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Phoenix Suns looking to trade into top-10 of the NBA Draft, re-sign Deandre Ayton

Vincent Frank

The Phoenix Suns don’t have a single selection in Thursday’s NBA Draft. That could change here soon with information coming out around the Association’s water cooler leading up to the annual event in Brooklyn.

According to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, Phoenix is among the teams interested in acquiring the No. 8 pick from the New Orleans Pelicans

Per the report, the idea would be to send a veteran contract or two to New Orleans as a way to create cap relief. Said money would then be used to re-sign restricted free agent center Deandre Ayton. Givony specifically mentions Cameron Johnson as someone who might be heading to Nola in this hypothetical deal.

There’s a whole lot of moving parts to this. For pretty much the past several weeks following their ugly loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Semifinals, there’s been reports that the Suns were not going to re-sign Ayton.

He struggled making a huge impact in the postseason and seemingly fell out of favor. Meanwhile, the young center is set to receive a max-contract offer once free agency opens.

The other point here is rather interesting. Johnson has a $5.89 million cap hit for next season. New Orleans is over the cap — meaning salaries would have to come close to matching. Apparently, the idea here would be to create long-term cap flexibility.

A first-round pick of the Suns back in 2019, Johnson will be a restricted free agent following next season. With the way he’s progressed, re-signing the wing would cost a lot over the long haul. Moving off Johnson for a youngster on his rookie deal could enable Phoenix to create the flexibility to re-sign Ayton.

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How a Phoenix Suns, New Orleans Pelicans draft night trade might work

NBA: Playoffs-New Orleans Pelicans at Phoenix Suns
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

We’re not even sure New Orleans would have interest in Johnson when it comes to a potential trade. He plays the same position as injured franchise cornerstone Zion Williamson.

Even if the Pelicans had interest in moving Johnson to the three, All-Star Brandon Ingram mans that spot. Perhaps, this would be a precursor to a larger-scale trade for a Pelicans team that has interest in moving the eighth pick for a veteran contributor.

  • Cameron Johnson stats (2021-22): 12.5 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 46% shooting, 43% 3-point

At 26 years old, Johnson could very well be seen as a building block for an up-and-coming team. Using him as a real asset to flip for a player at a need position (point guard) would potentially make sense for New Orleans.

From Phoenix’ perspective, it would then have the eighth pick to find a youngster that could fit into its rotation. We’re likely looking at someone who could make an immediate impact. Wisconsin guard Johnny Davis, Arizona wing Bennedict Mathurin and AJ Griffin from Duke come to mind first.

Related: Phoenix Suns standing in our most-recent NBA power rankings

As it is, this likely won’t happen unless the Phoenix Suns come to some sort of conclusion that they are able to retain Deandre Ayton in free agency.

Prior to struggles in the playoffs, the former No. 1 pick looked every bit the part of a franchise cornerstone with star guard Devin Booker. Whether this relationship is still salvageable will tell us everything we need to know about if the Suns are going to be active come draft night.