After whiffing on Trae Young and Luka Doncic, Phoenix may be having some buyer’s remorse.
DeAndre Ayton hasn’t been bad. He’s actually been really good. He was suspended 25 games (just like John Collins) for violating the NBA’s substance abuse policy but is averaging 16.8 & 12 on 55.8% shooting, which is well above-average for a second-year big man that has yet to develop any kind of outside game. Ayton’s defense has also been eye-popping thus far, ranking 6th best in defensive rating by NBA.com. And before you completely write off this scenario, keep in mind folks, we are talking about the Phoenix Suns, and they’ve made plenty more mind-boggling transactions over the years than dealing a talent like Ayton.
Depending on where Atlanta’s pick falls in the lottery, I think he’s a perfect fit on a Hawks squad that needs a starting center. Alex Len has been good for Atlanta, but only when coming off the bench. Damian Jones hasn’t added much of anything, and Bruno Fernando has proven he needs a lot of work before he can be relied on to win ball games. John Collins can play center at times, but not for more than a few minutes here or there. The most significant hole on the Hawks roster after they acquired a backup point guard is a starting center, and Ayton fills that need while also fitting Atlanta’s timeline.
The Hawks are a team notorious for getting shafted in the lottery. Despite years of terrible basketball, not once have they won the damn thing and picked first overall. If Atlanta falls out of range for Anthony Edwards, Lamelo Ball or James Wiseman, this pick becomes the perfect trade chip, and Ayton is an intriguing target that might be made available for the right price this offseason.
A package of Atlanta’s first-round pick, the Nets pick, and a young player could entice the Suns. Once again, this is all very premature, but Ayton, Young, Collins, Hunter, and one of Reddish/Huerter could be an elite core for the next decade. The Hawks have to find a high-quality center before the start of next season, and with Andre Drummond’s asking price likely being far too high, Ayton is a big splash move that makes too much sense if the Hawks can get the Suns to budge. Phoenix seems to be in and endless rebuild cycle, so who knows what they might do next.