EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Report: Suns cooled talks around Deandre Ayton trade to Mavericks

Jun 27, 2023, 8:20 AM | Updated: 9:54 am

Suns C Deandre Ayton and Mavericks G Luka Doncic...

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) tries to get off a shot against Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) during the first half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The Phoenix Suns opted to move forward with Deandre Ayton despite discussing a trade of the center to the Dallas Mavericks during the draft, reports NBA reporter Marc Stein.

The long-time NBA writer’s newsletter says the proposed deal would have landed the Suns guard Tim Hardaway Jr. plus centers Richaun Holmes and JaVale McGee. Holmes was with the Sacramento Kings before being included in an agreed-upon trade to the Mavericks on draft night.

Talks around Ayton stalled, according to Stein, because the Suns “balked at” the inclusion of McGee. Notably, McGee started 68 regular seasons games for the new Suns coach Frank Vogel’s Los Angeles Lakers in 2019-20. He started 11 of 14 games — albeit in 9.6 minutes per game — en route to the Lakers’ NBA Finals victory that year.

While the Suns’ and Mavericks’ framework didn’t include any draft compensation heading to Phoenix, he adds that the Suns like Hardaway’s and Holmes’ fit around the All-Star trio of Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal.

Dallas moved forward on draft night by making a trade for Holmes with the Kings. Trade negotiations with Phoenix are not considered completely dead, as Stein writes that “sources with knowledge of the Phoenix/Dallas trade discussions said a resumption of the Ayton talks could not be ruled out.”

However, the Suns would have to maneuver back into conversations with the Mavericks and Kings to join that trade, as Holmes and Hardaway cannot be packaged together right after Holmes is moved first.

Vogel told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta on Tuesday that he believes a fresh start will benefit Ayton when asked about if the center’s hot-and-cold motor could be mended.

“I think you can definitely reach all players,” Vogel said. “Players have to be inspired and have to feel good about their role and have to feel good about coming to work every day. If you create those types of situations for a player, the effort and motor piece just comes naturally. I’ve seen Deandre play with extreme effort. I’ve seen him play at a near-All-Star level quite frankly … I know it’s there. Obviously, he had some bumps in the road along the way but we’re at a point right now with a fresh start  that I feel like he’s going to have a great season for us.”

Reports of the Suns being willing to move forward with Ayton on the roster, according to Stein, have “been widely interpreted around the league as an admission from Phoenix that it has been unable to command the sort of trade return for 2018’s No. 1 overall pick it has sought.”

Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro and Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes have indicated since after the draft that Phoenix is ready to move on with Ayton at center despite the three years left on his contract that will pay out $32.5 million this coming season and escalating from there.

Vogel is optimistic about working with Ayton and values his defensive abilities, Gambadoro adds. It would be a fresh start for the 2018 first-overall pick, who clashed with former Phoenix coach Monty Williams.

Ayton averaged 18 points, 10 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game last year but managed through inconsistencies on defense that culminated in a late-game benching in favor of backup center Jock Landale.

Hardaway averaged 14.4 points per game and started 45 of 71 outings last season. He shot just 40% overall but 39% from three, taking 7.7 shot attempts from beyond the arc out of 11.9 total.

Holmes, 29, played behind a rookie Ayton in 2018-19 for the Suns.

He fell out of favor in Sacramento under a new head coach in 2022-23. Last year, he appeared 8.3 minutes per game in 42 contests, averaging 3.1 points and 1.9 rebounds.

Holmes is owed $12 million this year with a $12.9 million player option for 2024-25.

Hardaway makes $17.9 million this year and $16.2 million in the final year of his contract next season.

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