The OKC Thunder should not pursue Deandre Ayton this offseason
Deandre Ayton has seen plenty of backlash from the Suns faithful as the Phoenix Suns battle with the Denver Nuggets. There was already turmoil between the two sides this time a year ago after the Suns’ playoff exit. After a drama-filled Restricted Free Agency that included Ayton signing an offer sheet with the Indiana Pacers, the former first-overall pick returned to the Valley.
The Oklahoma City Thunder enter the NBA offseason with some interesting decisions. The OKC Thunder own top-ten in the league cap space, three NBA draft Picks, Chet Holmgren, set to return to the court for his NBA debut, and a new buzz of expectations from the fanbase.
Should the Oklahoma City Thunder go after former first-round pick Deandre Ayton this offseason?
Bleacher Report put out a slideshow of every team’s “dream trade target” this offseason; BR tabbed Suns big man Deandre Ayton for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
This caused quite a stir among OKC Thunder fans. While it is the easy choice for this slideshow article, in practice, Deandre Ayton does not make sense for the Thunder. Despite “not having a traditional big man.” the Thunder have always planned to play Chet Holmgren at center pre-and-post his August Injury.
The Thunder’s position-less play style that netted them the league’s third-fastest pace is not to be bogged down with a seven-footer that gets grumpy when he is not spoon-fed pick-and-roll opportunities.
Deandre Ayton is not a free agent until 2026. Before then, he is owed 32.4, 34, and 35.5 million dollars. That is a steep price to play for a big man who does not seamlessly fit next to your second-overall pick. But that is just his contract, not to mention the potential trade package.
Temperature check: Should OKC Trade for DeAndre Ayton if he became available?
— Rylan Stiles (@Rylan_Stiles) May 10, 2023
With new ownership, the Suns mortgaged their future on Kevin Durant and Devin Booker. They will not just cut Chris Paul (despite being able to get out from under it financially), so they will run it back with him too. The Suns will remain in win-now mode, so a package of future draft picks to take a flyer on the former first-overall pick is not feasible.
So who of this core would you like to part from to bring in a guy the likes of Chris Paul and Monty Williams have questioned and, at this point (if the trade went down), flatly gave up on?
According to Synergy, Deandre Ayton is an average isolation defender, an average defender in the post, and an average defender when placed in the pick-and-roll. However, in the playoffs, when he is not fed touches, he checks out despite posting 18 points, ten rebounds, and 1.4 STOCKS per game during the regular season.
In the five games against Denver, he has posted ten or more shots three times, and there are still clips of him disengaging from the team in high-priority games. The selfless nature of the Thunder offense, though Shai Gilgeous-Alexander spearheads it, does not benefit Ayton. Between the shots SGA needs, and the ones you want Jalen Williams and Chet Holmgren taking, Ayton is in the same position as he is now.
Monty Williams is someone the Thunder trust and respect. So for the Suns’ bench boss to comment publicly on Ayton was never a good sign.
However, Deandre Ayton is a good player when he is locked in. Sometimes players need a change in environment to thrive. Placing Ayton in OKC is not fair to him. It is not much of a difference in his current role.
There are better landing spots for the player and options for the team. The Oklahoma City Thunder leaped up for a surprise 40-win season without their highest draft pick of this rebuild. There is no need to pivot from this play style of members of this core for a piece that is not an obvious fit.