After offering Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton a max contract offer earlier this afternoon, the Indiana Pacers were matched by the Suns shortly after Ayton signed the four-year, $133 million offer sheet made by Indiana.
The Pacers had been linked to the 23-year-old center from the start of free agency, one Ayton was involved in after talks between the Suns and Ayton stalled in a discussion of a max deal last season. Neither side had much luck progressing in a sign-and-trade for Ayton, forcing Indiana’s hand, but the Suns held all the leverage with the restricted free agent, even if there was a glimmer of hope for the Pacers given Phoenix’s notable lack of spending, a reality that is no longer true as Phoenix enters the luxury tax in search of a championship.
As for Ayton and the Pacers, the door is shut for at least a year, with Indiana unable to be a trade partner for Phoenix and Ayton this upcoming season even after Ayton’s availability for trade after January 15. Should there truly be interest for both sides beyond this season, those talks would have to resume this time next year if Ayton remains a Sun, a possibility as Ayton is able to veto any trade for this upcoming season.
Currently, the Pacers are set with Myles Turner, Goga Bitadze, and Daniel Theis in their center position, though making such an offer for Ayton may have a negative effect in regards to Turner, who will be an unrestricted free agent next summer. Though Turner may be moved yet this summer, recent history could suggest that Turner remains on the team for at least the start of the season, similar to Victor Oladipo prior to the 2020-21 season as they seek a trade.
The Pacers were wise to not allow that to be a deterrent however. Even if this was an expected outcome, it was a solid attempt to add proven talent and accelerate their rebuild. In preparing to make this offer, the Pacers did make some moves, stretching recent acquisitions Nik Stauskas, Mailk Fitts, and Juwan Morgan and waiving guard Duane Washington Jr. after pushing back the date on his contract guarantee.
We have waived Duane Washington, Jr., Nik Stauskas, Malik Fitts and Juwan Morgan.https://t.co/ots9W811ja— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) July 15, 2022
If this was Indiana’s lone free agency swing, the rest of the offseason will no doubt be much quieter. Their cap space, however, will keep them involved in at least the peripheral, likely continuing to acquire assets in their rebuild.