Deandre Ayton won’t be coming to the Hoosier State after all.
The Phoenix Suns matched the 4-year, $133 million offer sheet from the Indiana Pacers for the 2018 No. 1 pick, clearing the way for him to return to the franchise and keeping him out of trade talks with the Nets for Kevin Durant.
According to ESPN, the Suns had until 11:59 e.t. on Saturday (July 16) to match the Pacers’ offer – and did so immediately. Ayton cannot be traded until after January 15, and the Suns cannot trade him for a full year without his consent. Had the Suns not matched, Ayton would have been paired with Pacers’ guard Tyrese Haliburton and rookie Bennedict Mathurin. Instead, Phoenix keeps Ayton without losing him for no return compensation.
By proving a top market existed for the big man, Ayton’s agents, Bill Duffy and Nima Namakian forced the Suns’ hand. The Suns hadn’t made a max offer to Ayton, signaling they didn’t consider him a max player within the organization.
To clear the cap space to sign Ayton, the Pacers waived guard Duane Washington and stretched the contracts of the three players they acquired when trading Malcolm Brogdon to Boston: Malik Fitts, Juwan Morgan and Nik Stauskas.
Ayton was drafted No. 1 in 2018, ahead of Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Marvin Bagley III, and Jaren Jackson Jr., among others. After being selected to the All-Rookie team following his freshman campaign, he blossomed into a quality starting center as the Suns began their rise to the top of the Western Conference.
He averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds in the 2021-22 season, one where the Suns finished with the best record in the NBA but were unceremoniously bounced in the second round of the NBA Playoffs by the Dallas Mavericks. In their Game 7 defeat, Suns head coach Monty Williams explained it was an “internal” decision as to why Ayton mostly watched the second half from the bench.