The Phoenix Suns matched the Indiana Pacers’ four-year, $133 million offer sheet for the restricted free agent center. Deandre AytonThat cleared the way for him to return to the franchise, his agents Bill Duffy and Nima Namakian told ESPN on Thursday night.
The Suns had until 11:59 pm ET on Saturday night to match the largest offer sheet in NBA history, but matched it immediately, ending the Pacers’ pursuit of Ayton.
Phoenix has shown no desire to negotiate a sign-and-trade deal with Indiana before Ayden signs the paper, sources said, signaling the Suns could match the offer sheet once it’s presented to them. If the Suns didn’t match, they would have lost Ayton, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, for nothing.
The Suns can’t trade Ayton until Jan. 15 — an entire year without his consent. That leaves Ayton out of any offseason trade scenario involving the Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant.
Namakian of Innovate Sports and Duffy of BDA Sports and WME insisted to the Suns that they could find the highest contract offer for Ayton on the market, and they presented it with an offer sheet. The Suns never made Ayton a max offer, and they didn’t value him as a max player.
When was the largest offer sheet ever signed by a mismatched group? Harrison Barnes Signed by the Dallas Mavericks for four years and $94.4 million in 2016, Durant signed as a free agent with Barnes’ former team, the Golden State Warriors, the same summer.
Ayden was intrigued by the possibility of teaming up with the talented young guard Dyers Halliburton and became the centerpiece of the Pacers’ rebuild, sources told ESPN.
Indiana Commerce Malcolm Broughton At the beginning of this season and Domantas Sabonis Last season saw a transition to a new era centered on rising star Halliburton and an exciting young backcourt of rookies. Benedict MathurinThe sixth pick in last month’s NBA draft.
The Pacers needed $4.7 million in cap space to sign Ayton to the max offer sheet. To do that, Indiana excluded the guard Duane Washington And the three players Boston traded for Brockton were extended: Malik Fitz, John Morgan And Nick Stauskassources told ESPN.
Ayton, who turns 24 next week, made the first pick in the 2018 draft out of Arizona, part of a star-studded draft class. Luka Doncic (third), Years Jackson Jr. (fourth), Trae Young (Fifth) and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (11th)
After making the All-Rookie first team in 2019, Ayton has developed into a quality starting center, averaging 16.3 points and 10.5 rebounds to help Phoenix defend during a run to the 2021 NBA Finals — the franchise’s first time in the league. championship round since Charles Barkley led the Suns there in 1993.
Ayton averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds last season, shooting 63.4% from the field and 74.6% from the foul line.
After a stellar regular season that ended with the league’s best record, Phoenix lost to the Mavericks in Game 7 of the postseason Western Conference semifinals — with Ayton watching from the bench for much of the second half.
When asked after the game why that happened, Suns coach Monty Williams said, “It’s an internal thing.” Ayton, meanwhile, declined to speak to reporters after the game.
ESPN’s Tim Bontemps and Bobby Marks contributed to this report.