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Can the Phoenix Suns include newly re-signed Deandre Ayton in a trade for Kevin Durant?

The Phoenix Suns just matched the max offer-sheet the Pacers offered Deandre Ayton, which affects their quest to acquire Kevin Durant.

Update:
The Phoenix Suns just matched the max offer-sheet the Pacers offered Deandre Ayton, which affects their quest to acquire Kevin Durant.
Kevin C. CoxUSA TODAY Sports

The Indiana Pacers got Bahamian player Deandre Ayton to sign the biggest ever offer-sheet for a restricted free agent (RFA) ever yesterday with their 4-years $133 million contract. Ayton’s rights holders and the team who drafted him, the Phoenix Suns, had two days to either match the offer or allow their center to leave and sign for the Carlisle coached Eastern Conference franchise, where the 23 year old wanted to team up with emerging star Tyrese Haliburton. The Suns had some options open, as they could let the 2018 draft number one pick leave to create cap space for 2023 or they could engineer a sign and trade with the Pacers to acquire back a Center such as Myles Turner, but they did no such thing as they matched the offer-sheet as soon as they could, therefore retaining Ayton.

Ayton’s new contract

The Suns were wary of giving Deandre Ayton a max-money contract, which they could have done all throughout the past season with an extension, due to considering his play to be very good but not elite and the center’s previous drug abuse suspension back in 2019. These doubts led to Ayton reaching RFA status, which allows the player to negotiate a deal with any franchise once free agency opens and forces his current team to either match the contract he signs or allow him to leave. Still, once the choice was between paying the Bahamian over $30 million per year or losing him, either for nothing or having to trade assets to get an inferior player like Turner in return, the Robert Sarver owned team went with the former.

Restricted free agency is a CBA provision which affects all first round players once they complete their four-year rookie deal as well as some other free agents who have not been in the league for long, and it is intended to help teams retain their drafted players more easily. If the RFA does not sign an offer-sheet with another team nor reach a long-term deal with his current one, he can also sign a one-year Qualifying Offer with his current team and become an Unrestricted Free Agent after that season.

Phoenix: Ayton and/or Durant

Matching Deandre Ayton’s offer-sheet does bring some additional complications for the Phoenix Suns in their on-going attempt to trade for Brooklyn Nets’ forward Kevin Durant. After denying Ayton’s move to Indiana and re-signing him for four years, the Suns are not allowed to trade him before January 15, the trade-eligible date for players that were re-signed during the offseason. Ayton is also granted veto rights for the next year, as he cannot be traded to any other team without his consent in that period.

The Phoenix Suns just matched the max offer-sheet the Pacers offered Deandre Ayton, which affects their quest to acquire Kevin Durant.
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The Phoenix Suns just matched the max offer-sheet the Pacers offered Deandre Ayton, which affects their quest to acquire Kevin Durant. ELSAAFP

The Phoenix Suns were one of the two teams MVP winner Kevin Durant named as his preferred landing spots, with the other being the Miami Heat. This new deal makes the Suns’ Bahamian center unavailable for any trade focused on Durant this offseason, which means the Arizona team will have a more difficult time creating an offer enticing enough for Nets’ GM Sean Marks to send the All-Star forward to Phoenix. Durant is also under team control in the long term after signing a 4-year $194 million extension with the Nets last summer.

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