Deandre Ayton is available but the OKC Thunder should stay patient

Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns reacts against the New Orleans Pelicans during Game Four of the Western Conference First Round NBA Playoffs at the Smoothie King Center on April 24, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns reacts against the New Orleans Pelicans during Game Four of the Western Conference First Round NBA Playoffs at the Smoothie King Center on April 24, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The NBA Offseason is here, which many league fans love more than the actual games themselves. With so much drama, moving and shaking, and dreams of a better team construction dancing in 30 fanbases heads, you never know what Woj bomb lies around the corner. Enter: Deandre Ayton.

The Phoenix Suns big man who they selected first overall in the 2018 NBA Draft out of the University of Arizona is the next contestant on the NBA’s wheel of misfortune. Ayton has put up a career average of 16-points, 10-rebounds, and a block per game for the Suns.

The 23-year-old big man helped the Suns reach the NBA Finals last season before a disappointing postseason flame out to the Dallas Mavericks this season. Ayton shot a career-high 36-percent from distance this season, after never shooting above 23-percent in previous seasons (still, only 0.3-attempts per contest).

Just 12 months ago the Suns were dancing in the streets overjoyed with their bright future led by Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, and Mikal Bridges, with a grizzled veteran Chris Paul leading the way. Now? That future is uncertain.

With Chris Paul getting another year older following another disappointing end to his postseason, Devin Booker being exposed against Luka in the latter stages of that series, and a now fractured relationship with Ayton, where do the Suns go from here?

Deandre Ayton is available but the Oklahoma City Thunder should remain patient in their rebuild

Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report is the latest to describe the Ayton and Suns’ relationship on rocky footing. After the Suns refused to offer a five-year 170-million deal to Ayton this past offseason things have gone off the rails a bit in Pheonix. Fischer revealed the Suns tested his trade value in February, including one option of flipping him to Indiana for Domantas Sabonis.

Now, Atlanta, Detroit, and Portland all seem to be in the running for Ayton this offseason according to Bleacher Report. Other teams who have been thrown around are Charlotte, San Antonio, and one flipped comment on Sports Center by Adrian Wojnarowski about Oklahoma City.

The Oklahoma City Thunder are in the midst of their rebuild, and it is easy to think of quick fixes to improve the roster, including throwing a ton of money at your problems in Deandre Ayton. He fills a need at the center position, compliments Josh Giddey in the pick and roll, and offers rim protection.

However, Thunder General Manager Sam Presti has preached patience every step of the way, and it does not appear OKC is interested in taking on long-term money past the 2022-23 season in hopes of having a clean cap sheet for the 2023 offseason as the league agrees to a new CBA.

Following the 2022 NBA Draft, the OKC Thunder max contract extension with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander kicks in 30.5-million, they owe Kemba Walker 27-million dollars of dead money and are still on the hook for a million dollars owed to Kyle Singler. Derrick Favors has also picked up his 10.1-million player option for the 2022-23 season.

Besides wanting to stay patient in this rebuild, and the issue with a max extension to Ayton dipping into 2023, there comes a lot of baggage with the former-first-overall pick.

There is always a reason players of Ayton’s caliber become available. For Ayton, it appears he has fractured his relationship with one of the most respected and player-friendly coaches in the league, Monty Williams.

On top of somehow being on Williams’ bad side, this would mean the Suns are passing on extending the center they selected over the likes of Luka Doncic and Trae Young and slamming the door on the last year of their title window before the expected steep decline of Chris Paul.

When the chapter does close on Paul, who would the suns have as a running mate for Devin Booker who is a free agent in 2024? While Cameron Johnson, Mikal Bridges, and Landry Shamet are fantastic complementary pieces, what is the big sales pitch for Booker to stay?

The Suns are sacrificing a lot to let Ayton walk in restricted free agency, which the sentiment around the league that I have heard is many would be shocked to see the big man in a Suns uniform come October, it shows how deep these issues are rooted.

The option for Phoenix to get better is via a sign-and-trade, which is always tricky to pull off and match value for value, especially when you have practically admitted he is not worth a max deal and the growing belief is you do not want him on your team next year.

I do not think Presti will make any all-in moves this offseason, nor should he. From the tea leaves, we have gathered in the OKC media, it appears 2023 is the most likely all-in offseason…or maybe that is exactly what Presti wants us to think.

Next. The case for the Thunder staying put at pick 12. dark