The Brooklyn Nets reportedly have interest in Phoenix Suns restricted free-agent center Deandre Ayton via a potential sign-and-trade deal.
According to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated, the Nets "could" consider putting a sign-and-trade package together for Ayton, which would include guard Joe Harris.
Mannix noted that while it is possible Ayton remains in Phoenix, the Suns don't want to give him the max contract he desires, which has led to the talented center weighing other options.
Although it was assumed there would be plenty of interest in Ayton in free agency, Mannix reported that one of his top potential suitors, the Detroit Pistons, have seen their interest cool after they landed center Jalen Duren in the draft and took on salary dumps from the New York Knicks.
The Atlanta Hawks were also once thought to be in the running for Ayton, but that may no longer be the case after they made a blockbuster trade for guard Dejounte Murray with the San Antonio Spurs.
Mannix noted that while there is a "growing sense" it may be time for the Suns and Ayton to part ways, there is also some belief that Phoenix would match an offer sheet for Ayton even if it is for the max since the Suns do not want to lose him for nothing.
A sign-and-trade with a team such as the Nets would allow the Suns to move on from Ayton while also acquiring assets in return, such as Harris and draft compensation.
The Nets find themselves in a unique situation since it was thought they were in line to lose guard Kyrie Irving in free agency and potentially trade superstar forward Kevin Durant, but that changed when Irving somewhat surprisingly opted into the final year of his deal this week.
If the Nets keep Irving instead of attempting a sign-and-trade, it would make sense for them to go after another big fish to go with Irving, KD and Ben Simmons in an effort to make a run at a championship.
Additionally, the Nets may lose Andre Drummond in free agency, leaving a huge hole at center that Ayton could fill.
The Suns selected Ayton with the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft, and while he has never been named an All-Star, the 6'11" big man has been a productive player.
In 236 career regular-season games, the former University of Arizona standout has averaged 16.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.0 block while shooting 59.9 percent from the field.
Ayton was right around those averages last season, putting up 17.2 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 0.7 blocks per game. He also shot a career-best 63.4 percent from the floor.
During the Suns' run to the NBA Finals in 2021, Ayton played a sizable role, averaging 15.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 22 postseason games. He was a strong playoff performer last season as well with 17.9 points and 8.9 rebounds per game.
Ayton would add another dimension to Brooklyn's lineup and further cement the Nets as legitimate contenders.
Meanwhile, Ayton's departure would leave the Suns with a major hole in the frontcourt, but Harris would perhaps be a good fit alongside Devin Booker and Chris Paul, as he has made 2.1 three-pointers per game and shot 43.9 percent from beyond the arc during his eight-year NBA career.
Harris is coming off a lost season, as an ankle injury limited him to just 14 games.