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10 potential Deandre Ayton trades to facilitate Damian Lillard blockbuster deal

Gerald Bourguet Avatar
September 26, 2023
Here are 10 potential Deandre Ayton trades that might make sense for the Phoenix Suns as part of a Damian Lillard trade.

The Phoenix Suns don’t need to force any Deandre Ayton trades, full stop. But as Damian Lillard trade talks heat up, they’d be foolish to not do their due diligence by listening to offers extended their way.

As PHNX Sports reported last week, the Suns have emerged as a “dark horse” team that could facilitate a Lillard trade. Being that third or even fourth party puts Phoenix in an advantageous spot, where they can survey the offers for Ayton and only pull the trigger on a move they feel improves their roster.

According to sources who spoke with PHNX‘s Flex from Jersey, the Toronto Raptors have emerged as a frontrunner for Lillard’s services. Although Dame has been persistent about wanting to join the Miami Heat, with reports even going as far as suggesting he’d force his way there if another team acquired him, Toronto has boldly traded for disgruntled superstars in the recent past.

Whether Lillard winds up in Toronto, Miami or another city, one thing has become clear: The Portland Trail Blazers’ interest in Deandre Ayton is genuine. Multiple sources confirmed the Blazers wanted him last summer but were unable to navigate a sign-and-trade with Phoenix. Portland views him as a legitimate cornerstone piece they could sell to their fanbase because of his youth, upside, and the fact that he was a former No. 1 overall pick.

No matter where Dame ends up, the Blazers’ interest in Ayton could provide the framework for larger, three-team trades. In most of those scenarios, Jusuf Nurkic would be a returning piece from Rip City, but the true prize would be the second and/or third pieces coming from a third party.

Again, that’s not to say the Suns should be aggressive in pursuing Deandre Ayton trades. The bigger takeaway is that after a summer where the offers for Ayton were “trash,” as one Suns source put it, DA is a covetable trade asset once again.

To that end, and in the interest of being thorough, it’s time to explore a few potential Deandre Ayton trades. These scenarios aren’t meant to paint a clear picture of what Phoenix should or shouldn’t do, but rather, serve as thought exercises designed to illustrate how the Suns could get involved as part of a Damian Lillard trade, what kinds of players they could realistically target, what assets opposing teams might be willing to part with, and whether those deals would ultimately be worth it.

Suns-Blazers-Heat trade:

Deandre Ayton trades
  • Suns outgoing salary: $32.4M; Suns incoming salary: $29.9M
  • Blazers outgoing salary: $68.7M; Blazers incoming salary: $68.0M
  • Heat outgoing salary: $42.3M; Heat incoming salary: $45.6M

If the Heat are no longer desperate for Lillard, they might get beat to the punch for his services. Incorporating the Suns — who have an asset the Blazers actually want in Ayton — might help them get across the finish line.

In this deal, Miami lands their superstar point guard, while the Blazers snag Ayton, Kyle Lowry’s $29.6 million expiring contract, rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr., 20-year-old Nikola Jovic and two first-rounders from the Heat. Tyler Herro is obviously a better player, but replacing Lowry with his $27 million salary screws up the trade math, and Portland may not care to absorb the remaining four years and $120 million on Herro’s contract anyway.

As we’ve already covered, going from Ayton to Nurkic at center is a clear downgrade. At 29 years old, Nurk would be an older, injury-prone replacement who’s only played in 52, 56, 37 and eight games over the last four seasons, respectively. A decent chunk of those came from being shut down by a tanking Blazers squad, but availability is a concern for a Suns team with championship aspirations.

Nurkic actually checks out as a decent interior defender, ranking in the 98th percentile in rim contests per 75 possessions and holding opponents to 3.8 percent worse shooting at the rim, which ranked in the league’s 84th percentile, per The BBall Index. But he’s immobile on the perimeter and would be targeted on defense come playoff time.

The remaining three years and $54.4 million left on his contract are significantly cheaper than the $102 million left on Ayton’s deal, but despite nearly averaging a double-double last season, he’d represent a step backward at the 5. Something else would need to be attached in order to match Ayton’s $32.5 million salary and properly compensate Phoenix for giving up a younger, superior center who’s also a better fit.

