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Indiana Pacers linked to Deandre Ayton: 2 reasons it makes perfect sense

Vincent Frank

The Indiana Pacers are going to make at least one headline trade this summer after a second consecutive down season for the organization.

Indiana dropped 57 games in the first season of Rick Carlisle’s return to the organization. It represented the team’s worst record since all the way back in 1982-83.

At issue here is roster construction. Pacers front office head Kevin Pritchard pulled off a blockbuster deal ahead of the February 10 NBA trade deadline, acquiring young guard Tyrese Haliburton from the Sacramento Kings for All-Star big man Domantas Sabonis.

The idea is now to build a core group behind the backcourt duo of Haliburton and fellow young guard, 2021 lottery pick Chris Duarte. Meanwhile, there’s continued rumors that big-name players such as Malcolm Brogdon and Myles Turner could be on the move.

Enter into the equation the possibility that these Indiana Pacers could use some of their assets to pry disgruntled pending Phoenix Suns restricted free agent Deandre Ayton away from the desert.

ESPN’s Zach Lowe noted recently that the two sides had discussions about an Ayton-centric trade ahead of the February 10 deadline. The talks didn’t go too far, because, a then-contending Suns team did not want to disrupt its roster mid-season.

Things have changed big time since then. Phoenix was eliminated in the conference semifinals by the Dallas Mavericks after a disastrous Game 7 home performance. Ayton, 23, played all of 17 minutes in that game — leading a further rift between the former No. 1 pick and his organization.

“Deandre Ayton did not feel valued by this Phoenix organization. He is going to get a max contract in the marketplace, somewhere.”

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Deandre Ayton situation

It now seems more likely than ever that Ayton and the Suns are headed for an ugly divorce after the team pushed back against signing him to a rookie-level max contract extension ahead of the 2021-22 season. Teams are going to be interested. It’s likely going to come in the form of a sign-and-trade. So, why not the Indiana Pacers? Here, we look at two reasons why it makes perfect sense.

Related: Ideal Malcolm Brogdon trade scenarios from the Indiana Pacers

Indiana Pacers would have a core three by acquiring Deandre Ayton

deandre ayton trade to the indiana pacers
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Ahead of the 2021-22 season, the Pacers seemed to be stuck between bottom-end playoff contention and complete irrelevance on the broader NBA stage.

If nothing else, this past season made one thing clear. It was time to blow everything up and start anew. That began with the acquisition of the 22-year-old Haliburton. Despite the lack of team-wide succcess, he played well in his short time with Indiana.

  • Tyrese Halburton stats (w/ Indiana Pacers): 17.5 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 9.6 APG, 50% shooting, 42% 3-point

At the time of the trade, most experts believed that Indiana bamboozled Sacramento by acquiring the young star. Nothing we saw from Haliburton in Indiana or Sabonis in California’s capital city dispelled that notion.

As for the 24-year-old Chris Duarte, he started out the season as a legit NBA Rookie of the Year contender before injuries caught up with him.

The Oregon product averaged 13.5 points and 4.0 rebounds on 36% shooting through the first third of the season. He has range. He can score. He fits perfectly in the backcourt with Haliburton moving forward.

For Indiana, the acquisition of Ayton would make sense on multiple levels. It would create a nice inside-out game between him and the two young guards.

It would also enable Indiana to move off fellow big man Myles Turner after trade rumors have circled the defensive-minded veteran over the past couple years. Pritchard and Co. seemingly don’t envision him as a fit with this new core group. The same thing can’t be said about a player in Ayton who boasts unlimited upside and has shown more on the offensive end of the court than Turner.

  • Deandre Ayton stats (career): 16.3 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 63% shooting

A sign-and-trade for Ayton wouldn’t impact Indiana’s future draft plans. Remember, it acquired a future first-round pick from the Cleveland Cavaliers for Caris LeVert. Rather, the team would build a stud young trio while still having the assets to create more talent around them.

Related: 3 moves the Phoenix Suns must make to return to championship contention

Phoenix Suns’ hopes rest on Deandre Ayton sign-and-trade

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Phoenix Suns
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s be honest here for a second. Phoenix does not have the assets to pull off a trade for another star to team up with Devin Booker. No one is giving up anything of substance for an aging Chris Paul. That’s especially true after his latest playoff dud.

Rather, Suns general manager James Jones needs to dig in and fint assets for Ayton on the sign-and-trade market. The good news? There’s very few teams that can offer him the five-year, $172.5 million max without sending contracts the other way. This puts Phoenix in a great position given that it can match any offer for him.

In a hypothetical Deandre Ayton trade to the Indiana Pacers, Phoenix would be getting back multiple players who could help Booker and Co. return to championship contention. It would also be able to potentially take some of the pressure off Paul as the future Hall of Famer enters the twilight of his career.

Any deal would have to start with the aforementioned Turner heading to the desert. While he’s not the same offensive player as Ayton, the 26-year-old big has performed at a high level defensively. He can also stretch the court more than his younger counterpart.

  • Myles Turner stats (2021-22): 12.9 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 2.8 BPG, 51% shooting, 33% 3-point

Just recently, Turner has decided to expand his shooting. That has included him attempting four-plus three-pointers per game since the start of the 2019-20 season. If he can start hitting on those consistently, it would be big for Phoenix.

With Turner set to enter the final year of his contract at $18 million, more moving pieces would have to head back to Phoenix. The idea would be to build up a deeper roster after the Suns’ bench struggled big time in the playoffs.

That’s where veteran point guard T.J. McConnell comes into play. He’s proven capable in a bench role since entering the NBA as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers back in 2015. He’s also a net-positive on the defensive end (12.2 defensive win shares throughout his career).

To make the deal work financially, the Indiana Pacers would also likely have to part ways with young forward Isaiah Jackson. It would be a bitter pill for Pritchard and Co. to swallow, but it would also provide another frontcourt presence off the bench in Phoenix.

In return, Phoenix gives up its first-round pick in 2024 and multiple second-round picks to make this worth Indiana’s while.

Hypothetical Deandre Ayton trade to the Indiana Pacers

  • Pacers get: Deandre Ayton, 2024 1st-round pick, 2 2nd-round picks
  • Suns get: Myles Turner, T.J. McConnell, Isaiah Jackson