Concluding one of the more unfortunate storylines of the NBA offseason, Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver has declared his intention to sell both the Phoenix Suns and Mercury franchises in light of investigations that exposed his long history of racism, sexism, and harassment. While the Suns may be glad to have seen the last of Sarver, they may quite as happy if the Chicago Bulls manage to make the most of their new situation by trading for Deandre Ayton.
This news could perhaps open the door for a big trade, as the Suns will be rebuilt in the image of whoever assumes the reigns of ownership. At the very least, Bleacher Report appears to agree that there’s an opportunity to be had in Phoenix, as they propose a blockbuster swap of centers between the Suns and Bulls.
It should go without saying, but Ayton is a player the Bulls have long looked at as a potential trade target to fill the gap at the center position. Although many expected Chicago to get involved in a potential trade for Ayton (or even Rudy Gobert), the Bulls instead stuck to their guns with Nikola Vucevic.
That doesn’t mean time has expired to make a deal in the future though, as B/R’s Greg Swartz believes the Suns could still be swayed into accepting a swap of the two big men.
"“For Phoenix, getting a two-time All-Star back at center is a nice replacement for Ayton. Vucevic, 31, isn’t as good defensively, but he’s the superior passer and three-point shooter who provides better overall floor spacing for Chris Paul and Devin Booker.White, 22, is an upgrade over Cameron Payne as Paul’s backup and will be a restricted free agent in 2023, so Phoenix can match any deal he receives. Getting an extra first-round selection gives the Suns lots of trade flexibility, as Phoenix is one of only four NBA teams to not have any future picks owed to them from a previous deal.”"
With the Phoenix Suns in a state of flux, the Chicago Bulls would be wise to capitalize by making a splashy trade for Deandre Ayton.
I’ve long believed a player like Coby White could be exactly what the Phoenix Suns have been lacking to shore up their issues regarding backcourt depth and scoring off the bench. In the past, however, I’d assumed any trade that sent White to Phoenix would be for a player like a budding Mikal Bridges or for an offensively-oriented wing like Cameron Johnson.
In this instance, trading for Ayton would be a metaphorical and a literal slam dunk for the Chicago Bulls. Although Ayton doesn’t have the floor spacing and shooting ability of Vucevic (and we saw all too well how unreliable Vucevic’s shot is last year), he would be a far more imposing threat on the interior.
Best of all, he lines up with the young core’s age perfectly at 24 years old. Unlike Vucevic, Ayton won’t be an expendable asset a few years from now. Nikola’s contract is set to expire at the end of the year, so extracting a star talent for what could just be a one-year rental would be nothing short of a monumental fleece by the Bulls’ front office.
Unfortunately, for that reason, I could only expect Phoenix to pull the trigger on a trade like this if Ayton specifically demanded a trade and put Chicago on his short list of destinations. This is especially true when you factor in that whoever buys the team from Sarver would likely prefer to have Ayton over Vucevic as the safer and more long-term asset.
If you’re holding your breath for the Chicago Bulls to pull off a big move for Ayton — or any splashy trade, really — I’d recommend relaxing a little, letting that exhale slip, and getting ready to watch another successful season with Vucevic as Chicago’s starting center. If that sounds so bad to you, just remember it wasn’t too long ago we had to witness Cristiano Felicio in the starting lineup.