Much has been made about Travis Schlenk changing up the Hawks roster after failing to get past the first round of the playoffs following a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. Atlanta has reportedly been contemplating trading John Collins, noting everyone is on the table outside of Trae Young. The team needs improved perimeter defense as well as a consistent secondary scorer to take pressure off their star point guard.
One of the most common names among the trade machines has been Deandre Ayton, who is all but guaranteed to be leaving the Suns this offseason. Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report said on The Athletic’s NBA Show Podcast that Atlanta is certainly in the fold for the former No. 1 overall pick.
“Atlanta is definitely another team that I’ve heard for Ayton. There’s one person I talked to pretty consistently who’s like convinced Ayton is the guy that Atlanta wants.”
Schlenk is searching for that second star to pair with Young, but is Ayton really that guy? He averaged 17.2 points on 63.2% shooting this past season but can’t create his own shot unless it’s in the post, isn’t that consistent, and can’t provide better defense than Clint Capela.
Ayton and the Suns’ rift derives from the big man’s desire to be a max contract player, which would cost the Hawks $177 million over five years in a sign-and-trade scenario, which the Suns would prefer.
On paper, Ayton would fit with Young. He is one of the better defensive bigs in the league, both in the paint and on the perimeter. He’s also a maestro in the pick-and-roll. However, if he doesn’t get the ball near the basket, he is limited offensively.
My primary issue with acquiring Ayton is his ceiling. Playing with arguably the best point guard of all time in Chris Paul and only averaging 17 points isn’t exactly encouraging. It’s a decent foreshadowing of what life with Trae Young would look like for Ayton. His offensive pedigree is certainly more impressive than Capela or even Rudy Gobert, who the Hawks have also been linked to, but Ayton isn’t worth max contract money in my mind.
The only reason Hawks fans should be excited about acquiring Ayton is the price. Unlike the Jazz with Gobert, the Suns don’t exactly have leverage at the negotiating table. It shouldn’t cost Atlanta much in a trade to land Ayton, which would be a much easier pill to swallow. However, paying him max contract money would make the Hawks less flexible in acquiring a player of Trae Young’s caliber.
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