Celtics Linked to Former 1st-Overall Pick in Trade Proposal

Deandre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns was linked to the Boston Celtics.

Getty Deandre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns was linked to the Boston Celtics.

Despite their successful second half of the season this past year, the Boston Celtics could have some work to do this offseason. They won’t have any cap space to work with, but since all of their crucial rotation players will be under contract, they could potentially be active in the trade market.

Boston’s starting five is solid. The group of Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford and Robert Williams has played at a championship level, taking the team to the Eastern Conference finals, where they are down 2-1 to the Miami Heat. So most moves they make this offseason will likely focus on improving the team’s depth. However, one proposal suggested that Boston would shake things up in a big way.

Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report proposed a trade that would see the Celtics land a new starting center, sending Williams, Derrick White and Aaron Nesmith to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for big man Deandre Ayton.

“The Celtics would be getting an impact center in Deandre Ayton,” Buckley wrote in the May 19 story. “[He] has all the makings of a cornerstone center. He can score from the paint to the mid-range (quite possibly to the perimeter at some point), control the glass and defend inside and out. Even if he isn’t as disruptive of a defender as Williams, Ayton’s superior scoring, rebounding and offensive skill could help the Celtics come out ahead.”

Ayton, the first-overall pick in the 2018 draft, will be entering his fifth NBA season next year. Despite being only 23 years old, his time with the Suns may already be coming to a close.

Ayton’s Issues With the Suns

Last offseason, Ayton and the Suns could not come to an agreement on a contract extension. Since 2008, only two first-overall picks have not received rookie extensions. Ayton is one, and the other is Anthony Bennett, who spent just four years in the league on four different teams.

Phoenix was unceremoniously eliminated from the playoffs this season by the Dallas Mavericks, with Ayton playing only 17 minutes in Game 7. Head coach Monty Williams said the reasoning behind this decision was “internal,” leaving many questioning what Ayton’s future with the team looks like.

In a May 19 story in The Slam, Suns general manager James Jones gave the impression that the team expected Ayton to be back in 2022-23 despite the appearance that the relationship between him and the team is rapidly deteriorating. Before the season even began, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported that “Ayton did not feel valued by this Phoenix organization.”

The Suns still hold the rights to match any offer Ayton, who will become a restricted free agent, receives this offseason. However, if Ayton makes it clear that he no longer wants to play in Phoneix, the Suns could part ways with him via a sign-and-trade. That’s where the Celtics could step in.

Ayton’s and Williams’ Value in New Roles

Throughout his four-year career, Williams has dealt with a plethora of injury issues. Even now, Williams is missing time during the postseason with an injured knee. And while Ayton has battled his fair share of ailments, his injuries have not been as consistent as Williams’.

The Suns’ big man averaged 17.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists this past season while shooting 63.4% from the field. But because Ayton is a more traditional center than Williams, he could have trouble fitting in with Boston’s current defensive scheme.

As for Williams, his defensive potential and status as a constant lob threat would be a dream come true for Chris Paul and the Suns. In Buckley’s proposal, Phoenix would also receive a quality backup point guard in White, solving some of the team’s issues at that position.

This deal is extremely unlikely considering how much success the Celtics have had this season with Williams as their starting center. However, if they wanted a change of pace, Ayton could very well be on the trade block this summer, and teams will surely come knocking.

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