The Suns decided to keep Deandre Ayton. At least for the moment. Chosen in first position in the 2018 NBA draft, the Bahamian pivot, announced on departure after four seasons of often good and loyal service in Arizona, will still be a member of the Suns at the start of the next season. The franchise had until Saturday to match Indiana’s huge offer presented on Thursday ($133 million over four years). And the leaders of the 2021 finalists did not take long to make their decision, with a counter-offer made in stride, according to Ayton’s agents, quoted by ESPN.
A master stroke, even poker. Because the Pacers’ offer was the largest in NBA history for a player out of a rookie contract, even surpassing that of four years and $ 107 million signed by Otto Porter Junior with the Brooklyn Nets in 2016 which had shaken the basketball world before ending in a fiasco, the latter having never really confirmed his level.
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And we understand why: 23-year-old Deandre Ayton averaged 16.3 points and 10.5 rebounds to help Phoenix on its way to the 2021 NBA Finals (loss to Milwaukee). Last season, he averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds to help Chris Paul and Devin Booker cement their regular-season dominance with 64 wins and 18 losses.
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But the move risks complicating any possibility of incorporating Nets star Kevin Durant into his roster. KD, double NBA champion, 2014 MVP and considered by many to be the best striker in the League, caused shock waves on June 30 when he announced that he had requested a transfer from Brooklyn. In addition to revealing that Phoenix and Miami were his favorite destinations.
Deandre Ayton during a preseason game against the Los Angeles Lakers, in October 2021
Credit: Getty Images
But to bring him to Arizona, it will be without counting on Ayton, because no agreement for Kevin Durant could include the pivot. Especially since having matched the Pacers’ offer, the Suns will not be able to exchange their young Bahamian pivot before January 15, 2023, according to very strict NBA regulations. Additional difficulty: they will also not be able to exchange it for a full year without his agreement.
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