Deandre Ayton Rumors: Timberwolves, Pacers Are Teams to Watch for Suns RFA

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVJune 30, 2022

PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 10: Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns talks to the media after Game 5 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Semifinals on May 10, 2022 at Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)
Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

ESPN's Brian Windhorst said on the most recent The Hoop Collective podcast that he would "keep an eye on Indiana" in regards to restricted free agent Deandre Ayton and that the Pacers were interested in a potential Ayton trade before last season's February trade deadline (38:20 mark), though the Suns didn't want to break up their core at the time.

He added that the Minnesota Timberwolves are "another team to watch" in the Ayton sweepstakes (39:20 mark).

A few things could stand in that potential pursuit for both teams, however.

For one, the Suns can match any offer Ayton receives as a restricted free agent. While it's a bit questionable if the Suns would want to match a max offer to Ayton—seeing as they could have extended him for max money and didn't go that route—it's hard to imagine the Suns letting him walk without getting anything in return, either.

The other impediment to an outright signing for either team is cap space. The Timberwolves have an active roster cap currently of $127 million, per Spotrac, so they would need to clear large contracts off their books before having the room to offer him a max deal in the range of four years and $140 million or anything near that type of number.

The Pacers, on the other hand, are at an active roster cap of $95 million, so clearing the space needed would be less of an exercise for them.

The other option, of course, is a sign-and-trade. Minnesota won't give up Karl Anthony-Towns or Anthony Edwards, likely leaving them with D'Angelo Russell to offer the Suns.

Given that the Suns have an All-Star backcourt of Chris Paul and Devin Booker already, such a prospective deal would likely have to involve a third team. It's hard to see Russell moving the needle much for the Suns unless they believe they can flip him down the line.

The Pacers, on the other hand, could build a package around center Myles Turner, giving the Suns an instant replacement for Ayton. Turner would be a downgrade, but if the alternative is losing Ayton for nothing or signing him to an offer sheet well above their valuation, it might be a worthwhile option for the Suns to consider.

Of course, the Suns and Ayton could also simply come to an agreement on a new deal and make all of the speculation moot. But if that doesn't happen, the Pacers and Timberwolves are reportedly two teams who could enter the mix.