EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

ESPN’s Marks doesn’t expect Deandre Ayton trade as veto power ends

Jul 12, 2023, 11:10 AM

Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns...

Deandre Ayton #22 and Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns react during the second quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers during the second quarter at Moda Center on October 21, 2022 in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Deandre Ayton signed an offer sheet to join the Indiana Pacers on July 14, 2022, and the Phoenix Suns matching it gave the center veto power on any trades for a full season.

That ends at the end of this week, but ESPN’s Bobby Marks, a former NBA executive, believes the technicality won’t change Ayton’s status on the roster.

It seems that Ayton is indeed part of Phoenix’s plan to begin the 2023-24 season.

“I don’t think (July 15) is a big deal at all,” Marks told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta. “If there was a trade out there for Deandre Ayton and it made sense for him from a basketball standpoint, I think he would approve it. I think certainly it’s more of just a date of when that offer sheet was signed and eventually when it was matched.

“He could certainly be traded to Indiana now — that you couldn’t do during the regular season. I don’t see how he fits the Pacers (with) how they’re building their roster here,” Marks added. “I think Deandre will be on this roster and I think it’s more of a decision (of) where this roster is in December and January and if we get closer to the trade deadline, if something needs to be done.”

Ayton, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2018, averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 59% from the field in 2022-23.

The 24-year-old has been a subject of trade speculation for the last calendar year since he entered restricted free agency as his rookie deal ended. His ups and downs had a lot to do with it, as did a mildly contentious relationship with former Suns coach Monty Williams.

But even with Frank Vogel now leading Phoenix and by all accounts genuinely aiming to get more out of Ayton, the center’s salary put him back in trade talks.

According to Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro, Ayton was linked to the Washington Wizards in June related to the Bradley Beal trade that eventually offloaded point guard Chris Paul’s deal. Around the draft, talks reportedly stalled on the Suns’ end when the Dallas Mavericks were targeting Ayton, per NBA writer Marc Stein.

Ayton at $32.5 million in salary next season is the fourth — and least expensive — maximum contract after Beal, Devin Booker and Kevin Durant.

The league restrictions of how little Phoenix could spend to fill out the roster because of those massive contracts added to the assumption the Suns would search for Ayton deals. Trading him would better balance the roster with depth.

But instead, it feels like the team feels comfortable trusting Ayton to become a more consistent defensive force and the minimum contract signees to provide complementary skills around the top four players.

“I think what probably surprised me a little bit is how quick players agreed to take the minimum (as free agency began),” Marks said of Phoenix’s haul. “I was teasing with somebody out in Vegas (during NBA Summer League), I’ve never seen six better minimums come off the board in an hour.

“I just think (the Suns) had a plan. They had a plan in terms of who they were targeting, who fits.”

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