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Is Deandre Ayton an Option for the Bulls?

DeAndre Ayton is reportedly not happy with the Suns, who likely won’t offer him a max deal. Is he an option for the Bulls?

DeAndre Ayton Trade Rumors Phoenix Suns Chicago Bulls
Photo: Suns/Twitter

With Phoenix eliminated from the playoffs, rumors of an upset Deandre Ayton have piqued the interest of many NBA executives. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski recently provided a breakdown of the situation in Phoenix on NBA Today.

Ayton says he didn’t feel appreciated by the Suns. He wants a max deal, but it appears the Suns are not going to give it to him. This would make Ayton a restricted free agent. That designation means the Suns have an opportunity to match any offer another team gives him. Knowing the Suns won’t give him a max, other teams have an ideal opportunity to acquire Ayton’s services by offering him a max deal.

In the view of the Suns’ front office, a team offering the max via a sign-and-trade deal would be a better option. In that scenario, the Suns would receive some compensation instead of letting him walk for free by not matching an offer sheet.

Is a Deandre Ayton Max Deal Worth It For The Bulls?

Deandre Ayton is one of the top centers in the league in most categories. At 17.2 PPG and 10.2 RPG, he is a walking double-double. Looking strictly at 2021-22 season averages, they almost match Nikola Vucevic’s. Where Ayton sets himself apart from Vucevic is his paint presence on defense. Ayton finished seventh in +/- for centers while Vucevic didn’t even crack the top 25. It shows how much a defensive liability Vucevic is when he is on the floor.

When the Bulls acquired Vucevic, they expected him to maintain an All-Star-caliber performance level at the center position night in and night out. They knew he would be somewhat of a liability defensively. What they got was a guy who averaged a double-double but was inconsistent from three. He also gave up positioning in the paint easily.

With Ayton, he will average a double-double and provide a premium paint presence on both ends of the floor. Ayton matches up well against the likes of Joel Embiid and deters a player like Giannis Antetokounmpo from coming in the paint. Those names are just two examples of players the Bulls had massive struggles stopping this season.

How The Bulls Can Get Ayton

To acquire Deandre Ayton, the Chicago Bulls will need to do more than just offer him a max deal. They have to create cap room via a salary dump in a sign-and-trade. Additionally, the trade needs enough quality compensation to appease Phoenix. The Bulls’ best trade package option would involve the current starting center Nikola Vucevic. In addition to Vucevic, an established player such as Coby White and a sweetener would go back to the Suns.

Phoenix should find this trade fair. In general, Ayton’s physicality matches the Eastern Conference bigs’ style better than the West’s. The change of scenery would also benefit Vucevic. His playing style is more pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop with the ability to shoot high volume from three, which is prominent among the West’s bigs.

But a key issue the Bulls face when attempting to trump other offers is a lack of draft picks. If the Suns can acquire a sizable package of draft picks from another team, the Bulls’ offer can easily be overlooked.

It will be interesting to see how Arturas Karnisovas and co. approach offseason acquisitions. But one thing is certain: acquiring Deandre Ayton’s services would solve a lot of the Bulls’ problems.

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