Caleb Martin would be a start on that front. The soon-to-be 28-year old wing averaged a career-high 9.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per game last year, shooting 46.3 percent overall and 35.6 percent from 3-point range. But his status as a playoff riser is what should intrigue Phoenix, since he elevated his game during Miami’s surprising run to the NBA Finals.

Martin was a key contributor for first three playoff rounds, especially when he averaged 19.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game on .602/.489/.875 shooting splits in the Eastern Conference Finals. He fizzled out in the NBA Finals, but he could help the Suns as a fourth or fifth option. Martin also ranked in the 95th percentile in on-ball perimeter defense, according to The BBall Index. That’s potential fifth starter material coming on a team-friendly, $6.8 million salary.

Unfortunately, the third piece of the trade is where this package falls short. Another team may have the time and developmental resources to devote to Nassir Little, but the Suns don’t. The 23-year-old has shown flashes, but not enough for Phoenix to feel comfortable with him being a key part of their return in an Ayton deal. This trade doesn’t feel like enough for Phoenix to pull the trigger.

Suns-Blazers-Raptors trade:

Deandre Ayton trades
  • Suns outgoing salary: $32.4M; Suns incoming salary: $35.5M
  • Blazers outgoing salary: $64.2M; Blazers incoming salary: $63.5M
  • Raptors outgoing salary: $49.7M; Raptors incoming salary: $47.3M

If the Suns can add a two-way force like OG Anunoby, it would justify trading Deandre Ayton. Phoenix would still downgrade at center, but Anunoby’s current level of versatile, lockdown defense — along with his room for growth at age 26 — makes up for it.

Even better, Anunoby is the rare wing player who’s strong, long, athletic and smart enough on defense to finish games as a small-ball 5. Even if Nurkic can’t stay healthy or gets targeted in a playoff environment, Phoenix’s closing lineup would include Devin Booker, Bradley Beal, Kevin Durant, Anunoby and whatever fifth player Frank Vogel deems best for that particular game.

If the Suns needed ball hounds, Josh Okogie or Jordan Goodwin would do nicely. If they needed more wing defense and length, say hello to Keita Bates-Diop. If they needed offense and shooting, Yuta Watanabe or Eric Gordon could do the trick. This is already an incredibly switchable group, and Anunoby would unlock even more of that versatility. Last season, Anunoby averaged 16.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game while shooting 47.6 percent overall and 38.7 percent from 3 — not bad for a fourth option!

His status as a free agent next summer may have lowered his trade value a bit, and reports have surfaced that he’s unhappy with his role in Toronto, wanting more freedom to function as a ball-handler. A Mikal Bridges-like explosion probably wouldn’t follow if he were traded to Phoenix, but there’s a difference between being a fourth option on a non-playoff team like last year’s Raptors and a legitimate title contender like this year’s Suns.

Mat Ishbia would have to eat a hefty luxury tax bill to re-sign Anunoby next summer, but Phoenix was already going to be well above the second luxury tax apron anyway. The new owner has certainly put his money where his mouth is when it comes to paying up to help the Suns pursue their first championship.

As for the Raptors, they make their high-octane gamble without giving up Scottie Barnes — a potential sticking point for Portland, but perhaps less so if Ayton is included. ESPN’s Marc J. Spears reported the Blazers are “intrigued” by rookie Gradey Dick, so his inclusion helps.

From there, Rip City sees the return of Gary Trent Jr., who could easily be flipped at the trade deadline on an $18.5 million expiring salary. Thaddeus Young has very little trade value, but he’s another $8 million in expiring salary, and the Blazers would snag two first-rounders in the process. Those picks could be valuable 5-7 years from now.

Finally, the Raptors get Dame and the 21-year-old Jabari Walker, who saw limited minutes last year as a rookie. It’d certainly be a risk to give up assets for a 33-year-old star who may not want to be there, but Toronto would keep Scottie Barnes and add Lillard to a core that includes Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl.

