The Drive with Jody Oehler

The Drive with Jody Oehler

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Why I've Changed My Mind on Deandre Ayton


Its later than you think.

This can apply to life and it can definitely apply to the NBA offseason.

The NBA Draft is next Thursday. NBA Free Agency begins the week after that, meaning we are a little over two weeks away from the Phoenix Suns needing to make a massive decision on the future of their franchise and the future of their franchise center, Deandre Ayton.

Up until this point, I've been a vehement supporter of the Suns trading Ayton for a few major reasons: 1) Centers aren't generally worth max contracts 2) The Suns franchise has clearly exhausted all their efforts to coax more out of Ayton and 3) A good trade return would make them a better team now and in the future.

Now as we get closer to the reality of a potential Ayton trade, I may be changing my mind.

Trading Ayton has always been predicated on getting an impressive return. Ayton will be 24 this summer, has anchored an NBA Finals team and consistently put up strong numbers for a young big. If you are going to deal him, you have to get maximum value for him.

That doesn't sound like its going to happen right now.

Based on the reports of the offers that could be on the table if the deal Ayton this summer it will feel more like a rash emotional decision than a methodical, strategic decision.

The details are somewhat complex but Ayton's status as a restricted free agent and the Suns salary cap situation make a traditional deal all but impossible. In separate reports from Marc Stein and Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, the Suns may have to make a one for one swap to deal Ayton.

Ayton for Clint Capela or Ayton for John Collins and Ayton for Jerami Grant are a few options that have been mentioned.

That's just no where near enough for DA. In fact, with the salary matching specifics, there really aren't any players that be on the table for Ayton straight up that make the Suns a better team.

So what should the Suns do? The Utah Jazz might have all the answers.

The Jazz signed Center Rudy Gobert to 5 year, $205 million dollar contract extension in late 2020 when Gobert was 27 years old. At the time, it was the richest deal ever given to an NBA center. Gobert and the Jazz have disappointed since that deal, he's now nearly 30 years old and is reportedly available in trade talks this summer.

One reported deal on the table could the the Hawks sending some combination of Clint Capela or John Collins, Kevin Huerter and the 16th overall pick. In other words, more than what the Suns would likely get from the Hawks for Ayton.

While they are different players, it sure sounds like Gobert who is six years older than Ayton and a much more limited offensive player than DA but who has less restrictions in his trade rules, would net more for the Jazz than Ayton for the Suns..

So maybe the Suns best option this summer isn't to play "Let's Make a Deal" but to play the waiting game.

Let another team offer Ayton the max, match the 4 year, $131.15 offer and kick the trade can down the road for at least another six months. Without his restricted free agent status complicating trade talks, the Suns could expect to land at least a Gobert sized trade package down the road.

Of course there are risks involved with this option. Ayton could get paid and pout, poisoning his trade value. He could blow up the Suns chemistry having been armed with a new deal and wanting more touches. Or other teams could smell the Suns strategy from a mile away and the Suns could never realize full leverage in trade conversations.

There are pros and cons to all the options for Deandre Ayton.

The cardinal rule of any GM is to not sell low on a valuable asset. The Suns cannot afford to sell low on Ayton for the sake of next year's team and beyond. The Suns can only deal Ayton this offseason if they can find the best trade possible which feels less likely now than ever before.

I've had a change of heart with Ayton's offseason status, hopefully James Jones does too.


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