The Phoenix Suns are nearing a sign-and-trade deal to send Deandre Ayton to the Indiana Pacers, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. The deal could be as soon as Monday.
Rumors of the former No. 1 overall pick leaving Phoenix began last offseason when the Suns and Ayton couldn’t reach a deal on a rookie extension.
Several teams have since emerged as possible partners for a sign-and-trade deal including the Toronto Raptors, Sacramento Kings and Detroit Pistons. The Brooklyn Nets even entered the mix when Kevin Durant reportedly expressed his preference to land in Phoenix, but the two sides haven’t agreed to a deal. Brooklyn reportedly requested All-Star point guard Devin Booker in exchange for Durant.
Meanwhile, the Suns seem to have gone back to the drawing board and found a deal they’re willing to make with the Pacers. Details around a potential sign-and-trade remain unclear and the Pacers have even expressed willingness to give him an offer sheet outright, but the prevailing sentiment is that Ayton is likely headed to Indianapolis.
Indiana is coming off a 25-57 record, their worst season since 1985-86. The Pacers made the NBA playoffs nine of 10 years from 2010 to 2020, but have since undergone a rebuild. Their most recent move involved trading guard Malcolm Brogdon to the Boston Celtics in exchange for five players and a 2023 first-round NBA draft pick. The deal also cleared $10.1 million in cap space for Indiana, plenty of room for a max contract.
Ayton’s previous rookie contract out of the University of Arizona was 4-year, $40 million -- the maximum available to a rookie. Phoenix offered him a $16-million qualifying offer on July 1. Ayton was eligible for a 5-year, $176 million contract last year, but Suns management reportedly didn’t feel he was of equal value to Trae Young and Luka Doncic, fellow class of 2018 draftees.
In his four seasons with the Suns, Ayton averaged 16.3 points and 10.5 points per game. He has also been an important piece of their postseason runs, joining forces with Booker and Chris Paul to lead the Suns to their first NBA Finals appearance in nearly three decades.
The Suns took Ayton with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft, keeping him close to home.
The 6-foot-11 center was born in the Bahamas but moved to the U.S. for high school. After two years in San Diego, Ayton moved to Hillcrest Prep Academy in Phoenix to round out his high school career. He stayed close to home and joined Sean Miller’s team at Arizona.
Despite all Ayton’s history in the Grand Canyon State, all signs point to him heading elsewhere soon.