Phoenix Suns match Indiana Pacers’ 4-year, $133 million offer sheet to Deandre Ayton, agents say

Deandre Ayton’s agents, Bill Duffy and Nima Namakian, informed ESPN on Thursday night that the Phoenix Suns have accepted the four-year, $133 million offer sheet from the Indiana Pacers for the restricted free agency centre, paving the way for his return to the organisation.

The Suns had until Saturday at 11:59 p.m. ET to match the biggest offer sheet in NBA history, but they did so right away, putting an end to the Pacers’ chase of Ayton.

According to insiders, Phoenix had no desire to discuss a sign-and-trade deal with Indiana before Ayton signed the offer sheet, indicating that the Suns would probably match the offer once it was made available to them. The Suns would have lost Ayton, the top selection in the 2018 NBA Draft, for nothing if they hadn’t played in the match.

Ayton cannot be traded by the Suns until January 15 and cannot be traded for a full year without his permission. This eliminates Ayton from any potential summer trade scenario involving Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets.

The Suns had been told repeatedly by Namakian of Innovate Sports, Duffy of BDA Sports, and WME that they could locate Ayton a maximum contract offer on the market, and they delivered it along with the offer sheet. Ayton has never received a max offer from the Suns, indicating that they did not view him as a max player.

In 2016, during the same summer that Barnes’ former team, the Golden State Warriors, signed Durant as a free agent, the Dallas Mavericks signed Harrison Barnes to a four-year, $94.4 million contract. This was the largest offer sheet made by a team that wasn’t matched.

According to sources who spoke with ESPN, Ayton was excited about the prospect of teaming up with the Pacers’ dynamic rookie guard Tyrese Haliburton and playing a key role in their rebuild.

In order to launch a new era based on an exciting young backcourt consisting of youngster Bennedict Mathurin, the sixth choice in last month’s NBA draught, and developing star Tyrone Haliburton, Indiana traded Malcolm Brogdon earlier this offseason and Domantas Sabonis last season.

For the Pacers to sign Ayton to the maximum offer sheet, they had to free up $4.7 million in salary space. According to sources speaking to ESPN, Indiana did this by stretching out the three players acquired in the Boston trade for Brogdon—Malik Fitts, Juwan Morgan, and Nik Stauskas—and waiving guard Duane Washington.

Ayton, who will turn 24 in a week, was selected first overall in the 2018 draught out of Arizona, joining a star-studded draught class that also included Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (sixth), Luka Doncic (third), Jaren Jackson Jr. (fourth), and Trae Young (fifth) (11th).

Ayton, who was named to the All-Rookie first team in 2019, has grown into a solid starting centre who helped anchor Phoenix’s defence during the team’s journey to the NBA Finals in 2021. This was the first time the franchise had advanced this far since Charles Barkley took the Suns there in 1993.

In the previous season, Ayton shot 63.4 percent from the floor and 74.6 percent from the foul line for averages of 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds.

Ayton sat on the bench for the majority of the second half of Phoenix’s Game 7 loss to the Mavericks in the Western Conference playoffs after the team had an incredible regular season and finished with the best record in the league.

Monty Williams, the Suns coach, responded, “It’s internal,” when questioned about the incident following the game. Ayton, on the other hand, declined to speak with journalists after the game.

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