The Detroit Pistons' rumored push for impending restricted free agent Deandre Ayton may be "less likely" following the team's successful draft night.
James L. Edwards III of The Athletic provided word on the situation Friday, a day after the Pistons had selected Purdue guard Jaden Ivey and traded for Memphis center Jalen Duren during the NBA draft:
"However, while all signs have pointed to Detroit making a serious run at Phoenix's Deandre Ayton over the last few days, that appears less likely after the Pistons walked away with two of the players highest on the organization's big board. Per sources, Detroit is eager to continue to build back toward playoff contention with the aforementioned young core, and the Pistons are expected to use the majority of their remaining cap space to add multiple veteran pieces rather than just one big swing this offseason, per sources."
Ayton, 23, has spent four seasons with the Phoenix Suns, who selected the ex-Arizona center No. 1 overall in the 2018 draft. He averaged 17.2 points on 63.4 percent shooting and 10.2 rebounds last year.
Ayton has played an instrumental part in the Suns' turnaround over the last few years from the bottom of the league to a title contender. Phoenix won the Western Conference in 2021 and posted the league's best record in 2022 before falling in the second round of the playoffs.
At his best, Ayton is an uber-efficient offensive player and rebounder.
Rumors of the Pistons' interest in Ayton seemed to fit, especially after their trade of Jerami Grant to the Portland Trail Blazers created salary-cap space. Edwards provided more information Wednesday:
"This deal opens up Ay-Ton of cap space for the Pistons. (See what I did there?) Prior to the trade, Detroit entered the season with roughly $30 million in cap space at its disposal, which was among the league leaders. After the trade, the Pistons have roughly $43 million at their disposal. Per sources, Detroit is heavily expected to pursue Phoenix Suns big man and 2018 No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton in the open market. The Pistons may also look to the trade block to make use of that cap space if Ayton stays put in Phoenix or lands elsewhere."
Edwards and John Hollinger reported in early June that Ayton had "more likely than not" played his last game with the Suns.
However, it now appears that Detroit may not be a landing spot for Ayton after it acquired Duren from the Charlotte Hornets via the New York Knicks in a draft-day trade. Duren could be the long-term answer for the Pistons at center, and Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer wrote that the ex-Memphis star couldn't have landed in a better spot with the new backcourt of Ivey and Cade Cunningham.
Ayton shouldn't have a shortage of suitors, especially given his age and production, but Detroit may not be the place for him after all.