Grade the trade: Suns finally move for Ayton for… Nurkic?
How can it be that a bonafide contender in the Suns most likely came out the worst in this deal? Their haul for Ayton (and Camara) looks unremarkable on the surface, and does not get any better once you dig deeper.
Nurkic hasn’t played 56 games in a season since before Covid. He is four years older than Ayton, and has a deal that runs for the next three seasons, also like Ayton. He makes a lot less money, but you get the sense rivals won’t be banging down the door to acquire him in future. Nurkic has been available for a long time, and likely wasn’t going anywhere.
He is a big man and diligent rim-runner, but aren’t there many players like that? Quite a few are healthier than Nurkic too. He starts for the Suns and will get out of the way, but he also has to be available to do that. Grayson Allen intrigues, and has a chance to carve out a sixth man role here.
As for Nassir Little and Keon Johnson, right now it is hard to see them beating out Keita Bates-Diop, Eric Gordon and Yuta Watanabe for meaningful minutes. The Suns likely have to cut some players off the end of their bench now anyway, so it may be that these two never actually suit up for the team.
In the end, after going out and being brave enough to get Durant, and after somehow landing Bradley Beal, this is underwhelming. More than that, it is dangerous to pin your hopes on a big man who is getting no younger who misses games. The Suns will need a center when it matters most, but can it be Nurkic? Ayton had to go, but did it have to be like this?