The top NBA free agent still on the board is Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton, the former No. 1 overall pick in the draft. The Suns never offered Ayton a max contact, allowing him to reach restricted free agency, and he intends to sign a four-year, $133 million maximum offer sheet with the Indiana Pacers. The Suns have until Saturday at 11:59 p.m. ET to match the largest offer sheet in league history or potentially lose Ayton for nothing. SportsLine offers odds on where Ayton will be playing next season.
Ayton was just the second former first overall pick in the lottery era to enter restricted free agency, following injury-plagued Greg Oden. Ayton's record offer sheet surpassed the four-year, $107 million deal signed by Otto Porter Jr. with the Brooklyn Nets in 2017 -- a deal the Washington Wizards matched.
There had been talk the Suns might sign-and-trade Ayton in a potential Kevin Durant deal, but trade deals would no longer allowed once Ayton signs the offer sheet with Indiana. According to ESPN's Bobby Marks, because the clock to match doesn't start until midnight tonight, Indiana and Phoenix still have time work out a sign-and-trade before the offer sheet is officially signed. So a swap built around Ayton and Indiana's Myles Turner, which has been rumored for weeks, can still be done -- but time is short.
If the Suns do match the offer sheet, they can't trade Ayton anywhere until at least Jan. 15 and can't trade him to Indiana for a year. The general consensus around the NBA is that it would be hard to see how a Durant trade works for Phoenix now as Ayton was arguably the Suns' biggest trade chip with Devin Booker off the table.
Why wouldn't the Suns match the deal? Ayton averaged 17.2 points on 63.4 percent shooting and 10.2 rebounds last season. He was one of only nine players to average at least 17 points and 10 rebounds per game.
There are luxury tax concerns for Phoenix, and the Suns might think they will be just fine without him considering they were 18-6 in games Ayton missed last year and outscored opponents by nearly 17 points per 100 possessions in the minutes Chris Paul and Devin Booker played without Ayton.
After Phoenix's upset loss to Dallas in the Western semifinals, Suns GM James Jones said of Ayton's future: "I know it's a big question, a topic everybody wants to talk about, but I've said before and I'll say it again: DA is a tremendous part of what we do. We want to keep this team together."
The Suns are currently +600 second favorites at Caesars Sportsbook to win the 2023 NBA title, but they took a ton of action in large part with the expectation of a Durant trade. The Pacers are +50000 and will get a bit of a bump if they add Ayton, but not a huge one.
Via SportsLine oddsmakers: Which team will Deandre Ayton open the 2022-23 NBA season with?
- Pacers -150
- Suns +120
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