Last week’s NBA Draft Lottery was kind to the Dallas Mavericks. Their 2023 first-round pick didn’t fall outside of the top-10, meaning that they get to keep it (for now) instead of sending it to the New York Knicks as part of the 2019 Kristaps Porzingis trade.
Since the pick was officially slotted at No. 10, reports of potential trades involving it have been plentiful.
Bleacher Report’s last mock draft, written by Zach Buckley, projects Dallas to move the pick to the Phoenix Suns, as part of a package for former No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton.
Buckley’s hypothetical trade is as follows.
Phoenix Suns receive: No. 10 pick, Tim Hardaway Jr., Reggie Bullock and JaVale McGee
Dallas Mavericks receive: Deandre Ayton
He made the argument that the team needs to turn the asset into an “instant-impact player,” to provide some help around Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving.
“The Mavericks need to turn this pick into an instant-impact player, and they might have that chance with Ayton, the No. 1 pick in 2018, seemingly wearing out his welcome in Phoenix,” Buckley wrote. “If the Suns are ready to move on, the Mavericks might be ready to pounce on a potential interior anchor who could be a productive pick-and-roll partner for Luka Dončić (and Kyrie Irving, he if re-signs).”
If Dallas was to land Ayton, they’d have him locked up for a while. He signed a four-year, $132.9 million extension in 2022.
The 25-year-old fits nicely into the massive gap in the Mavs’ center rotation. All season, head coach Jason Kidd was forced to use a carousel of big men to try and protect the paint.
In 67 games for the Suns, Ayton averaged a career-high 18 points but also averaged a career-low 10 rebounds. He also averaged 1.7 assists and converted on 58.9% of his attempts from the floor.
Deandre Ayton’s ‘Curious’ Future with Suns Opens the Door for Mavs Trade
Buckley mentioned Ayton “seemingly wearing out his welcome in Phoenix.” The beef between the two sides is not a new thing. Last summer, Ayton signed an offer sheet to join the Indiana Pacers, but the Suns matched, retaining the big man.
Back in February, Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer called Ayton’s situation in Phoenix “curious.”
“Deandre Ayton’s long-term future remains curious after a prolonged restricted free agency last offseason in which Phoenix explored signing-and-trading Ayton in order to land [Kevin] Durant,” Fischer wrote. “There is little belief among people familiar with the situation that Suns management truly values Ayton at the $33 million average annual value over the four full seasons on his offer sheet from Indiana.”
Deandre Ayton Fits Nico Harrison’s Description of Mavs’ Needs
Phoenix’s No. 22 would check the two boxes that Mavericks general manager Nico Harrison told reporters he was looking to fill in the offseason, defense and rebounding.
“I think for us going into the offseason, the two biggest things that we need to work on is defense and rebounding,” Harrison said via the Dallas Mavericks official YouTube channel. “That’s going to be addressed.”
In five NBA seasons, Ayton has never averaged less than 10 rebounds per game. On top of that, in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, he was able to tally over a block each night.
One could speculate that when he was engaged and not burnt out, Ayton was a solid rim protector. In the two seasons since, he’s been reported to be unhappy in the desert and his defensive stats align. Of course, that could be just a coincidence, but it would be interesting to see if the Mavs could get a bit more out of the 6-foot 11-inch center.