It’s safe to say that things aren’t going well in Phoenix after the Suns collapsed against the Dallas Mavericks in game seven of the Western Conference semi-finals. Phoenix enjoyed a phenomenal regular season but is now out of the running in an embarrassing fashion. Star center Deandre Ayton is an impending free agent, and landing spots are already being discussed. This, of course, is due to internal issues and murmurs are starting to come out.
Suns head coach Monty Williams was asked about Ayton only playing 17 minutes in game seven, and Williams said the issue “was internal.” When asked about Ayton’s future with the Suns, Williams essentially said it will be something dealt with in the summer. The lack of a firm answer isn’t ideal.
Take this with a grain of salt, but Skip Bayless said, according to Lil Wayne, that Williams told Ayton that the player quit on the Suns.
Finally, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski also chimed in and said Ayton did not feel valued by Phoenix and will be offered a max contract elsewhere this offseason.
Playoff collapse aside, Ayton remains a great player. He holds plenty of value.
Potential Deandre Ayton Landing Spots
First off, the Pistons have cap space. This, of course, is the most important factor when it comes to landing a player like Ayton.
Cunningham enjoyed a strong rookie season and has future All-Star written all over him. Having a player like Ayton on his side will only majorly boost his assist numbers. Ayton will remain the third option in Phoenix if he stays, but he instantly jumps to number two in Detroit. In addition, Ayton will have a true running mate at the one for a decade instead of Chris Paul who’s likely somewhat close to retirement.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Cap space is a factor here again, of course. The Thunder have a lot of it.
Oklahoma City is fully committed to a rebuild, especially considering all the draft picks they’ve stockpiled. Ayton, however, presents an opportunity for the Thunder to quickly accelerate forward.
The team has two stellar pieces in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey. Gilgeous-Alexander is a borderline elite scorer and can facilitate. Giddey has plenty of potential to average double-digit assists every year. Playing with these two guards will allow Ayton to dominate on a regular basis. The Thunder also have a prime lottery pick coming up, so adding Ayton plus that pick will immediately make the Thunder a force. The Western Conference is a gauntlet, and the Thunder cannot be satisfied with continuing to scrape the bottom of the barrel.
This scenario will be a little different, but there’s a possibility of it working.
First off, the Hornets will not have a plethora of cap space. One of their first priorities will be re-signing Miles Bridges as well. Charlotte, however, is also in dire need of a center. Upgrading this position, even if it comes at a cost, is crucial.
If Ayton is leaving Phoenix, and Charlotte generates interest, then the Suns need to dive into a sign-and-trade possibility to gain assets here. Perhaps Gordon Hayward isn’t the ideal piece to receive because of his age, contract, and injury history.
One option could be Terry Rozier. Phoenix can use extra guard help to lighten the load on Paul, especially come playoff time. Perhaps the Suns can sneak in PJ Washington as well. Washington is an extremely versatile forward who will eventually replace Jae Crowder on this team. Charlotte has assets to offer.
The Hornets are on the brink of playoff qualification, and Ayton will help this. Going into the future, a duo of Ayton and LaMelo Ball could be elite down the road.
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