Why the Suns Should Welcome Deandre Ayton Trade for Myles Turner

Phoenix Suns, Deandre Ayton (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns, Deandre Ayton (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

With the NBA Finals coming to a close last night, we now have the 2022 NBA offseason polished, waxed, and with a full engine of gasoline. In just a few weeks from now, all NBA teams, including the Phoenix Suns, will put their keys in the ignition and hit the gas.

Buckle up, this is where the fun begins.

To be fair though, one team did get something of a head start in this upcoming race to the 2022-23 season’s tipoff. The Dallas Mavericks, who Phoenix knows all too well, whipped out their lassos and pulled in Christian Wood earlier this week.

Last year, Wood averaged 17.9 points and a career-high 10.1 rebounds per game, all while putting up highly efficient .501/.390/.623 shooting splits. He now resembles a fun pick-and-roll chess piece for Luka Doncic to move around on the court for years to come.

But across the league, and especially here in the desert, a different big man out on the trade block has been occupying most minds in Deandre Ayton.

To sum up Phoenix’s situation with Ayton, the former first overall pick is due for a new contract. Last summer, the Suns failed to agree with Ayton on the extension he desired. If the Suns did not want to make a long term financial commitment to Ayton then, they are likely still hesitant to do so now.

Although another team could sign Ayton outright if the Suns neglect to match any offer in play for him, a sign-and-trade deal featuring the prized big remains the most advantageous route for Phoenix to take. Doing so will allow the Suns to net something in return for Ayton and consequently maintain their position as a competitive force in the West.

Earlier this week, Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer somewhat endorsed the idea of Ayton teaming up with Damian Lillard on the Portland Trail Blazers, briefly referring to Ayton as someone who Dame might want to play with on a podcast.

However, Fischer revised that report earlier this week with a new one, noting that Portland does not resemble a “legitimate” suitor for Ayton. Instead, he listed the Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons, and Toronto Raptors as more likely destinations for DA.

He then commented on some “whispers” he’d heard about the Suns potentially swinging Ayton for two-time block leader Myles Turner, who currently plays for the Indiana Pacers. Although the Raptors, Hawks, and Pistons all carry a few decent assets, especially Atlanta in Clint Capela, Turner resembles the best option out there to replace Ayton across this slew of teams.

First and foremost, the two most valuable, most intriguing assets which Ayton has are also possessed by Turner—those being age and potential ceiling. At 26 years old, Turner’s prime years also still lie ahead of him. With him on board, the Suns maintain their trajectory as not just a team to compete now, but long into the future.

While we know not how well Turner might fit into Phoenix’s pick-and-roll game, as Domantas Sabonis dominated that facet of Indiana’s offense for much of last season, he does bring two factors to the table which the Suns somewhat missed from Ayton over the years: long distance shooting and elite rim defense.

Being a two-time blocks leader, Turner’s rim protecting skills require no further validation. But the more advanced analytics even point to Turner as not just a solid substitution at the defensive end for Ayton, but an improvement.

At the rim this past year, those guarded by Turner saw their effective field goal percentage dip by -5.8 points, placing Turner in the 93rd percentile for that stat. Ayton on the other hand made things easy for his opponents around the cylinder, who shot better by +3.1 percent, dropping him into the 20th percentile.

Those numbers extend out beyond the paint. In the mid-range, Ayton’s opponents shot better as well compared to Turner. While Turner resembles a steel wall between his opponents and the rim from anywhere inside the 3-point arc, Ayton is a revolving door.

It doesn’t stop there though. Turner’s skills also apply specifically to what hurt the Suns in the playoffs this past year—surrendering offensive boards and put-backs.

During the postseason, opposing teams had Phoenix bleeding on the defensive glass in almost every game. The Suns averaged the third most opponent offensive rebounds per game in the playoffs, and no team averaged more points on put-backs in the playoffs than the New Orleans Pelicans, who of course only played Phoenix.

That all largely came at Ayton’s expense, who this past season allowed his opponents to score +12.8 points per 100 possessions on put-backs, placing him in an ice cold 19th percentile.

But Turner wields the potential to mop up that mess. This past year, his opponents scored -20.5 points per 100 possessions on put-back attempts, placing him amongst the upper echelon of rim protectors in the 91st percentile.

As impressive as his defense may be, Turner’s ability to shoot the triple promises to take Phoenix’s offense to another level as well.

Each of his past four years, Turner averaged at least one made triple per game, even hitting 1.5 per contest each of his last two seasons. Meanwhile, Ayton has made just 14 threes in his entire career.

Even if his efficiency from deep at 34.9 percent does not jump out at you, Turner’s ability to threaten from deep will stretch the floor for Phoenix and open up additional opportunities for Devin Booker and company to find high quality shots.

With Turner doing all that, and then having the best pick-and-roll teacher available in Chris Paul to help integrate him within Phoenix’s already established offensive schemes, he promises to push the Suns get over the hump.

Turner does resemble something of a question mark from a contract standpoint though. His current deal expires after the 2022-23 season, so Phoenix’s front office will need to gauge his potential commitment to the franchise and how that compares to Ayton’s trade value.

Next. Who Would Have Won Conference Finals MVP for Suns in 2021?. dark

There’s a lot to unpack here, but Turner makes more sense than Capela, or most other free agent bigs to potentially replace Ayton. If James Jones proves some stock in Fischer’s report and makes a deal for Turner, feel free to celebrate it.