3. Nikola Vucevic and Patrick Williams go to Phoenix
One of the trades that Buckley proposed was that Nikola Vucevic (via sign-and-trade) and Patrick Williams be sent for DeAndre Ayton. The Suns’ motivation for this deal is clear: these two Bulls can immediately go into the starting lineup and create value.
Vucevic brings a diverse offensive game, including a solid three-point shot, excellent playmaking abilities as a center, and great finishing around the rim. Williams is a coveted 3-and-D player who has been given the task of defending some of the best wings in the league and has made 41.4% of his three-point attempts over his young career.
This, combined with Williams’ development potential (he will be just 22 at the beginning of next season), is incredibly attractive for the Suns as he can serve both as a player to help them contend and also as a key piece for the future once Kevin Durant’s time in Phoenix comes to an end. If the Suns can get this for just DeAndre Ayton, a player who does not want to be with the team anyway, it would be an excellent return for them.
The Bulls, on the other hand, would not have as clear of a benefit in this trade scenario. Chicago would be getting a slight upgrade at center, as Ayton could fit better in the Bulls’ offense and is a younger player than Vucevic, but the difference may not be as much as previously thought.
This year’s playoffs definitely hurt Ayton’s trade value, as he was exposed in the second round against the Denver Nuggets. His primary assignment, two-time-MVP Nikola Jokic, obliterated Ayton, averaging 34.5 points, 13.2 boards, and 10.3 assists over the series while shooting 59.4% from the field and 44.4% from deep. Ayton was unable to slow Jokic down at all, and really struggled on the court. He had a -59 plus-minus in 5 games against the Nuggets, with his best game being a plus-minus of 0. He eventually lost playing time to backup center Jock Landale, who played 23 total minutes in the first round against the Clippers and the first two games against the Nuggets, but averaged 22.5 minutes over the final four games.
The fact that Ayton was such a negative for the Suns in this series shows that he is not worth giving up some of the Bulls’ best players. While Nikola Vucevic is still an unrestricted free agent and the Bulls do not have much negotiating leverage with him, there are still other opportunities out there that would not force the Bulls to part ways with one of their key young pieces in Patrick Williams. Williams showed tremendous development this season, being more aggressive on offense and taking strides on the defensive end, and it would not be wise if the Bulls let him go for a marginal upgrade at center.