This deal is worth pursuing for Phoenix, even if they have to settle for Nurkic rather than a guy like Jakob Poeltl, who isn’t trade-eligible until Jan. 15. but there are questions about whether Anunoby would even be available. If the Raptors trade for a win-now star like Lillard, wouldn’t it make more sense to keep a Swiss Army knife like Anunoby and give up the younger guy? And even if Toronto opted to keep Barnes instead, would the Blazers demand they get Anunoby rather than Phoenix? Or is his impending free agency enough of a deterrent to allow the Suns to take him instead?

Suns-Blazers-Heat-Pacers trade:

Deandre Ayton trades
  • Suns outgoing salary: $32.4M; Suns incoming salary: $32.3M
  • Blazers outgoing salary: $62.5M; Blazers incoming salary: $57.6M
  • Heat outgoing salary: $41.5M; Heat incoming salary: $45.6M
  • Pacers outgoing salary: $27.9M; Pacers incoming salary: $28.9M

The math gets really tight on this one. The Heat are another team that’s above the second tax apron, which means they can only take back up to 110 percent of the salary they send out in any trade. In this case, Lillard’s $45.6 million salary just barely squeezes under the $45.7 million threshold they’re allowed to accept — by about $84,000.

In any case, this deal is about as good as it realistically gets for Phoenix in any multi-team Dame trade that doesn’t involve OG Anunoby. From Portland, they get Nurkic. From Miami, they add a potential difference-maker on the wing in Martin. And from the Indiana Pacers, they land a legitimate backup point guard who could be part of the playoff rotation in T.J. McConnell.

PHNX Sports reported last week about the emergence of Indiana as a potential fourth party, and McConnell would provide the Suns with a true floor general off the bench. Jordan Goodwin’s playmaking is underrated, but McConnell is another gritty glue guy who defends well, ranking in the 91st percentile in on-ball perimeter defense and the 96th percentile in steals per 75 possessions.

Last year, the 31-year-old averaged a career-high 8.7 points, 5.3 assists and 1.1 steals in 20.3 minutes per game. He shot 54.3 percent overall and a career-best 44.1 percent from downtown, albeit on 0.8 attempts per game. McConnell is an effective rim penetrator and finisher, ranking in the 100th percentile in drives per 75 possessions and the 97th percentile in rim shot creation. He’s also a reliable playmaker, placing in the 98th percentile in assist points per 75 possessions.

On an $8.7 million contract, with only $5 million of his $9.3 million salary guaranteed for next season, he’d join Martin and Nurkic in providing Phoenix with additional trade flexibility as well.

The Blazers land Ayton, one of the NBA’s best sharpshooters in Buddy Hield, Jaquez, Jovic and two first-rounders from Miami. DA and Hield represent great value (and reunite two teammates on the Bahamas national team!), but it’s fair to wonder if the Blazers want anything to do with Hield as he approaches free agency. Maybe they could flip his $19.2 million expiring contract at the trade deadline for another asset, but they may prefer to avoid getting extra homework out of a Dame deal.

The Heat get their guy in Lillard, but it’s also worth noting they’re giving up five players for one guy. Dame’s undoubtedly worth what they’re giving up from a talent perspective, but from a sheer “we still need 15 players on the roster” standpoint, Pat Riley would have his work cut out for him.

The Pacers exchange Hield for another sharpshooter in Tyler Herro, only this time, it’s a sharpshooter under team control for the foreseeable future. With that being said, Herro’s four-year, $120 million contract is hardly team-friendly, so unless they’re really high on the 23-year-old’s long-term fit alongside Tyrese Haliburton, Bennedict Mathurin and Bruce Brown Jr., this might not be the piece to entice Indiana.

We threw in a solid role player like Haywood Highsmith and two first-round picks for good measure, but it’s fair to question whether the Pacers could do better elsewhere for Hield and McConnell.

