Now that Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving has officially opted into the final year of his contract with the franchise, it would be safe to say that the biggest free agency chip is none other than Phoenix Suns star DeAndre Ayton. After a disappointing second-round series against Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks, the Suns front office is skeptical about offering their starting center a maximum contract extension. This included a pivotal Game 7 where he had just 5 points and 4 rebounds while logging just 17 minutes of play.
Ayton’s future in Phoenix hangs in limbo as he is set to become a restricted free agent at 6 p.m. on June 30, which would allow him to seek deals from rival teams. If he can find one of his liking, the Suns front office can choose to match it or let him walk. Quinton Mayo of BetMGM says that the Brooklyn Nets are expected to be amongst his suitors.
“Just some things I’ve heard. A possible package landing Ayton in [Brooklyn], and sending out Nic Claxton, Joe Harris, and maybe Cam Thomas,” Mayo said per his Twitter account on June 29.
It should be noted that the proposal from Mayo while possible is high unlikely under the NBA’s current collective bargaining agreement as outlined by Kristian Winfield of the “New York Daily News”.
“Any team that acquires a player in a sign-and-trade cannot, under any circumstances, have a payroll that exceeds $150.1M. If the Nets acquired Ayton in a sign-and-trade deal that pays him comparable numbers to what’s been reported for Knicks target Jalen Brunson – four years, $110M – that would mark an average annual value of $27.5M on his deal,” Winfield writes.
“Then you factor in Kyrie Irving’s $37M player option, Kevin Durant’s $44.1M salary, and the $34M owed to Ben Simmons, and you’re already at a $142.6M payroll with a $150M hard cap. That doesn’t include the $8.5M due to Seth Curry or the $6.2M due if Patty Mills opts into Year 2 with the Nets.
And no, the Nets wouldn’t be able to exceed the hard cap to sign players to minimum contracts.”
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Teams Believe Joe Harris Will Be ‘More Available’ This Summer
Parting ways with Joe Harris would be a tough decision for the Nets. He just led the NBA in three-point percentage in 2021 and has been with the franchise since 2016. But earlier this month, Michael A. Scotto of “HoopsHype” reported that rival GMs believe that Harris could be more available this summer than in past years because of the addition of sharpshooter Seth Curry.
“Joe Harris is the team’s most realistic trade asset should Brooklyn try to upgrade at a different position,” Scotto writes per “HoopsHype”.
“Rival teams believe Harris could be more available than in years past, with fellow sharpshooter Seth Curry under contract for $8.5 million next season.”
Suns Don’t View Ayton as Max Player
Per Basketball Reference, In his four seasons with the Suns, Ayton has averaged 17.2 points, and 10.2 rebounds, while shooting 63.4% from the field. The 6-11 center was a key reason the Suns were two wins from securing the franchise’s first NBA title in 2021. But despite all that he has given Phoenix on the court since they picked him first overall in the 2018 draft, the franchise does not view him as a max contract player moving forward.
“Phoenix has simply decided they don’t value Deandre Ayton on a max contract. The good news for Deandre Ayton is a number of teams around the league do, and I think as a restricted free agent, most teams are expecting right now as they jockey to get involved with Deandre Ayton is a sign-and-trade scenario,” ESPN Insider Adrian Wojnarowski said. “It’s looking increasingly likely that Ayton is elsewhere in the NBA on a sign-and-trade deal.”
Ayton can provide something for the Nets that they have not had since they made the trade that brought All-Star guard James Harden to Brooklyn in 2021. That being an interior defensive presence who can come up with consistent stops. It will be interesting to see if the Nets can pull off a deal