It is no secret that there have been trade rumors circulating around Deandre Ayton since the conference semi-final loss in 2022 to the Dallas Mavericks. The big man was left to play only 17 minutes in the Suns win or go home game, as he was benched by then coach Monty Williams.
Many teams have been interested in Ayton, but the Indians Pacers have come closest to securing him in the past, when they offered him a massive deal. Surprisingly, the Suns matched the offer and seemingly locked Ayton in for the long haul.
With a past existing between Ayton and the Pacers, should the former number one pick finally head to Indiana through trade?
It should be noted that while the Suns are not actively shopping Ayton, he would be the most valuable player on the roster they would consider moving. Suns’ General Manager James Jones has shown interest in making more moves to add further depth to this group.
Ayton certainly has been a major contributor for the Suns, averaging a double double for the 2022-23 season (18PPG and 10RPG) with a nice shooting percentage of 58.8%. But with a big three consisting of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal, Ayton finds himself as the fourth option in a star-studded group.
While Ayton himself has expressed a desire to stay in Phoenix after the constant speculation and trade rumors, multiple teams remain interested in trading for the big man. However, for both the Suns and Ayton, the best move could be sending him to the Pacers.
The Pacers are currently in rebuild mode, with some solid players on their roster to help with the process. Led by All-Star point guard Tyrese Haliburton, a player the Suns painfully whiffed on before, the Pacers are looking to continue to build their young core.
Ayton would certainly fit at 24-years-old, sliding into the centre position, getting more touches and more playing time than he would with the Suns. He would also get to play in an environment without the stress of competing for a championship right away, allowing him to focus on his development on both ends of the floor.
There are a number of players for the Pacers that have been involved in trade rumors for the past season, with some lucrative options available that could help build Phoenix’s depth. Big man Myles Turner has been a player involved in a number of trade rumors in recent months, with Bleacher Report writer Greg Swartz suggesting a Turner-Ayton deal as being a move for the Suns to consider.
Turner brings more to the defensive end of the court than Ayton. The Pacers big man is one of the best rim protectors in the league, averaging 2.3 blocks per game this past season. Ayton averaged just shy of one block per game, showcasing the different style in play on the defensive end between the two players.
While new head coach Frank Vogel could help Ayton develop on the defensive end, a player of Turner’s defensive capabilities would be a perfect fit in his defensive schemes. His play continues to develop, with Turner developing on the offensive end this past season, however the Suns would mainly utilize him for his defensive attributes.
Another perk of trading Ayton to the Pacers is the likelihood of deepening the bench. While Turner would likely be the centerpiece, the Pacers would still need to send over another player to secure the deal.
Indiana have a number of individuals they could send, however the player that makes the most sense is TJ McConnell. Jake Fischer from Yahoo! Sports reported that the McConnell had caught the eye of the Suns and it makes sense why.
The Suns need to fill out their back court rotation, especially after trading away Cameron Payne. Beal and Booker have the starting duties sorted, however McConnell would be instrumental in leading the second unit.
McConnell is a great playmaker and one of the best pick pockets in the league, averaging 5.3 assists per game and 1.1 steals last season. McConnell has proven he can create with the ball in his hands and has done excellent work leading the Pacers second unit.
Adding both Turner and McConnell for Ayton would be a win-win scenario for both teams. The Suns gain depth and arguably become a better team and the Pacers get another young star to jump start their rebuild.