Indiana Pacers, NBA Free Agency, Phoenix Suns

Pacers sign Deandre Ayton to largest offer sheet in NBA history [UPDATED]

Deandre Ayton has signed the largest offer sheet in NBA history, courtesy of the Indiana Pacers. The Phoenix Suns have 48 hours to decide whether they’ll match.

Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Indiana Pacers signed Deandre Ayton for four years and $133 million. It is the largest offer sheet ever signed by an NBA restricted free agent. Now the Suns are on the clock to decide whether or not they’ll match.

Will the Phoenix Suns match the Pacers offer to Deandre Ayton?

The Suns have 48 hours to decide whether or not to match the Pacers’ offer and retain Ayton. On one level, it seems like an easy decision. If the Suns don’t match, they’ll lose the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft for nothing. Ayton is also a 23-year-old big man with NBA Finals experience who averaged 17.2 points, 10.2 points and 1.4 assists last season on a 65.6 true shooting percentage.

However, things clearly weren’t right with Ayton in Phoenix, otherwise, the Suns wouldn’t be in this position. Matching the contract would put the Suns in the luxury tax, something they’ve avoided in the past. The team didn’t want to offer him the five-year, $179ish million max contract they could have to avoid this whole situation. An on-court argument between Ayton and head coach Monty Williams during the Suns’ playoff loss to the Mavericks may have been the final breaking point in a relationship that was already fractured.

The Suns do have options. Now that the offer sheet has been signed, the Suns could work out a sign-and-trade deal with the Pacers that gives them something back for Ayton. If they can’t work out a sign-and-trade and just match the offer sheet, they could look for another trade but they’d have to deal with a disgruntled Ayton in the locker room until Jan. 15 when it would be legal for them to trade a newly signed player.

Having the Pacers send Myles Turner back to the Suns makes some sense (a lot of sense from the Suns perspective). But for the Pacers, they may have designs on playing Turner and Ayton together, and could also force the Suns to make the tough decision and then trade Turner elsewhere if the Suns don’t match.

Can the Suns still trade for Kevin Durant without Deandre Ayton?

Probably not. This, unfortunately, is likely the end of the Suns’ hopes of getting Durant. Their best offer on paper was something like a sign-and-trade for Ayton, with Cam Johnson, Mikal Bridges and draft picks. That package without Ayton probably isn’t anywhere compelling enough to get the Nets to bite.

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