Throughout the summer there were a number of articles from NBA journalists and insiders predicting a trade that would find Phoenix Suns center and former #1 overall draft pick Deandre Ayton on a new team.
The rumors escalated when the Suns pulled off a shocking trade that landed them Washington Wizards franchise cornerstone Bradley Beal leaving Ayton as a rather odd fit in the Suns new super lineup.
However, despite the offseason rumor mill articles and the chatter on sports talk podcasts, Ayton remained a Sun and seemed poised to have a fresh start this upcoming season under new head coach Frank Vogel.
That is until earlier this week when Suns insider and Arizona Sports 98.7 FM host John Gambadoro dropped news that the Suns may be looking to trade Ayton:
Gambadoro spoke further about it on social media shortly thereafter:
"Let me address some of the Deandre Ayton rumors. The Suns have not been willing to move DA all summer because they think he fits well and there were no offers that would change that. If Nurkic was on the table I would be surprised if the Suns didn't look into it because an argument could be made that is an upgrade for Phx. This would be contingent on Dame being moved. Portland has previously shown no interest in DA but that was with Dame staying. If they do not have Dame on the roster they could very well want a young 25-year old to build around.
Vogel needs a defensive minded Center to build his defense around and Nurkic does fit that mold. This would be contingent on a Lillard trade and I expect do expect that to happen very very soon.
Ok a serviceable defensive Center. He was actually good defensively before Chauncey took over. I still think he is above average. He is big but does not move as well after the leg injury. Has been a good rebounder. Can set screens and pass has some skill."
So assuming that Ayton is dealt, and is a part of a three-team deal to help the Miami Heat land Blazers star Damian Lillard, let's take a look at some potential destinations for Ayton and a possible return for the Suns.
Portland Trail Blazers
This has Suns fans divided, as many do not see Jusuf Nurkic as an upgrade over Ayton, and feel that an Ayton/Nurkic swap, straight up, would be a bad deal for the Suns, but this has to be mentioned.
This would be a separate trade from any Lillard-deal.
Suns get: Jusuf Nurkic
Blazers get: Deandre Ayton
Philadelphia 76ers (let's get crazy)
Let's make this fun while we are at it and throw the 76ers in the mix. But, when considering their issue with James Harden, and need to capitalize on a championship window with Joel Embiid, this may not be so crazy.
This would be a deal involving multiple teams and players with Lillard landing in Philly and Ayton heading to Portland.
The Sixers would have to send Harden to the Clippers in this deal, and the Suns would still likely be landing a combination of players/picks headlined by Nurkic, but a four-team deal would be exciting to unpack.
Crazy? Yes. But a win for all teams involved.
Toronto Raptors (Darkhorse)
Lingering on the peripheral has been the Toronto Raptors, linked to a number of trades scenarios this offseason, but nothing materializing.
This is where they can make a bold move to refresh their championship focus and re-open their window with Pascal Siakam.
Blazers get: Deandre Ayton, Gary Trent Jr., Matt Flynn, first round pick(s)
Raptors get: Damian Lillard
Suns get: OG Anunoby, Jusuf Nurkic
The Bulls are another darkhorse team that has been engaged with the Blazers regarding Lillard, but has a difficult path to land him as the Blazers have not been interested in acquiring Zach LaVine.
With that being said, here is what a package could look like:
Bulls get: Damian Lillard
Blazers get: Deandre Ayton, Lonzo Ball, draft picks
Suns get: Demar Derozan