The Suns options to possibly replace the center by the trade deadline is slim
It seems as each day goes by the Phoenix Suns seem more and more on the clock to make a change on the court in a big way. The 2021-22 one seed in the Western Conference has fallen to 10th and is still under .500. (is even at 24-24).
The Suns have plenty of trading options and power before the February 9 trade deadline. They are already looking for at least one quality starter to replace Jae Crowder who has sat out the entire season. Deandre Ayton seems is next on the list, but should he be?
Ayton this year is just one of six Suns players to play at least 40 games and has started in all of them. He is averaging 17.5 per game which ranks him tied as a top-5 scoring center with the Chicago Bulls, and possible trade candidate, Nikola Vucevic. Ayton also is ninth in the NBA in averaging 9.9 rebounds.
Away from the numbers is where Ayton’s departure makes some serious sense. Tension began to rise after the Suns refused to give him the rookie max deal before the 2021-22 season. The former number one overall pick has had a rocky relationship with the Phoenix fanbase at best and was the scapegoat for last year’s Game 7 against the Dallas Mavericks.
The offseason that followed was just as high strung with trade rumors galore that ended with the Indiana Pacers offering a four-year, 133-million dollar deal. Suns general manager James Jones decided that Phoenix is better to keep him than lose him for nothing.
Since Jan. 15th, Ayton has been available to move but there hasn’t been any true signs of the big being moved. Still, the cards remain in Jones’ hand. There are a few destinations that would make sense for Phoenix to check in should they feel it is imperative to get Ayton out:
A Phoenix and Indiana swap would make the most sense given that Ayton is currently on the contract the Pacers were ready to give and appear to have no interest in extending Myles Turner. The 2015 11th overall pick though would be a downgrade for Phoenix in both shooting percentage and rebounding. The Pacers also have a number of draft pick options to choose from.
Chicago and the aforementioned Vucevic would add another veteran to the team but would be a downgrade in almost every statistical category except rebounds. They also can offer very little
The Suns and Raptors swapping stars could help Phoenix in big ways with the Suns interested in Fred VanVleet. The guard would give the Suns a scoring option they currently don’t have. That would however leave a large hole in the Suns’ depth charts.
Having a high-end center is not something Phoenix can go without when looking at the possible playoff picture. Between teams like Denver, Sacramento, and Minnesota size matters in Western Conference play.
Jones has a lot to mull over before Feb. 9th with not much time left to do so. With the options given it seems best to keep Ayton in Phoenix until the offseason to give both the front office and the new ownership time to make the correct decision.