Suns Western Conference Rival Interested in Swiping Deandre Ayton

Phoenix Suns, Deandre Ayton. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Phoenix Suns, Deandre Ayton. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports /

Lighting has struck in the desert. Although the Phoenix Suns experienced a regular season for the books this past year, it all slipped through their hands once stepping up to the playoff stage. Now, Phoenix’s upcoming offseason promises to be a stormy, chaotic one—and few sparks are already flying around one certain big man.

We were warned with thunder last summer when the Suns failed to extend Deandre Ayton past his rookie deal. By doing this, Phoenix and Ayton set themselves up for an awkward summer a few months down the line. That summer has now arrived

Once this year’s offseason officially begins on June 30, Ayton becomes a restricted free agent. Under that circumstance, Ayton can test the market, but the Suns will have a chance to match any deal presented by another team.

Rather than watching Ayton tumble into the lawless jungle that is unrestricted free agency, the Suns do possess some leverage here. However, Ayton is still “up for grabs” now more than ever, and the Suns will need to decide once and for all how much they want to invest in him.

But while Phoenix ponders that question, threats from afar are already gearing up to make a run at the former first overall pick, one of which includes Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers.

Earlier this week, Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer spoke about Ayton on the Dunc’d On Basketball podcast. Fischer opened up his comments on Ayton calling him “the biggest name that could move.”

Fischer then went on to call the Detroit Pistons possible suitors for Ayton as he searches for a max contract. He then mentioned the Blazers as well, specifically including Lillard as someone who wants to play with Ayton.

“He wants the max, he doesn’t want to come down from that,” Fischer said. “So if that’s the case, if one team offers him the max, which I think seems pretty possible—Detroit gets mentioned a lot. Like Portland, it seems like he’s another guy that Dame has interest in playing with.

Fischer later included the Toronto Raptors and the San Antonio Spurs as teams to keep an eye on in the Ayton sweepstakes as well. When mixed reports about James Harden’s status with the Brooklyn Nets began to surface this past season, Fischer was one of the first to endorse the possibility of The Beard skipping town to link up with Daryl Morey, which of course ended up happening.

With the Trail Blazers shipping off C.J. McCollum a few months ago, Damian Lillard is essentially all they have at this point. Having acknowledged that, it would make sense for their front office to appease him and make a run at Ayton.

If Portland indeed puts Ayton on their summer shopping list, how they acquire him though remains to be seen.

Jusuf Nurkic is set to become an unrestricted free agent in a few weeks. It makes zero sense for the Blazers to add both Ayton and Nurkic, nor could they afford them both, but a sign-and-trade deal that lands Phoenix the Bosnian Beast and still pairs Ayton with Lillard could work out.

Portland could also roll the dice and allow Nurkic to walk, then offer Ayton a max, and hope that Phoenix does not match the deal.

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With NBA free agency set to begin at the end of the month, both teams have a bit more time to mull over all these potential chess moves. But at least for now, Phoenix should be aware that some Dame dollars might be used to lure away their big man, for better or worse.