As the days continue to creep towards free agency, suggestions continue to pile up for what the Phoenix Suns should do with center Deandre Ayton.
The two likely (and simplistic) scenarios involve Ayton either remaining in Phoenix on a max contract (which the sides didn’t agree on last season) or Ayton playing for a new team via sign-and-trade.
Many NBA insiders and analysts believe the Suns are prepared to move on from Ayton, hence the surplus of trade scenarios that have involved nearly everybody including Kevin Durant eventually making his way to Phoenix.
Thanks to the league’s salary cap and BYC (Base Year Compensation), finding adequate packages for Ayton is difficult. The Suns cannot accept anything more than $19 million in salary back, while the team welcoming Ayton would have to move out $24 million in salary (via John Gambadoro).
It’s a tricky scenario to navigate, but that hasn’t stopped analysts from finding players and teams to do business with Phoenix.
On the most recent episode of the Bill Simmons Podcast, Simmons and Wosny Lambre of The Ringer dabbled into conversation suggesting a trade involving Ayton for Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert would benefit both the Suns and the Jazz, along with each star player.
Ayton-Gobert Trade Benefits Everybody
Here’s the transcript of the Ayton-Gobert conversation:
Simmons: “What if there was a Gobert-for-Ayton sign-and-trade?”
Lambre: “I mean, I think if you’re Utah, that’s the best of all worlds.”
Simmons: “That’s their best case scenario, right? And if you’re Phoenix, you’re going to lose Ayton anyway. You have this relatively brief window, at least to contend although they’re probably going to think Chris (Paul) is going to move into this new stage of his career, I’m guessing. Where he’s (playing) like 26, 27 minutes a game.
“If they can turn Ayton into Gobert and sign a back-up point guard for Chris, and just kind of make a run the next two/three years, that would make sense to me. I just don’t know if they’d spend the money. Gobert’s expensive.”
Lambre: “I think the defensive upgrade – when we talk about these guys, a lot of times we tend to think of them in a vacuum. But I think you need to think about the context. Gobert in Phoenix, like his offensive deficiencies are less accentuated by the presence of Chris Paul and Devin Booker. And I think Chris Paul has obviously been a much better playmaker, table-setter, actually might give this guy the ball when he’s wide open every now and again, unlike what was happening in Utah.
“Man, If I’m Rudy, I would be over the moon to go play with Phoenix in that situation, because again, his shortcomings on offense become less of a problem. Because one- that’s dominance on defense right there, him and Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson, that’s dominant defensively, and they can figure out how to pick up the pieces on offense with the amount of shooting they can surround him with and the level of playmaking, table-setting that’s around (Phoenix).
“That would be incredible, and I think Utah, you get a young guy, and because it’s a sign-and-trade, you’re able to get him for some years, and he slots right into Rudy’s position. Yeah, that would be a perfect trade, honestly.”
For what it’s worth, a straight swap for the two players was considered valid for both Phoenix and Utah’s salary cap at this time on Spotrac‘s roster management tool (the mystery of the league’s salary cap continues to perplex us all, especially with the aforementioned restrictions).
Gobert is set to make $35.3 million next season, and if Phoenix isn’t intent on paying a center that much money, it might not matter who is down low for the Suns.
However, the defensive presence of Gobert would be welcomed in a heartbeat for a Phoenix team looking to ensure their championship window remains open, especially in a sign-and-trade for Ayton that includes limited options.
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