Although the Toronto Raptors have been linked to restricted free agent Deandre Ayton, there have reportedly been "no talks" with the Phoenix Suns about a potential sign-and-trade deal.
Sportsnet's Michael Grange reported Thursday an agreement between the teams would be "difficult," in large part because of the financial hurdles related to Ayton's compensation.
Phoenix extended a qualifying offer to the 23-year-old center, which includes a $16.4 million base salary and $31.6 million salary-cap hold, and he could receive a max offer sheet in free agency. The Suns can match any proposal or work out a sign-and-trade pact.
Toronto makes sense as a destination for Ayton on paper as it could use a traditional center to pair with Pascal Siakam in the frontcourt.
It would require a costly trade along with a lucrative long-term extension, however, so the Raptors will likely go in a different direction to fill that void.
Grange noted San Antonio Spurs center Jakob Poeltl, a Toronto first-round pick in 2016 whom the team has tried to reacquire in the past, is a potential target. The Spurs are likely heading toward a rebuild after reportedly sending Dejounte Murray to the Atlanta Hawks for a haul of draft picks and Danilo Gallinari.
Meanwhile, the Ayton situation has the potential to shift the balance of power in the West depending on either what the Suns get in return or how they use the financial flexibility created by his potential exit.
The University of Arizona product been a key cog for Phoenix since the organization selected him with the first overall pick in 2018. He's averaged 16.3 points and 10.5 rebounds while shooting 59.9 percent from the field across 236 career games.
He makes a limited impact in other areas, though. He's not a proven distributor (career average of 1.6 assists) or high-end shot blocker (1.0 blocks), and the 6'11" center has yet to expand his offensive game to match the evolving NBA, attempting just 19 threes in 2021-22.
As the league continues to shift away from old-school 5s, it's fair to wonder how much value Ayton carries, which is likely why the Suns have been hesitant to offer a max contract.
That said, for a team that expects to remain in the championship conversation after finishing an NBA-leading 64-18 in the regular season, moving him without having a plan in place to acquire another key contributor would be a massive risk.
The bottom line is there will probably be several clubs willing to pay Ayton the max if the Suns won't, but it sounds like the Raptors won't be one of them.