If there is one thing members of the media and Phoenix Suns fans alike enjoy spending time doing, it is putting center Deandre Ayton into various trades they have dreamt up. Here at Valley of the Suns, we’ve done it ourselves. Like — a lot. No seriously, it got ridiculous there for a minute.
Tiring as it may be to read, it makes a lot of sense. Ayton hasn’t always endeared himself to fans, he was outplayed by Jock Landale in the playoffs last year (we miss you Jock…), and his work ethic and effort on the court have often left a lot to be desired as well. Hell, Ayton even signed an offer sheet with the Indiana Pacers in the past, so he nearly was out of town altogether already.
So with these trade rumors popping up seemingly every week, why not throw another one into the mix that you likely haven’t heard yet.
Ayton is the fourth member of the Suns’ current “Big 4” and so, he is the odd man out. Any chance the organization has to get better or to change direction in pursuit of winning a championship, involves moving him and his roughly $100 million owed over the next three seasons.
That means Ayton can only be moved for only a select group of players or packages involving several decent sized contracts, which is why you’ve heard names like James Harden brought up in the past. But what about Julius Randle of the New York Knicks?
You might think this is crazy – but if you’re dead set on getting rid of Ayton – you need to be realistic about what you’re going to get back. He might be a top 10 big in the league, a potential future All-Star and still only 25-years-old, but he is worth more to the Suns than anybody else.
When considering huge, franchise-altering trades like this, not enough people take the second team into account either. Which is another reason Randle’s name appears here, because the Knicks would be one of the few franchises out there who could talk themselves into Ayton, for the following reasons.
Randle may be a two-time All-Star, but he too has shown an ability, just like Ayton, to not always look engaged. He is three years older than Ayton at 28, and is owed a similar amount of money as Ayton over the next three seasons as well. That’s the books taken care of at least.
Most interestingly of all, Ayton could work better with the Knicks’ star point guard, Jalen Brunson. Over the last five seasons, a more traditional big has won the MVP award, and the need to have an elite patroller of the paint has come back into fashion. A two-man game with Brunson would work wonders for the Knicks, much like Chris Paul and Ayton did for the Suns.
This all sounds great for the team that would be getting Ayton, but why then would the Suns want Randle? After all, he is more of a power forward, and his injury history is worse than that of Ayton. Well, you do this if you’re the Suns because it gets you an elite big in return, albeit a different type of one, and a player who could work better with Devin Booker and Bradley Beal.
There has been a fear ever since the Suns traded for Beal that Ayton would not be happy as the fourth option offensively. With Yuta Watanabe on the roster, sometimes he may not even be that. Randle would likely feel the same way, but as a player who shot over 34 percent from deep last season and put up a career high 25.1 points, he would have a stronger case to see the ball more.
This would be putting a lot of pressure on Drew Eubanks and also Durant to pick up more of the center slack in the middle. In the case of Durant, the Suns would not want that so as to wear him down during the regular season. But could this also be the rebirth of Randle in a different position for a contender?
He would be a tad undersized for the role, but he is a beefy individual who has never shied away from the physical part of the game. Traditional positions aren’t what they used to be in the league either, and a trio of Durant, Randle and Eubanks gives the Suns more flexibility than one that has Ayton there instead.
This isn’t an easy sell for the Suns or the Knicks, but it is one of the few trades out there for Ayton in particular that is plausible and makes sense on some level. If the regular season comes off the tracks early, Ayton will be the logical fall guy and player they move to salvage a group that has to win now.
For the Knicks, they get a chance to get younger in the frontcourt, and add a more conventional and younger big to pair with a blossoming star in Brunson. An ideal one-two punch in an Eastern Conference where they could make some noise if Ayton comes to The Big Apple engaged. Is this a deal you can get behind?