Could DeAndre Ayton end up on the Raptors?

ESPN's Marc Stein is reporting the Raptors are one of a few teams who have expressed interest in the 23-year-old restricted free agent. With a potential trade looming for Ayton, Amit Mann and Oren Weisfeld analyze his fit and how a move to Toronto would work. Listen to the full episode on the 'Raptors Over Everything' podcast feed and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more Raptors content.

Video Transcript

AMIT MANN: All that to say is that there are players available. And the biggest piece right now is probably Deandre Ayton. Now, there's a lot of rumors around what's going on with Ayton and the Phoenix Suns. I truly did enjoy some of the secrecy that was going on on why he only played 17 minutes in that final game where they got eliminated. And Monty Williams was asked about it. And he cuts off the reporter. He's like, it's internal.

And also, local NBA reporter Lil Wayne says that he reportedly heard that Monty Williams said to Deandre Ayton in that game where they lost, and they eventually, you know, were eliminated from the playoffs by the Dallas Mavericks, that he said, you frickin' quit on us. Was it frick? Was it another word? Who knows?

But obviously, things are not going well between those two. And last season, they could have extended him. They decided not to. And when it comes to money, there's truly no loyalty in this.

And I think Ayton is still a little bit butt-hurt about how all that-- now, and understandably, right? Like, the Suns, they got championship aspirations. They want to do that. They looked at last season or this past season as-- as a championship window year. And so they just couldn't take on that kind of salary.

But here we are now. And player X wants more money. And I don't know if they can really afford it. Chris Paul is making $30 million. And he had a terrible Game 7. Wow.

Anyways, Deandre Ayton-- I guess what are your thoughts on him? Because it's kind of complicated how he could become a Raptor. It would-- it would involve a lot of pieces. But I guess, like, just from a fit standpoint, your thoughts on Deandre Ayton, Oren?

OREN WEISFELD: Yeah, from a fit standpoint, I like it a lot more than a lot of Raptors fans, I think. Because I think Ayton is exactly the kind of risk you need to take if you're in the position that the Raptors are, right? Like, they are not a contender right now.

AMIT MANN: Mm-hmm.

OREN WEISFELD: They want to take that next step. How do you take that next step? Well, you're often going to have to take a risk. And I think Ayton is the kind of risk that-- you know, first of all, he fills a position of need.

Second of all, he's still really young. He's still developing. He's still getting better. All my questions with Ayton are that culture stuff-- the off-court stuff, which is, like, really hard to know. But like, obviously, Monty and Chris Paul, like, if those guys are saying things about Ayton, that he quit on them or [INAUDIBLE], that does not fit, like, the Raptors culture.

And so all my questions more so come from the off-court stuff with where Ayton's head is at, how hard of a worker is he, you know?

AMIT MANN: Yeah.

OREN WEISFELD: Like, these are the questions that I think the Raptors would have to kind of talk to him about before making any deal. But if we just look at the on-court stuff, I think Ayton is a really good fit just in terms of like, he is a good rim protector. He's a really good rebounder. He's a good roller. He has great touch, like, in that mid-range.

And then he's still young to where, yeah, he's not a 3-point shooter right now. But you know, his mid-range shooting has gotten better every season of his career. So it's trending in the right direction if you want to project out.

AMIT MANN: Sure.

OREN WEISFELD: And like I said, he fills a position of need. And Precious is really interesting. I'm really high on Precious. But I think there's a world in which Precious and Ayton can play together if Precious keeps hitting 3's at a high rate.

And so like, yeah, Ayton's going to cost money. And the off-court stuff and the money is really what kind of worries you-- like, how much money, and how-- where is his head at? But if you're talking about a deal where it's-- they're sign-and-trading Ayton for a player like Trent and a pick, or Boucher and a couple of picks, you know-- I don't know why Phoenix would want Trent, which is kind of the issue here, I think.

AMIT MANN: Yeah.

OREN WEISFELD: Because they have a bunch of guards like that. But I think in terms of just value and positional need, would I take Ayton or Trent? I'd take Ayton.

AMIT MANN: Yeah, certainly. And the Phoenix Suns side of it, I mean, if they lose Deandre Ayton-- and yesterday, as recently as yesterday, James Jones, Suns GM, was quoted saying, he's a big part of what we do and what we have done, and we're going to continue to address all that stuff. But what's a replacement for him, you know?

Like, those-- players like him don't grow on trees. And Bismack Biyombo, bless his heart, had a nice little stint there with the Phoenix Suns. But he's not the answer, either. They need someone who's going to be able to finish in the short roll and quick rolls, and who's going to be reliable around-- in the paint, and be a rim protector.