Suns-Blazers-Nets trades:

Deandre Ayton trades
  • Suns outgoing salary: $32.4M; Suns incoming salary: $30.8M
  • Blazers outgoing salary: $68.7M; Blazers incoming salary: $70.3M
  • Nets outgoing salary: $51.8M; Nets incoming salary: $51.8M

Sorry, Suns fans: As fun as it is imagining Mikal Bridges or Cam Johnson back in Phoenix, it’s not happening anytime soon. The Brooklyn Nets aren’t letting Bridges go anywhere after what he showed in his time there, and Johnson just got signed to a four-year, $108 million contract that makes him ineligible to be traded until Jan. 15.

So as much sense as it’d make for the Nets to pursue Damian Lillard, they won’t be giving up one of the Twins to do so. Ayton would have to do the heavy lifting for Portland in a three-team package like this, but the Blazers are also a rebuilding team that might not mind taking on Ben Simmons’ massive contract for the next two years. Worst-case scenario, he continues to miss games and be mediocre, which doesn’t disrupt the youth movement in any way. Best-case scenario, the 27-year-old rediscovers himself on a team devoid of playoff expectations.

In any case, Ayton and the ghost of Ben Simmons isn’t enough value for Lillard, which is why the Nets are tossing in three first-round picks. The 2025 selection comes from Phoenix, which isn’t too difficult to cut ties with — Booker, Durant and Beal will all still be on the Suns’ roster by that point, lowering the pick’s potential value. The 2027 pick is top-8 protected from the Philadelphia 76ers, and the 2029 selection is the Nets’ own unprotected pick.

There are other options, but obligations to other teams and the Ted Stepien Rule make this the most sensible combination of picks for Brooklyn to offer. The Nets get Lillard, along with Nassir Little to make the salaries work.

For the Suns, though, is Nurkic and Dorian Finney-Smith enough returning value to cut DA loose? Probably not, unless he were a malcontent in the locker room. To this point, we’ve gotten no indication that’s the case, so as nicely as Finney Smith’s 3-and-D skill-set would mesh with this roster, he and Nurkic simply aren’t enough to justify this trade.

One alternative is much more suitable for Phoenix…and a lot less likely for Brooklyn to abide:

Deandre Ayton trades
  • Suns outgoing salary: $32.4M; Suns incoming salary: $29.9M
  • Blazers outgoing salary: $68.7M; Blazers incoming salary: $70.3M
  • Nets outgoing salary: $67.8M; Nets incoming salary: $68.7M

This is an absolute fever dream scenario for the Suns, getting a younger, defensively superior, more mobile center in Nic Claxton, plus a helping hand in the playmaking and scoring departments with Spencer Dinwiddie. Claxton has Defensive Player of the Year potential and would be an ideal fit under a big man whisperer like Vogel, while Dinwiddie could thrive as a late-game shot-maker with all the attention on Phoenix’s Big 3.

Unfortunately, that’s a lot for Brooklyn to give up. The Nets went from a core of Lillard, Bridges, Johnson, Dinwiddie, Claxton and Royce O’Neale Jr. in the first trade to Lillard, Bridges, Johnson, Nurkic, O’Neale and Little. That’s a big difference! Even if the Nets tried to drop from three picks to two by offering a more valuable Suns first-rounder in 2027 instead of 2025, suddenly the Blazers are getting less value out of Dame. The Nets give up more, the Blazers get one fewer pick, and only Phoenix wins.

Maybe the Suns can find a way to set the negotiations that high from the start, but convincing Brooklyn to give up that much for Dame — and convincing Portland they don’t need a 24-year-old defensive stalwart who fits their timeline like Claxton — would be awfully tricky.

Suns-Blazers-Knicks trade:

Deandre Ayton trades
  • Suns outgoing salary: $32.4M; Suns incoming salary: $30.2M
  • Blazers outgoing salary: $62.5M; Blazers incoming salary: $60.8M
  • Knicks outgoing salary: $58.7M; Knicks incoming salary: $62.5M

Who needs Nurkic to replace DA when you could get a bulldozing, small-ball 5 like Julius Randle instead?

