Chicago Bulls rumors: Is Deandre Ayton a realistic offseason target?

Deandre Ayton, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Deandre Ayton, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

Coming off the heels of a disastrous Game 7 performance that sent the Western Conference favorite Phoenix Suns packing, the future of Deandre Ayton now appears to be as uncertain as ever. With the Chicago Bulls actively looking to upgrade at the center position, it’s certain that Ayton will pique enough interest to warrant attention on the trade market.

Phoenix drew the ire of many fans earlier in the season when it was reported that ownership was not willing to offer their former No. 1 overall draft pick a max contract extension. It’s understandable why that would’ve made Ayton feel alienated by his own team’s front office and be looking for a change of scenery if he’s not adequately compensated this summer (if that even placates his feelings at this point).

Tensions reached their boiling point Sunday night when the Dallas Mavericks eliminated the Suns in a 33-point blowout. Ayton only saw the court for 17 minutes during the loss, as he was benched early for unknown reasons. If the Suns were worried about keeping their young center content, they certainly aren’t doing themselves any favors by playing Bismack Biyombo over him late in a crucial postseason game.

This all comes as quite a surprise, considering Ayton had appeared up to this point to be steadily on an upwards career trajectory. Ayton averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds across 58 games this season, all while providing stout defense in the low post.

Could the Deandre Ayton rumors benefit the Chicago Bulls?

While the box score may not demonstrate his improvements, Ayton truly polished his all-around game this season, posting career highs in nearly all advanced statistical categories like PER, box plus/minus, and VoRP. He was an essential part of Phoenix’s 64-win season, so it’s odd to see the franchise take such a cold approach to their young star.

If there was ever an opportunity for the sign-and-trade guru himself Arturas Karnisovas to get involved, now is the time to enter the Ayton sweepstakes. Instead of scouring the free agent market, the Bulls could potentially solve their defensive woes in the low post with one splashy trade.

Ayton poses an intriguing option to slot in as a complementary player next to electric scorers like Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan as well as Chicago’s crafty playmakers Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso. If the trade deadline taught us anything, it should also be assumed that the Bulls would be unwilling to let go of their young talent in Patrick Williams and Ayo Dosunmu for anything short of a superstar. Ayton’s skill set would do a lot to cover Chicago’s defensive deficiencies while at the same time allowing him to serve as an excellent rim-running center with the Bulls.

A move centered around an exchange of two-time All-Star Nikola Vucevic, Coby White, and draft capital for Ayton would likely be what the Suns would receive if Karnisovas were to actually make an offer.

If Deandre Ayton is in fact on the trade market, the Bulls would be wise to make an aggressive trade offer for the big man.

It’s important to keep in mind that Phoenix will not necessarily be looking for equal value in a sign-and-trade situation, but instead looking to recoup as much value as possible. Since Ayton could just sign a max contract with another team that has cap space — thus forcing the Suns to either match or let him walk for nothing — the pressure is on them to also find a deal as soon as possible.

It’s difficult to say if this would be the best deal on the table for the Suns, but it certainly wouldn’t be the worst. Perhaps allowing Vucevic the opportunity to go back to being a post-dominant player would help revitalize his game and could help keep the Suns a competitive team as Chris Paul enters the twilight of his career. Not many other contenders can give Phoenix a player better than Vucevic if the Suns’ goal is to remain a contender beyond this season.

From Chicago’s perspective, they’re giving up two talented players that have struggled to find consistency as well as their last remaining tradeable draft assets, but it’s doubtful any fans would lose sleep over this deal. In fact, if this deal were to happen it would probably be seen as a massive win by most.

The only way this transaction could be seen as problematic is due to the fact it locks the Bulls in place financially for the foreseeable future. Assuming LaVine re-signs on a max extension, Chicago would be forced to dip into the luxury tax for a core of LaVine, DeRozan, Ball, Ayton, Williams, Caruso, Dosunmu, and Javonte Green.

Whether or not that team is a true championship contender is impossible to know, at least until a deal is struck. But with Ayton’s free agency being of the restricted variety, there being so many financial implications on the line, and the fact that he will certainly attract plenty of suitors if made available, it’s hard to map this out accurately.

Next. Lakers fans persist with ridiculous LaVine trade proposals. dark