The Indiana Pacers could be on the brink of landing restricted free agent Deandre Ayton, according to ESPN's Brian Windhorst.
"We believe that the Indiana Pacers are very close to giving Deandre Ayton an offer sheet or executing a sign-and-trade," Windhorst said Monday (0:36 in video).
The Pacers reportedly plan to give Ayton "almost" a max contract with the salary-cap space they gained when their trade that sent Malcolm Brogdon to the Boston Celtics became official.
The market for Ayton has been slower to develop than some might have expected considering the center's production. The 2018 No. 1 overall draft pick has averaged a double-double in each of his four years in the NBA with the Phoenix Suns, finishing last year with 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game.
The 23-year-old was crucial for the Suns as they posted the best record in the NBA at 64-18.
As a restricted free agent, Ayton can explore the open market and sign an offer sheet, but the Suns can match any deal. Phoenix balked at the chance to sign the center to a long-term extension last year and appears unlikely to retain the Bahamas native.
The proposed sign-and-trade gives the Pacers a chance to add a high-upside player who could key their rebuild.
Indiana finished last season with a 25-57 record, trading Domantas Sabonis, Caris LeVert and others before the deadline. Dealing Brogdon further signals the team's plans to start fresh and build around Tyrese Haliburton and first-round pick Bennedict Mathurin.
Center Myles Turner remains on the roster, although it's seemingly only a matter of time before he is also dealt.
Windhorst predicted on The Hoop Collective podcast a month ago that Turner could be part of a sign-and-trade for Ayton. That would help establish a young trio for the Pacers as they look to return to playoff contention.