And you know, the 3-point shooting-- like, I was looking at some clips of him shooting 3's. And I think it was more so that the Suns asked him not to. Because he can shoot it. He was doing it in the bubble.

I saw him take some shots. It looks pretty fluid. I think that's an area of his game that I think even he knows that he has to be able to do.

And it's just a decision that they have to make. I mean, it's just the nature of what kind of deal are we talking about? Because there are other teams who, just right off the bat, are going to be able to afford to take on a contract like his. Like, the Detroit Pistons comes to mind.

What's the nature of the deal? Because I would think that if the Phoenix Suns are making a deal with the Toronto Raptors-- and it could be-- we could be talking about a three-team trade, right? Those are obviously a lot easier to pull off. But they're going to want a Pascal Siakam. Pascal Siakam is not going to be available. I don't think the Raptors are looking to get rid of him.

But then is it a Gary Trent Jr.? You talked about Chris Boucher. They do still have some player exceptions that they have yet to use, although one of them is expiring shortly after July. So that's another thing that they could utilize in some capacity.

But the nature of the deal is what's very valuable with this. And also, how are the Phoenix Suns going to be able to maintain their playoff championship aspirations through some sort of deal? And that's why I think it would have to be some sort of three-team trade, or they had something else secured, which is going to help them continue to be at that caliber that they really want to be.

And if anything, really, I mean, after what happened with them in the playoffs, I think they've realized that Chris Paul is not a number two anymore. He's probably more like a number three. And so now you need a number two. Well, if it's not Deandre Ayton from an offensive standpoint, then who are they going to be bringing in?

Like, would have been cool if they brought in, like, an Eric Gordon, right, during that trade deadline that just passed. Because they clearly have a few needs. And they need a little bit more downhill penetration. But that's a different case. But all this kind of comes together, is that making a deal is very tricky for a Deandre Ayton.

However, great player, going to be awesome. A max player, and from a culture standpoint, I mean, if he's able to check his ego, which every single Raptor player over this-- like, since the We the North era is asked to do, and acknowledges that's a huge part of being a Raptor, very interesting.

OREN WEISFELD: I think a lot of people are going to write him off because I think there's a lot of recency bias in the NBA.

AMIT MANN: Sure.

OREN WEISFELD: And right now, we're looking at the four teams remaining. You know, Bam is the only real traditional center, I guess--

AMIT MANN: Mm.

OREN WEISFELD: --who's, like, making a huge impact and playing tons of minutes every night.

AMIT MANN: Yeah.

OREN WEISFELD: And Ayton, obviously, just had a terrible end. But a year ago, Ayton brought the Suns to the Finals. And if we were talking about this a year ago, every Raptors fan would be like, oh, I'm all in for Ayton, right?

AMIT MANN: Yeah.

OREN WEISFELD: And it's just like these things swing really wildly really quickly.

AMIT MANN: Yeah.

OREN WEISFELD: And you can't just take the postseason at hand and say, like, oh, bigs don't matter or something. Like, if you go back and look at the past four or five Finals, bigs really, really matter.

AMIT MANN: Sure.

OREN WEISFELD: And like, I'm in on the 6' 9" vision. I'm all about it. But at the same time, I think a big-- I think you need to be able to play different ways. We've talked about this.

And a big like Ayton, I think he fits well in that he can play the traditional drop big, but he can also-- he's pretty mobile. He can also play in this switch--

AMIT MANN: Mm-hmm.

OREN WEISFELD: --scheme, I think, decently well for a seven-footer

AMIT MANN: Yeah.

OREN WEISFELD: So that's just why I think-- but like you said, it's going to be really tricky to make a deal. I wouldn't go so high as the OG, Pascal type of player to trade for him. I would trade the Gary Trent type of player. But again, I don't know if Phoenix would want Gary Trent, so it is hard.

AMIT MANN: Yeah, and I think there's more offensive potential there than probably that meets the eye so far in his career. You know, having a role with the Phoenix Suns, which again is you're going to be able to-- you're going to have to be in a role, right? It may not be a role that you want. But that's, like, the sacrifice that comes with trying to be a championship team.

There's only so many shots to go around. And the pick and roll with Chris Paul, it's so fruitful, not just for Deandre Ayton. But it's like his ability to kind of control play and to manipulate defenses, that's kind of, you know, both ways in which he doesn't get the ball. Because he is such a strong roll threat, then you use that gravity to find different shooters. And then Devin Booker obviously is their-- is probably their best scorer, and so he's going to get his touches as well.

But there's certainly more to his offensive game than I think that we've seen so far. And I think that's a big reason why he wants to potentially get out of Phoenix, is that he wants to show that. He wants to show that he can do it.

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