Can the Indiana Pacers reignite the Deandre Ayton spark?

Deandre Ayton, Myles Turner - Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Deandre Ayton, Myles Turner - Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

After more than a year of impasse between both parties on a contract extension, the Phoenix Suns will once again feature Deandre Ayton in the 2022-23 season after matching a max offer sheet from the Indiana Pacers a few months back in restricted free agency.

The resumed partnership seems to be off to a rocky start, however, as the former first overall pick awkwardly seemed to be disconnected from the Suns brass, at least from media engagements. During NBA Media Day, there was uncanny discomfort on Ayton’s part when talking about what transpired over the summer.

It also does not help that Ayton revealed that communications with Suns head coach Monty Williams has been virtually inexistent since their humiliating playoff exit.

While all these may simply be preseason, post-vacation jitters that could be masked by winning, Phoenix may find it tougher to reclaim its regular season dominance. After a historic campaign in 2021-22, the Suns will face a rougher trek in the ever-improving Western Conference. Ultimately, another postseason disappointment could force them to make some inevitable changes, and Ayton could be first in line if his relationship with the team remains sour.

That being said, should the Pacers reignite their Ayton dream later on?

Will the Indiana Pacers have another shot at landing Deandre Ayton?

In a hypothetical scenario where the Suns make Deandre Ayton available for plucking via trade, Phoenix will most likely go for win-now players in return. After all, a core led by Devin Booker and a still All-NBA level Chris Paul will certainly not rebuild from scratch, Utah-style, for the sake of reinvention.

That means that the Pacers will have to part with one of their established young players to even be entertained by the Suns. The most viable route is to ensure that Myles Turner remains on the roster to lay the groundwork for an offer that makes the most sense to Phoenix fit-wise and money-wise. Will that be enough? Definitely not, especially when considering the Suns’ grandiose plans for scenarios involving any Ayton trade (see: Durant, Kevin).

In a nutshell, for the Pacers to have a significant chance at landing Ayton, the following has to transpire:

  • The Suns have to regress to the point where retooling the roster is inevitable.
  • Phoenix strikes out on their prime trade targets such as Kevin Durant due to unavailability or lacking offer.
  • The Pacers re-sign Myles Turner, which is unlikely at this juncture.
  • Indiana sweetens the pot with a high-upside player or a first-rounder to cover Ayton’s ample roster control.

Ultimately, all of these transpiring one way or the other is quite the mountain climb. The Pacers’ immediate rebuild goals, one that could include having a shot at the likes of Victor Wembanyama, also cannot be overlooked to the point of aggressively trying to win prematurely with Ayton at the helm, even if the upcoming crop of free agent centers is, yet again, underwhelming.

Deandre Ayton has shown utmost openness to the prospect of hopping right into the new iteration of the Indiana Pacers. While the team should definitely remain cognizant on his front, they may be better off doing it from afar, realistically speaking.

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