In all seriousness, this is too much for the New York Knicks to give up. Damian Lillard is miles better than Jalen Brunson, but Brunson is six years younger and actually wants to be on the Knicks. It’d be cold-blooded to trade him after his breakout year for an older star point guard — even if that very move has been in the Knickerbockers’ DNA for decades now.

Giving up Randle and Brunson isn’t worth the upgrade at point guard for New York, but from Portland’s perspective, they probably couldn’t do much better than a 25-year-old center with upside and a 27-year-old star point guard in his prime. Ayton and Brunson would be a phenomenal return for the Blazers, and they’d snag Isaiah Roby to help balance salaries too.

The Suns would also get DaQuan Jeffries from New York, but they’d most likely just cut him from the roster to alleviate that two-for-one exchange in personnel. Randle is a physical beast who’s averaged over 20 points per game in each of the last three seasons, but there’s no way the Suns and the Blazers could extract that kind of value in one fell swoop.

Suns-Blazers-Celtics trade:

Deandre Ayton trades
  • Suns outgoing salary: $32.4M; Suns incoming salary: $32.5M
  • Blazers outgoing salary: $62.5M; Blazers incoming salary: $62.3M
  • Celtics outgoing salary: $62.4M; Celtics incoming salary: $62.5M

Don’t let the nearly identical outgoing and incoming salaries fool you: In any hypothetical Damian Lillard trade, the money-matching gets exceedingly difficult for the Boston Celtics without including Jaylen Brown. The problem? Brown’s offseason extension means he can’t be traded until Jan. 21. The end result? An incredibly lopsided deal that leaves Boston hurting in the depth department.

On the one hand, the Celtics keep their current Big 3 intact and manage to add one of the NBA’s best scorers and shooters in the process. A Big 4 of Dame, Brown, Jayson Tatum and Kristaps Porzingis would be unbelievably difficult to stop, and the Celtics would avoid surrendering any blue-chip players or draft picks.

However, Boston already lost Marcus Smart and Grant Williams over the summer. Sending out Malcolm Brogdon, Derrick White, Al Horford and Robert Williams III would take a sizable chunk out of the rotation. Outside of that Big 4 and the newly-acquired Nurkic, Boston would be relying on…Payton Pritchard? Oshae Brissett? Svi Mykhailiuk and Luke Kornet? That’s hardly a championship-caliber bench.

It’s a pity, because the Blazers would have their center rotation locked down for the foreseeable future between Ayton and Time Lord. Williams has proven to be one of the most impactful defensive bigs in the league when healthy, and those injury concerns would be somewhat mitigated thanks to DA. Portland would also add a 29-year-old Derrick White on a team-friendly contract. A valuable role player like that could help guide the rebuild off the bench, or he could be flipped again at the trade deadline for additional assets.

As for the Suns, entrusting their starting center spot to a 37-year-old Al Horford would be risky. His numbers dipped significantly in the playoffs last year, and he’s not exactly the rim-running big that would fit best with this group. But what Phoenix really needs is defense, and even with his waning athleticism, Horford is still a versatile, plus defender.

Throw in Brogdon’s play-making, ball-handling, defense and shooting on the perimeter, and adding Horford and the reigning Sixth Man of the Year would be enough to warrant this move. The problem is it’s too much depth for Boston to realistically give up.

Suns-Blazers-Bucks trade:

Deandre Ayton trades
  • Suns outgoing salary: $34.3M; Suns incoming salary: $36.8M
  • Blazers outgoing salary: $45.6M; Blazers incoming salary: $42.5M
  • Bucks outgoing salary: $46.9M; Bucks incoming salary: $47.5M

Let’s take a walk on the wild side for a minute. There’s no way in hell the Milwaukee Bucks do this a week before training camp begins. Giannis Antetokounmpo’s comments about being a winner and his future were less of an imminent threat to demand a trade and more so saying the quiet part out loud: NBA superstars will remain loyal to their franchise until they see they can’t win there anymore. It’s not a revolutionary concept.

However. The Bucks have a lot riding on a 32-year-old Khris Middleton getting back to form after an injury-riddled season limited him to 33 games. He looked more like himself in the playoffs, but his efficiency has dipped in each of the last two seasons, and he hasn’t cracked 70 games in a season since 2018-19.

