Trade Idea Sends Suns 3 Players From Pelicans, Including $15 Million Star

New Orleans Pelicans versus Phoenix Suns

Getty New Orleans Pelicans versus Phoenix Suns

A new trade idea would send the Phoenix Suns three players from the New Orleans Pelicans, with one of them being a $15 million star.

On September 13, Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report proposed the following trade idea between the Pelicans and Suns:

Trade idea: Jonas Valanciunas, Larry Nance Jr., Kira Lewis Jr. and 2024 first-round pick (via LAL) for Deandre Ayton

Valanciunas appeared in 79 games for the Pelicans last season. He averaged 14.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists while shooting 54.7% from the field, 34.9% from beyond the arc and 82.6% from the free-throw line. Valanciunas will make $15.4 million next season.

Nance Jr. played in 65 games for the Pelicans last season. He averaged 6.8 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists while shooting 61.0% from the floor, 33.3% from 3 and 69.6% from the foul line. Nance Jr. will make $10.4 million next season.

Finally, Lewis Jr. averaged 4.6 points and 1.3 rebounds in 25 games for the Pelicans last season while shooting 45.5% overall, 44.1% from 3-point range and 86.4% from the free-throw line. Lewis Jr. will make $5.7 million next season.

Suns Predicted to Sell Low on Deandre Ayton Trade

Greg Swartz of Bleacher Report thinks the Suns will be forced to sell low on an Ayton trade.

“We aren’t likely to see the best version of Ayton playing alongside Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal, especially without Chris Paul,” Swartz wrote in the story, published September 8. “Ayton received 30.1 percent of his total passes from Paul last season, with Booker finishing a distant second at 12.6 percent. Ayton’s raw stats will suffer, and he’ll eventually be traded for parts, with a rim-protecting center, wing defender and pass-first point guard all ranking at the top of Phoenix’s wish list.”

Ayton averaged 18.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 1.7 assists last season for the Suns while shooting 58.9% from the field and 76.0% from the foul line. The Arizona product recorded 36 double-doubles in 67 games.

However, Ayton’s level of play declined in the 2023 playoffs. He averaged 13.4 points and 9.7 rebounds in 10 games against the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets. Ayton put up 10.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game in the Nuggets series and didn’t record a positive plus-minus rating in any contest.

Trade Intel Revealed Why Suns Haven’t Moved Deandre Ayton Yet

The Suns haven’t traded Ayton because “there is no viable trade right now turning Ayton into the kinds of players (or picks) that would maintain or boost the Suns’ title odds,” according to Zach Lowe of ESPN.

The Suns discussed Ayton trades with the Dallas Mavericks and Indiana Pacers but wound up keeping the former No. 1 overall pick and trading Chris Paul to the Washington Wizards for Bradley Beal instead.

“The Suns’ top priority — from [owner Mat] Ishbia to Ayton and down to the 15th man — should be doing whatever it takes to repair their relationship with Ayton, to lift him back up,” Lowe wrote on July 31. “The Suns’ likely path toward a good-enough defense is switching a ton across the perimeter while keeping Ayton closer to the paint as the last line.”

The Suns acquired Beal from the Wizards on June 23. Beal averaged 23.2 points, 3.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists last season in 50 games. He signed a five-year, $251 million contract in July 2022.

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