The 2023 NBA offseason trade race finally left the starting line when the Phoenix Suns acquired guard Bradley Beal from the Washington Wizards for a small package consisting of Chris Paul, Landry Shamet, some second-round picks and pick swaps. It signaled a rebuild in Washington and that the Wiz are trying to clear their books of as much salary as possible. It also means the Portland Trail Blazers have an opening to strike and fill a significant need.
The Suns weren’t able to get past the eventual-champion Denver Nuggets in last year’s playoffs, mostly due to a lack of depth, and that issue is even more pronounced now as Phoenix made its roster even more top heavy.
The quartet of Beal, Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton combine to make $162 million next season. That will already put the Suns deep into the luxury tax. Phoenix has to fill 10 roster spots by either re-signing their own free agents or finding players on minimum salaries.
For a team already devoid of depth, it’s not a great situation.
In order to build some of said depth with better talent, trading Ayton for multiple player makes the most sense. Any team willing to acquire the 24-year-old center now has Phoenix over a barrel; they know the Suns need depth, and Ayton is their best trade chip to dangle. It’s a similar situation to what the Wizards just had to deal with in finding a trade for Beal.
Bringing Ayton to Portland on the cheap would be good business for general manager Joe Cronin.
The Blazers should strike now to steal Deandre Ayton from the Suns at a discounted price
Portland is in desperate need of size in the front court, preferably in the form of a starter who would be an upgrade over Jusuf Nurkic. Despite some of the flaws Ayton showed in Phoenix – mainly a lack of physicality and motivation at times – he is still young, is 6-foot-11 and 250 pounds and has been a double-double machine since he entered the league as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
Ayton may be revitalized by a new situation – especially one in which he might get to play a more significant role – and the chance to play alongside Damian Lillard should theoretically open up the five-year veteran’s game.
Phoenix would presumably want players rather than picks in any deal to help fill out its roster and have some better talent coming off the bench. That would be fine with Portland, who’s hamstrung in terms of trading future first-round picks anyway.
A deal could look something like this:
Different versions of a similar trade that send out other players from Portland are certainly possible, but in a situation like this, Phoenix would keep a starting-caliber center but grab two additional wings who would be willing to play specific roles.
If the Blazers can bring in Ayton at a discount, similar to the Beal deal, it’s a move they must at least consider.