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. That applies even to the Knicks, coming off a season in which they won the No. 4 seed in the East.
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 Knicks 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. The Knicks would have to take notice.
Celtics Would Have a Hard Time Acquiring Ayton in Trade
Ayton is slated to make $12.6 million next year. For the Knicks that would be an easy contract to match.
New York has the advantage of being able to offer the Suns a young big man in return–oft-injured Mitchell Robinson, who is in the final year of his deal. He had an outstanding opener, with 11 points, two blocks and 17 rebounds and is slated to make just $1.8 million this year. He will look for a significant raise when he hits free agency next year, but not close to the max that Ayton wants.
If the Knicks added Alec Burks and a future draft pick, they could probably give the Suns as credible a package as anyone for Ayton. But whether the Knicks would give up a defensive ace for an offensive-minded post big man like Ayton–especially alongside Julius Randle–is a fair question.
Ayton is the much better player and his defense has improved, but he is not at Robinson’s level. The Knicks would be as reluctant to max out Ayton as Phoenix is.
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.