With the recent blockbuster that saw Deandre Ayton traded after months of speculation, many are questioning the return that the Phoenix Suns got for their big man. The Suns received a package of Jusuf Nurkic, Grayson Allen, Nassir Little and Keon Johnson for their big man.
This move left a number of people puzzled, especially the idea of the main piece going to the Suns being Nurkic. While he is a decent big man, his past few seasons have been plagued with injuries.
Nurkic has not had a season where he has played over 60 games since the 2018-19 season.
These injury concerns should worry the Suns, even with Nurkic’s talent. Phoenix also downgraded slightly if you look at the past few seasons comparisons between the two big men. Ayton has averaged more points, rebounds and a higher field goal percentage than Nurkic the past five seasons combined.
With all the teams Ayton had been rumored to be traded to, the question remains why the Suns chose to trade the big man to the Trail Blazers.
This is especially questionable considering the comments Frank Vogel had made prior to the season about wanting to work on Ayton’s defensive game, indicating that the Suns were going to at least try to make it work alongside the current roster.
However, with the annual NBA Media Day for each team to showcase their new rosters and ask players questions, the topic of the Deandre Ayton trade came up for both the Phoenix Suns and Portland Trail Blazers. It was Ayton’s comments that may explain the reasoning a trade occurred so quickly.
Ayton’s wording of his trade to the Trail Blazers makes it seem as though he may have requested a trade. The former number one pick was thankful with how Phoenix handled his trade and for “accommodating my wishes.” This certainly feels like it was a trade request from the big man, who was going to be a fourth string in the Suns offensive schemes.
This is not the first time Ayton nearly departed the team on his own merit, with Ayton signing a deal with the Indiana Pacers last season. While Ayton played the season with the Suns, rumors continued to circulate, especially due to conflict with Monty Williams in the 2022 Playoffs.
However, when the Suns hired Frank Vogel who is a defensive minded coach, there were many out there that thought Phoenix would hang onto him. Comments from Vogel clearly indicated there was going to be a big role for Ayton with this Suns team:
"“You got to give those big guys the ball sometimes. When they get it, then they’ll run through the wall for you on the other end. I think we’re off to a great start with that – he’s going to be a big part of what we do.”"
Those comments do not give fans the notion that the player was going to be traded. Quite the opposite in fact, as it seems like Vogel wanted to develop Ayton as a player. With his play for the Bahamas over the offseason, Ayton showcased that he was ready to take the next step defensively.
All the signs definitely seem to point that Ayton had wished to leave the Suns, making the trade for Nurkic and pieces make more sense. Ayton will get his wish to be a main part of the offense on a team that is rebuilding, while the Suns got a number of players to deepen their roster.