Phoenix Suns DeAndre Ayton Indiana Pacers match offer sheet

PHOENIX (AP) – Deandre Ayton finally has his new deal from the Phoenix Suns who simply were not willing to let him get away for nothing.

A person with knowledge of the situation said the Suns quickly decided to match a $ 133 million 4-year offer schedule that Ayton agreed to on Thursday with the Indiana Pacers. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the Suns had not made the decision public.

The Athletic first reported that Phoenix matched the offer. ESPN first reported that Ayton had agreed with the Pacers.

The move means the Suns – at least for now – retain their core of Ayton and the All-Star backfield Devin Booker and Chris Paul. The trio pushed Phoenix to the NBA Finals in 2021 and a franchise record of 64 wins in the most recent regular season.

The 1st pick in the 2018 draft, Ayton was eligible for an extension from Phoenix last summer.

That did not happen and he became a limited free agent this summer – meaning Phoenix had the chance to match any offer. When Indiana made its move, the Suns quickly struck out.

Phoenix has been linked with interest in acquiring the Brooklyn star Kevin Durant in the low season, but Ayton can not be used as bait due to the new deal.

The Suns’ move is a blow to the Pacers, who were hoping to add Ayton as a crucial piece in a promising young core that includes 22-year-old point guard Tyrese Haliburton, who was acquired in a trade with Sacramento in February.

Ayton – who turns 24 later this month – had a shaky start to his career, but became a critical component in the Suns’ run-up to the final. He is part of the 2018 draft class that includes Dallas’ Luka Doncic and Atlantas Trae Young. The two guards have had more individual success, but neither of them has reached that far in the playoffs.

The athletic 6-foot-11 Ayton is powerful in the low post and has developed a strong mid-range game. He averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game last season, while shooting 63.4% off the field and 36.8% on 3-pointers.

Much of the criticism of Ayton has been about his maturity. He was suspended 25 games without pay by the NBA in 2019 for violating the league’s antibody program by testing positive for a diuretic. He also sat on the bench for part of Game 7 of the team’s second-round loss to Dallas this year after appearing to exchange words with coach Monty Williams.

Still, he is generally popular with his teammates. Booker and Paul often praised Ayton, who did many of the little things to help the team win.

Even without Ayton, Pacers president of basketball operations, Kevin Pritchard, may not be done driving and shopping. Indiana has three potential first-round picks in next year’s draft and enough players and assets to help other teams look for a salary cap.

The Pacers announced Thursday that they were giving up four players – Duane Washington Jr., Nick Stauskas, Malik Fitts and Juwan Morgan. They were part of Indiana’s trade that sent guards Malcolm Brogdon to Boston, and clear enough space to make the hunt for Ayton or other players realistic.

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AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds of Miami contributed to this report.

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