Could Celtics Have Trade Interest in Former No. 1 Pick DeAndre Ayton?

DeAndre Ayton, Suns

Getty DeAndre Ayton, Suns

The NBA season is underway, which means it is also NBA trade-talk season. Actually, the way the league has gone in recent years, it is always trade-talk season.

But one guy whose situation has piqued the interest of many in the NBA is Suns center DeAndre Ayton, who was not given a contract extension by Phoenix after team owner Robert Sarver refused to offer Ayton a maximum contract extension that would go into effect in 2022-23. That’s been enough to get front-office folks wondering if Ayton would land on the trade market.

“That is definitely not the case yet,” one general manager told Heavy.com. “The Suns still have a lot of the leverage in this. But if they really don’t think the situation is going to change, then yeah, they’d have to consider maybe making a move sooner than later.”

Could the Celtics get involved in getting Ayton out of Phoenix? He averaged 14.4 points and 10.5 rebounds last season for the Suns, who went to the NBA Finals, and shot 62.6% from the field. He is an old-school center in the modern NBA, and was the No. 1 pick for Phoenix in 2018.

He never lived up to the production of other draft classmates of his, like Dallas’ Luka Doncic and Atlanta’s Trae Young. But he is only 23 and still a big guy with promise.


Celtics Would Have a Hard Time Acquiring Ayton in Trade

Ayton is slated to make $12.6 million next year. For the Celtics that would be an easy contract to match—sort of.

Any deal for Ayton would almost certainly have to include a returning big man, but the guy who makes the most sense is Robert Williams. And because Williams did sign an extension with Boston, worth four years and $54 million, he becomes very difficult to trade until the new contract comes into effect. The Celtics would have a hard time working a deal that makes sense.

The best deal the Celtics could do would probably mean sending out Marcus Smart, with either Aaron Nesmith or Romeo Langford as an additional player, plus at least one (likely more) future first-round pick. The Celtics would have to take back another player in such a deal to make the numbers work and even then, it would be difficult, because Smart has a trade kicker in his deal.


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Suns Have Leverage in Ayton Situation

Still, there is a chance the Suns will get desperate to move Ayton, especially if they lose some of the momentum the team gained coming out of last year’s impressive playoff run. The team paid Chris Paul a handsome contract this summer, giving him four years and $120 million. It also gave Mikal Bridges four years and $90 million in an extension. Bridges was also drafted in 2018.

That could open an opportunity for a team looking to pry away a young former No. 1 pick. But the Suns are not close to that point now. They do have leverage here, namely restricted free agency. Ayton will be able to sign with any team next summer, but the Suns will have the right to match any deal, even for the max. And the max he would get elsewhere won’t match the five years and $172 million he wanted from Phoenix.

That leaves Ayton with limited options. It also means he won’t likely be traded by Phoenix.


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