We believe that the Indiana Pacers are very close to giving Deandre Ayton an offer sheet or executing a sign-and-trade.
We could see something with the Pacers and Ayton as early as Monday.

There was some thought Ayton would wait to get signed-and-traded in a deal sending Kevin Durant to the Suns. But nothing appears imminent on the Durant front. So, if Ayton can get his desired max contract from Indiana, he probably shouldn’t wait for a better destination.

Pacers owner Herb Simon has shown an aversion to signing restricted free agents to offer sheets. So, a sign-and-trade might be more likely.

Myles Turner wouldn’t fit as well in Indiana if Ayton is incoming at center. Turner could replace Ayton in Phoenix. In championship contention, the Suns can’t afford just to lose Ayton. Turner’s rim protection would be welcome, and Phoenix especially values outside shooting, which Turner would also provide.

Ayton, 23, would be a fun addition to an up-and-coming team featuring Tyrese Haliburton, Chis Duarte and Bennedict Mathurin. That’d be a nice, quickly assembled young core.