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Report: Suns not shopping Aron Baynes but haven’t ruled out trade

Aron Baynes #46 of the Phoenix Suns blocks out Mitchell Robinson #23 of the New York Knicks during a free throw in the first half at Madison Square Garden on January 16, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Aron Baynes isn’t on the Suns’ trading block, but like any competent team, Phoenix also isn’t completely ruling out trading the backup center and his expiring contract, reports the New York Times’ Marc Stein.

That tidbit dropped Thursday in the context of Stein mentioning that the Los Angeles Clippers were seeking “dependable size” and “wing depth” as they gear up for a championship run that will likely go through their fellow Staples Center inhabitants, the Los Angeles Lakers.

Stein added that Pistons center Andre Drummond and Thunder center Steven Adams are available, yet it’s Baynes who might be the most reasonable target.

It’s hard to imagine that price being impressive to Phoenix, but of all teams that might overpay for a rental of the 33-year-old Baynes, the Clippers might be at the top of the list. They are in win-now mode more than anyone having paired Paul George and Kawhi Leonard together, and there could be desperation as the similarly-built Lakers pursue the same goal.

A late first-round pick may be worth parting with if the deadline reaches with Ivica Zubac providing about 15-20 minutes per night as the Clippers’ only true center on the roster.

Baynes would provide a little more, but that might go a long way, especially considering the Lakers would challenge the Clippers in a head-to-head matchup with twin centers in JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard in the rotation.

With the Suns, Baynes got off to a hot start, but he’s fallen off after a few strings of injuries struck.

Appearing in 33 of Phoenix’s 44 games, he’s averaged 11.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.9 assists per 22.9 minutes. He’s flashed a three-point stroke that brought a new element to his offense, but he shot an abysmal 28% from deep in December and 20% in January.

On a $5.5 million salary, Baynes is pretty easy to move in theory.

Every observer of Phoenix, however, knows how much Suns general manager James Jones and head coach Monty Williams wanted Baynes’ influence in the locker room to serve as a building-block of the culture-building process. That’s why they traded a 2020 first-round pick acquired from the Milwaukee Bucks to the Boston Celtics on draft day, adding Baynes and the No. 24 pick (Ty Jerome).

It will be a matter if Jones foregoes a few more months — and possibly more if Phoenix wants to re-sign Baynes this offseason — of Baynes mentoring second-year center Deandre Ayton and setting screens to free guard Devin Booker.

Phoenix’s behavior indicates this will lead to nothing.

At the end of the day, Baynes’ true valuation is nothing more than a second-round pick or backend rotation player. The Clippers might instead hang on to their first-round picks to grab starting-quality wings — T-Wolves forward Robert Covington is of interest, per the Wall Street Journal — or other bigs who aren’t currently dealing with injuries.

Then again, it’s not a bad position to be in for the Suns. At least there’s something of a market for one of their players, who is on an expiring contract.


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