Milwaukee also has a lot riding on Holiday, who was admittedly great on both ends of the floor while earning an All-Star selection last season. But he’s also 33 years old, and like Middleton, has had problems staying healthy, failing to crack 70 games in a season since 2017-18.

As Milwaukee starts to read the signs, Giannis’ message becomes pretty clear: There needs to be a plan if this group doesn’t reach the promised land this year.

The Bucks will probably stay true to the course, hoping a head coaching change and all the tweaks they made to their bench are enough to get them back to the NBA Finals. They wouldn’t be wrong in doing so!

But wouldn’t it be fun to see them go all in this year by randomly swooping in and winning the Damian Lillard Sweepstakes? A core of Giannis, Dame and Middleton would be formidable at full-strength, and if anyone could mask Lillard’s flaws on defense, it’d be a defensive-minded coach like Adrian Griffin, with the Greek Freak and Brook Lopez patrolling the back lines.

For Phoenix, this would be an opportunity to steal the guy who made life hell for Devin Booker and Chris Paul in the 2021 Finals. Holiday may be getting older and has had nagging, minor injuries over the last few years, but come playoff time, there are few defenders you’d rather have on your side.

Holiday is coming off a season where he averaged 19.3 points, 7.4 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game on .479/.384/.859 shooting splits. He’s had his occasional problems with consistency and self-creation in the playoffs, but on this team, that wouldn’t be an issue. Every Suns fan remembers what he’s capable of when the lights are at their brightest.

Meanwhile, Portland would get solid value for Dame by adding Ayton, a promising rookie in the 21-year-old Andre Jackson Jr., and Grayson Allen’s expiring $8.9 million contract. Maybe the Blazers could convince Milwaukee to send a first-round pick in the distant future as well.

With that being said, this one is too bold to realistically happen. As great as it’d be to land a two-way point guard like Holiday, this trade would also leave Phoenix without a starting center (and little financial means of trading for one, even after all their recent signees become trade-eligible). Drew Eubanks is going to be great for the Suns, but is he a starting-caliber big in this league? It’d be quite a gamble, even if their other four starters were Holiday, Booker, Beal and KD.

Holiday has been an intrinsic part of the Bucks’ championship DNA for years now, and you don’t typically trade players like that until they’ve had their last chance to compete for titles. We’re not there with Milwaukee yet — even if it feels like we’re getting close. Trading for Dame would be a swing-for-the-fences move to prove to Giannis that this front office will do whatever it takes to win more championships, but in truth, they could easily prove that to him by just staying the course and letting Adrian Griffin go to work.

Suns-Blazers-76ers trade:

Deandre Ayton trades
  • Suns outgoing salary: $34.3M; Suns incoming salary: $35.8M
  • Blazers outgoing salary: $68.7M; Blazers incoming salary: $68M
  • 76ers outgoing salary: $54.6M; 76ers incoming salary: $53.8M

How did we not create a trade featuring the league’s two most disgruntled superstars until now? Well, because there are obvious pitfalls for each and every team involved here.

For the 76ers, pairing Dame with Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris is obviously a huge get. Unfortunately, it comes at the cost of their defense with De’Anthony Melton and P.J. Tucker gone. It’s also a blow to their playoff depth, because although they’re giving up three players and getting three in return, Nassir Little and Ish Wainright would have to prove they deserve minutes in the postseason. In reality, the Sixers are trading three proven rotation players for one superstar — and their depth was already questionable to begin with.

For the Blazers, Ayton is a good get, but the rest of this return is lacking. Harden is undoubtedly a superstar who can help teams win games, but he does nothing for their rebuild, and Portland would then have to navigate another star trade before the deadline. There’s a potential scenario where doing so rewards them with additional assets, but it doesn’t feel like many teams are lining up to surrender assets for Harden and then pay him a max contract over the summer.

