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Deandre Ayton is ‘unlikely’ to be with Phoenix Suns next season: 4 likely trade destinations

Following the Phoenix Suns’ elimination from the 2023 NBA Playoffs, there are many signs pointing toward Deandre Ayton’s tenure with the team likely being over.

On Thursday night, the Phoenix Suns saw their 2022-2023 campaign brought to a disappointing conclusion. After making a blockbuster trade for NBA legend Kevin Durant, and looking unstoppable at times during the postseason, the team went out quietly during a pathetic 125-100 loss to the Denver Nuggets at home.

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While Kevin Durant and Devin Booker did not deliver in forcing a Game 7 in their semifinal series, in the end, at least they were on the court to try their best. One notable omission from the lineup on Thursday was the $132 million man Deandre Ayton. The starting center missed the matchup with a rib contusion and it might have been his last night on the Phoenix Suns bench.

All season long the situation between the team and Deandre Ayton has been awkward as he signed an offer sheet with the Indiana Pacers last summer but was forced to return to Phoenix after the Suns matched the contract. His stats did not improve like his paycheck this season, and in the playoffs, he had notable declines in points and his shooting percentages compared to previous years.

deandre ayton, phoenix suns
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Plus, there were the multiple mental lapses he had during the postseason and, of course, his absence in a pivotal Game 6. His likely departure is something ESPN NBA insider Tim MacMahon spoke about on a Thursday night edition of the “Hoop Collective” podcast.

“As one scout said to me at halftime, ‘some heads are gonna roll for this one.’ We can talk about a whole bunch of different people who might not be back here next year. I think it’s pretty unlikely that Deandre Ayton’s back. It’s not like that’s suddenly materialized. We’ve known that all year long. It’s been this awkward [situation].”

– Tim MacMahon

Assuming Deandre Ayton is in a new uniform next season, here are four teams that are the most likely trade partners for the Phoenix Suns this summer.

Indiana Pacers

The Pacers were one of the few franchises that felt Ayton was worthy of a massive deal in NBA free agency. After a strong start but horrid finish to the season, Indiana likely still feels Ayton is the missing ingredient to their long-term success. A swap that includes veteran big-man Myles Turner would make sense for both teams.

Oklahoma City Thunder

The Oklahoma City Thunder took a massive step forward in 2022-2023. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was an All-NBA first-team talent and there is serious upside in Oklahoma. Furthermore, 2022 first-round pick Chet Holmgren will be back after a season-ending injury to further improve their potential. Adding Deandre Ayton would give them the veteran big they need and take a lot of the dirty work away from wiry prospect Holmgren.

deandre ayton, phoenix suns
Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Mavericks

Change is likely coming to the Dallas Mavericks roster this offseason after a disastrous finish to the season. There were rumors last year that they had an interest in a possible Ayton trade. If the Mavs don’t bring Kyrie Irving back in free agency, switching that money to getting Luka Doncic a proven center to be his sidekick would make a lot of sense for Dallas next season.

Detroit Pistons

The Detroit Pistons was the other team that made a hard push for Deandre Ayton last summer. After being one of the worst teams in the league in 2022-2023, they badly need a proven veteran to come in and make an impact, especially in the frontcourt. A deal that includes sending James Wiseman and some draft compensation back to Phoenix could be something the Suns pull the trigger on.

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