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Phoenix Suns match offer sheet, Ayton to stay in Arizona

Deandre Ayton
Posted at 12:02 PM, Jul 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-14 20:51:03-04

PHOENIX — UPDATE: ESPN sources confirm the Phoenix Suns have matched the Indiana Pacers' offer sheet. Deandre Ayton will continue to play in Phoenix and can't be traded without his consent for the next year.

Phoenix Suns center and former number one pick Deandre Ayton may be heading to the Indiana Pacers, according to ESPN.

The Indiana Pacers have agreed to sign restricted free agent Deandre Ayton to a four-year, $133 million offer sheet, giving the Phoenix Suns two days to match the offer — or lose the center it selected with the top overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft.

If the Suns match the offer sheet, Ayton would not be eligible for a trade until Jan. 15 and he couldn't be dealt to the Pacers for a year. It also could impact Phoenix’s hopes of acquiring Kevin Durant from the Brooklyn Nets.

Should the Suns let Ayton walk, they would receive nothing in return.

Ayton is attempting to leave a team that balked at offering a max deal. If he ends up in Indiana, Ayton would be a pivotal piece in a promising young core that includes 22-year-old point guard Tyrese Haliburton, who was acquired in a February trade with Sacramento.

The recent reports centered around the Pacers negotiating a sign-and-trade deal with Phoenix that could increase Ayton’s annual salary while eliminating the possibility of the Suns matching the offer. Now, Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard could have two legitimate starting centers — Ayton and two-time league blocks champ Myles Turner.

Ayton — who turns 24 later this month — had a shaky start but became a critical component in the Suns’ run to the 2021 NBA Finals. Phoenix also won a league-best and franchise record 64 games last season.

Much of the criticism about Ayton has been about his maturity. He was suspended 25 games without pay by the NBA in 2019 for violating the league’s Anti-Drug Program by testing positive for a diuretic. He was also benched for part of Game 7 of the team’s second-round loss to Dallas this year after appearing to exchange words with coach Monty Williams.

Still, he is generally popular with histeammates. All-Star guards Devin Booker and Chris Paul often praised Ayton, who did a lot of the little things to help the team win.

The question Suns fans will be focused on moving forward is how and if this Ayton move would change the Suns' interest or ability in completing a blockbuster trade for All-Star Kevin Durant. The Nets continue to listen to offers for Durant after he reportedly requested a trade and named Phoenix as one of his desired destinations. The Nets reportedly weren't interested in receiving Ayton in a trade, which has slowed discussions in recent weeks.

This is a developing story. Stay with ABC15 and abc15.com for the latest developments.