NBA Trade Rumors: Latest Rumblings on Deandre Ayton, 76ers and More
While four teams are knee-deep in the conference finals, the rest of the league is looking forward. For two recently ousted playoff teams, the Phoenix Suns and Philadelphia 76ers, some roster shakeups may be on the horizon.
For both squads, things ended rather unceremoniously in the postseason. The Suns lost a brutal Game 7 blowout to the Dallas Mavericks, just a few days after the 76ers succumbed to the Miami Heat in Game 6.
Stacked with promise, Phoenix and Philadelphia's failures to reach the conference finals have fed directly into narratives about change. According to insiders like ESPN's Brian Windhorst and Adrian Wojnarowski, their lineups may look very different heading into next season.
Disgruntled Ayton Destined for Sign-and-Trade?
Much has been made of Deandre Ayton's future in Phoenix for about two years now. Murmurings about his contract dissatisfaction bubbled, then simmered and have now reached a new boiling point following a dramatic postseason finale.
Matched against a Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber-led frontcourt in Game 7, Ayton played just 17 minutes. Every other starter played 27-plus minutes, but DA was relegated to the bench while his backups, Bismack Biyombo and JaVale McGee, played a combined 28 minutes. Afterward, when asked about the decision to bench his 23-year-old center with a favorable matchup, head coach Monty Williams explained that it was "internal."
A restricted free agent this summer, many have wondered if Game 7 will be the ugly end to Ayton's streaky career in Phoenix. As reported by Woj, "Ayton did not feel valued by this Phoenix organization" due to earlier contract negotiations where the team failed to offer him a max extension.
Citing teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs and Portland Trail Blazers, Woj elaborated that there is league interest in signing Ayton to a contract he thinks he deserves. That leaves Phoenix with the decision to either offer him the deal he wants, match an offer sheet or let him walk. That latter choice, allowing Ayton to leave for a payday without receiving anything in return, is something Woj believes "they won't do." Instead, it seems the Suns could be enticed by a sign-and-trade if they're unable to reach their own contract compromise.
76ers Hungry for More 'Starpower'
President of basketball operations Daryl Morey and the 76ers obviously like their stars. The team is led by two-time MVP runner-up Joel Embiid and made a move to bring in former MVP James Harden this season.
Unfortunately, as Embiid mentioned after a Philadelphia loss this postseason, this isn't Houston Harden. And it appears that sentiment is shared elsewhere in the organization, as Windhorst reports that "Morey has big, giant plans to acquire another star."
While unclear who such a star may be, Morey also needs to figure out how to make a trade work. For one, Windhorst mentioned needing Harden to "take some sort of paycut." He can opt in to $47.4 million for next season before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2023, which certainly tightens the wallet in the short-term.
Another question is what talent Philadelphia is willing to part with. The two names cited by Windhorst were Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey, although 76ers fans won't appreciate hearing the latter's name mentioned in trade talks. Earlier this year, Morey refused to include Maxey in the deal for Harden—demonstrating clear faith in the 21-year-old. If they do trade him for a star, especially after a strong playoff run, it seems it would have to be for someone with more shine than East Coast Harden.
Western Conference Free Agency: Poole, Looney, and Boogie
While Phoenix and Philadelphia consider their trade possibilities, two other playoff teams have contract situations to discuss. For the Denver Nuggets, DNVR's Harrison Wind reports that the team wants to re-sign DeMarcus Cousins, "but his market could determine if he returns to Denver."
Boogie had a bit of a career renaissance for the Nuggets this postseason, averaging double-digit points in the playoffs for the first time in his career—including 19 points in 15 minutes in Game 5.
The veteran big isn't the superstar he once was, but he has some outside touch and allows Denver to maintain a system similar to the one employed when Nikola Jokic is on the court. Still, the league wants bigs with shooting touch and Boogie, an unrestricted free agent coming off of a minimum contract, could be enticed by outside offers.
Things are even murkier in Golden State, as the Warriors need to lock in their future while managing sizable current contracts. The San Francisco Chronicle's Connor Letourneau reports that the Dubs intend to sign playoff hero Kevon Looney to a multiple-year deal worth about $6 million per year, while hoping "to sign Jordan Poole to an extension that could be around four years, $100 million."
Up 1-0 against the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals, there are more pressing concerns in the Bay Area at the moment. Depending on how this postseason shakes out, one has to wonder if $25 million annually will be enough to retain the 22-year-old Poole's splashy services.