Phoenix Suns ‘plan to explore’ Deandre Ayton trade, 3 potential landing spots

After being introduced as the new Phoenix Suns head coach, Frank Vogel expressed a desire to help Deandre Ayton grow into becoming an All-Star level player. While that might be one of the coach’s goals, the organization might not see that happening in Phoenix.

Ayton signed a four-year, $133 million offer sheet with the Indiana Pacers last summer and was poised for a fresh start in his NBA career. However, the Suns immediately matched the offer and kept a disgruntled Ayton for the entire season.

Related: Frank Vogel addresses Deandre Ayton’s future with Phoenix Suns

The 24-year-old center clashed with Monty Williams and has issues with Suns’ teammates, but remained a core part of the team’s long-term plans. After being eliminated from the NBA playoffs, though, it appears Phoenix is ready to make significant changes.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Suns intend to explore their trade options with Ayton this summer and evaluate what other NBA teams are willing to offer.

Related: NBA insider confident Phoenix Suns trade Deandre Ayton

The Suns are also planning to part ways with Chris Paul, either via trade or releasing him into free agency as a last result. With Devin Booker and Kevin Durant now the building blocks in Phoenix, Ayton faces an uncertain future with an increasing likelihood that he is traded this summer.

Identifying the 3 best Deandre Ayton trade destinations

NBA: Playoffs-Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Clippers

After becoming one of the highest-paid centers in the NBA, Ayton regressed as a player last season. Despite his usage rate rising to 22.9 percent, the second-highest mark in his career, Ayton’s offensive rating (119) and effectiveness dropped.

DeAndre Ayton statsPPGRPGeFG%WS/48RAPTOR
2021-’2217.210.2.639.2030.9 (24th among Cs)
2022-’231810.592.147-2.7 (48th among Cs)
DeAndre Ayton stats via FiveThirtyEight and Basketball Reference

He was even worse in the playoffs, averaging a career-low 13.4 points per game and shooting 55 percent from the field with 3.5 fouls and 1.7 turnovers per contest. It added credibility to a growing belief that he likely isn’t the right fit in Phoenix and a change is necessary for both sides.

Keeping that in mind, here’s a quick rundown of the three best trade landing spots for Deandre Ayton right now.

  • Dallas Mavericks: In recent years, the Dallas Mavericks have tried to make it work at center with the likes of Dwight Powell, JaVale McGee and Kristaps Porzingis, with none of the plans working out. Ayton is a high-upside bet for a franchise that doesn’t have the assets to acquire a more consistent or proven talent. Dallas knows there would be risks with Deandre Ayton, seeing the frustrations he caused for the Suns’ organization and his teammates. However, this is a team desperate to prove to Luka Doncic it’s willing to be aggressive and Ayton addressed a clear need.
  • Charlotte Hornets: The Charlotte Hornets haven’t viewed the center position as a huge area to prioritize in recent years, but times are changing. With LaMelo Ball at point guard and the pick seemingly locked in at No. 2 overall, there’s a clear need for a big man. While Deandre Ayton isn’t especially reliable, with his range of performances ranging from All-Star level to rotational center, he is better than anything the Hornets have started in years. If he makes the best of a new situation, he can thrive in Charlotte alongside Ball.
  • Portland Trail Blazers: The Portland Trail Blazers want to trade the No. 3 pick for a high-end wing, but the options simply don’t exist right now. If that’s off the table, the Trail Blazers should turn their focus to the center position. Ayton offers a much higher ceiling than Jusuf Nurkic, albeit at a higher cost. While there’s a lot of risk-reward to acquiring him, Portland has to take a gamble to prove itself to Damian Lillard.
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