Portland only getting one first-round draft pick feels low too. It gets even worse when one remembers that 2029 is the earliest the Sixers can offer a pick. If their obligations to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Brooklyn Nets go unfulfilled in 2025 and 2027, respectively, the Blazers would have to wait even longer for Philly’s pick to convey. That’s probably a non-starter.

Finally, adding three reliable rotation players in Nurkic, Melton and Tucker isn’t bad, but it’s probably not the overwhelming, no-brainer deal Phoenix is holding out for. P.J. Tucker is still P.J. Tucker, and at 25 years old, Melton represents great value as a legitimately great defender and drastically improved shooter on a team-friendly contract. But Tucker is 38, and as underrated a pickup as Melton would be for the foreseeable future, he doesn’t necessarily move the needle enough for the upcoming season.

Suns-Blazers-Clippers trade:

Deandre Ayton trades
  • Suns outgoing salary: $32.4M; Suns incoming salary: $28.9M
  • Blazers outgoing salary: $45.6M; Blazers incoming salary: $46.7M
  • Clippers outgoing salary: $43.1M; Clippers incoming salary: $45.6M

The LA Clippers haven’t been able to keep their two stars healthy at the right time of year. Why not guard against that problem by adding a third star?

The answer to that question is “depth,” and to be clear, trading four players for one would leave Tyronn Lue with fewer options than he’s used to having. There’s also the slight problem of trading away LA’s starting center without getting a big in return.

However, there’s no question Dame would upgrade the Clippers’ firepower, and although it’d cost Ivica Zubac, a perennial Sixth Man of the Year candidate in Norman Powell, the promising Terance Mann and another player with some potential in Amir Coffey, that might be worth it to give LA one last gasp at a title run.

The Blazers would get Ayton, along with the 26-year-old Mann, the 26-year-old Coffey and LA’s 2028 first-round pick — the soonest the Clippers can offer a first-rounder. Mann has real two-way potential and could earn extended minutes in Portland as part of the rebuild.

As for the Suns, they get a more capable, playoff-compatible big man to replace Ayton with Zubac, plus yet another scoring threat off the bench in Norm Powell. Does that move the needle enough to let Ayton go? That’s debatable, but Zubac is a more capable replacement than Nurkic, making this type of trade a bit easier to digest.

The problem is the Clippers may not have the picks to pull this off. They may also prefer having depth rather than going all in on the upcoming season with a blockbuster move. Losing Zubac without getting a big man in return hurts too, even if Mason Plumlee would be ready to step up and fill that role.

Suns-Blazers-Bulls trade:

Deandre Ayton trades
  • Suns outgoing salary: $32.4M; Suns incoming salary: $26.7M
  • Blazers outgoing salary: $62.5M; Blazers incoming salary: $64.4M
  • Bulls outgoing salary: $41.7M; Bulls incoming salary: $45.6M

Out of all the Deandre Ayton trades, this…sure is a Deandre Ayton trade! But since a source told PHNX Sports‘ Flex from Jersey that the Chicago Bulls have been one of the more active teams on the trade market, we’re doing our best to come up with a sensible Bulls trade.

Unfortunately, this is as good as it gets. Chicago would probably prefer to trade Zach LaVine over DeMar DeRozan, but LaVine wouldn’t make sense on the Blazers, who already have Scoot Henderson, Anfernee Simons and Shaedon Sharpe to develop in the backcourt. DeRozan can play the 3 alongside those guys, and since he’s still very good, they’d have a decent change of flipping his $28.6 million expiring contract before the deadline.

The Blazers get Dalen Terry and Chicago’s top-3 protected first-rounder in 2027 for their trouble, while the Bulls add Dame to a core that includes….LaVine and Nikola Vucevic. Look, Chicago is a great city and the Bulls are one of the NBA’s most prestigious franchises…but yikes. Good luck convincing Lillard he’s got a bright future there!

For the Suns, the results are similarly underwhelming. Patrick Williams is a 22-year-old with potential who also addresses a long-term position of need, but he might not be ready to contribute at a meaningful level on a title contender. He and Nurkic probably aren’t a significant enough return to satisfy Phoenix’s requirements in a DA trade.

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