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Deandre Ayton Rumors: Jazz Interested in Suns Star After Rudy Gobert Trade

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVJuly 1, 2022

Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

The Utah Jazz are reportedly already considering a replacement for Rudy Gobert in Phoenix Suns restricted free-agent center Deandre Ayton.

According to John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7, the Jazz "have interest in exploring a trade" for Ayton, which would have to be a sign-and-trade deal since Utah doesn't have salary-cap space.

Utah's rumored interest in Ayton comes on the heels of ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski (h/t ESPN's Tim MacMahon) reporting Friday that the Jazz agreed to trade Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves for four first-round picks, Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley, Leandro Bolmaro and 2022 No. 22 overall pick Walker Kessler.

The Suns and Ayton are seemingly at a crossroads, as Ayton wants a max contract extension, but Phoenix has been unwilling to give it to him.

Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated reported Thursday that while the Suns don't want to give Ayton a max deal, they also don't want to lose him for nothing by allowing him to sign an offer sheet with another team.

As a result, there is reportedly some belief within the NBA that the Suns would match an offer sheet even if it is for the max, but a sign-and-trade could be the best solution for all involved.

Suddenly, Utah looks like an ideal landing spot for Ayton after the Jazz traded away a three-time All-Star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year at center in Gobert.

While Ayton can't compare to Gobert defensively, he is arguably a better offensive player, averaging 17.2 points per game last season and 16.3 for his career.

He also put up 10.2 rebounds per game last season and shot a career-best 63.4 percent from the field, plus he has averaged a double-double in each of his four NBA seasons.

Ayton has a better history of playoff success than Gobert as well, helping lead the Suns to the NBA Finals in 2021, while Gobert and the Jazz never made it past the second round in six consecutive playoff appearances.

On top of that, the 2018 No. 1 overall draft pick still has plenty of room to grow and improve in all aspects at just 23 years of age.

Even without Gobert, the Jazz still have a strong core in place with All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell leading the way alongside Bojan Bogdanovic, Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson.

Ayton would likely go a long way toward cementing them as a playoff team again next season, plus they could use some of the assets they got in the Gobert trade to improve elsewhere and perhaps be even better than they were in 2021-22.

As for the Suns, they are believed to be in the mix to acquire superstar forward Kevin Durant in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets, so trading Ayton away to make room would be a sensible move unless Ayton is needed in a potential KD deal.

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