Explosive nixed trade would have seen Suns land Pacers star

The Phoenix Suns might have looked very different today if General Manager James Jones hadn't shut down this seismic trade with the Indiana Pacers.
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Hard as it is to believe, there was a time less than two years ago when the idea of losing center Deandre Ayton was unthinkable for the Phoenix Suns. The former first overall pick a crucial part of their run all the way to the NBA Finals in 2021.

Fast forward to the present day however, and Ayton spent last season with the Portland Trail Blazers after being sent there for the somewhat underwhelming haul of Jusuf Nurkic, Grayson Allen, Nassir Little and Keon Johnson. It is unclear what was worse after that deal went down, that the Suns didn't miss Ayton or that both Nurkic and especially Allen quickly outplayed him in The Valley.

According to The Burns & Gambo Show however, there was a plan in place to trade Ayton to the Indiana Pacers in 2022 that was quickly shut down.

Speaking on their podcast, the pair delved back into Suns' history and spoke about the 2022 offseason, when the Pacers initially signed then restricted free agent Ayton to a four-year, $133 million offer sheet. For a minute there it looked like the Suns would lose Ayton for nothing, before ultimately matching the offer to keep him around.

As Burns & Gambo tell it though, then head coach Monty Williams pushed hard for the Suns to let Ayton go in what would have been a sign-and-trade deal, and get a package centered around Myles Turner in return. Ultimately General Manager James Jones - somebody who has stuck to their laurels throughout their time at the helm - stopped a deal from coming together.

In the moment that looked like the right call - Ayton had anchored a defense all the way to the finals and Turner was in constant trade rumors - but how would it look today? Turner has had a sizeable role in helping the Pacers make it to the Eastern Conference Finals, while Ayton's first season in Portland started badly, but did show signs of life by the end of the regular season.

It is fascinating to think of a Suns' starting five featuring Turner, Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal, because there is no doubt Turner would be an upgrade over current starting big Nurkic. Then again, Turner himself could have been flipped when the idea of trading for Durant came about, perhaps the Suns could have somehow managed to keep Mikal Bridges instead.

Either way this is an extremely underrated "what if", because Turner has only gotten better and established himself as an underrated center in the league, while Ayton has fallen away. Doing this deal is unlikely to have kept Williams in the job, although it is interesting to think that he could have been at the helm of a group featuring Booker, Durant and Turner.

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Turner would have also played with Chris Paul, and it is also possible that the idea of going after Beal never happens either. All because Jones felt that keeping Ayton was the right thing to do - which it probably was in the moment - before ultimately giving up on a player that is only the age Turner was at the time this all happened (25-years-old) now.

Instead Williams would lose his job - as did the guy who replaced him in Frank Vogel - while Turner fits the system the Pacers and their head coach Rick Carlisle have implemented perfectly. Ayton's value would never be any higher than this moment, and the inability of Jones to move on the center left them stuck with two more years of the lumbering Nurkic.