Report: Deandre Ayton traded by Suns to Blazers as part of Damian Lillard deal
Sep 27, 2023, 11:32 AM
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
The Phoenix Suns have traded center Deandre Ayton to the Portland Trail Blazers as part of a multi-team deal sending superstar guard Damian Lillard to the Milwaukee Bucks. The Suns receive center Jusuf Nurkic as part of the package, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
The Suns also received Grayson Allen, Nassir Little and Keon Johnson, per Wojnarowski.
Milwaukee dealt Jrue Holiday to the Blazers, who also received Phoenix rookie Toumani Camara, a 2029 unprotected Milwaukee first and swap rights with the Bucks in 2028 and 2030.
Nurkic, 29, averaged 13.3 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game while shooting 51.9% from the field across 52 games. He signed a four-year, $70 million extension with the Blazers last summer, meaning he has three more years left on his contract. Nurkic is not particularly the most mobile or defensive-minded center, with the majority of his efficiency coming from his scoring and passing in the post, along with his rebounding.
Lillard goes Milwaukee as part of a 3-team deal with Jrue Holiday, Deandre Ayton, Toumani Camara, a 2029 unprotected MIL 1st, and unprotected MIL swap rights in 2028 and 2030 to Blazers. Phoenix lands Jusuf Nurkic, Grayson Allen, Nassir Little and Keon Johnson. https://t.co/Ge0H91AiIA
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 27, 2023
Allen averaged 10.4 points and 2.3 assists on 44% shooting and 40% accuracy from deep last year.
The 23-year-old Little is a wing who was selected by Portland 25th overall in the 2019 NBA Draft. Across four seasons, his role for the Blazers has been sporadic and inconsistent. He averaged 6.6 points and 2.6 rebounds in 18.1 minutes a night last season and brings a combination of athleticism and length to a forward rotation.
Johnson, 21, was a first-round pick in 2021 who averaged 4.7 points and 1.5 assists per game last year.
Trade rumors have swirled around Ayton’s name for the past two offseasons. Despite the recent noise and uncertainty this summer, the Suns publicly showed good faith toward Ayton. New head coach Frank Vogel spoke highly of the big man at his introductory press conference, as did new guard Bradley Beal.
After signs again pointed toward some likelihood that Phoenix would trade the center, the move has shockingly come with under two weeks remaining until training camp gets underway. Lillard’s departure rekindled Portland’s interest in the potential of Ayton and opened up the possibility of moving Nurkic, per Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro.
Ayton’s departure comes after a 2023 postseason that was a big-time drop-off from his form two years prior and an overall regression from his level of play in the regular season. Conversations about Ayton’s effort and engagement that were often just held locally in the Valley for years had gone national, with his inability to be fully engaged happening during the bright lights of the postseason while everyone was watching.
Statistics rarely tell the full story of Ayton but his lack of production was a stark difference. He averaged 13.4 points and 9.7 rebounds while shooting 55% from the field in 10 playoff games. Against Nikola Jokic in the second round, a matchup Ayton had success with in the past, he posted 10.8 points and 8.2 rebounds a night in five outings.
It all follows an eventful couple of years.
The 25-year-old center moves on after there was rampant speculation about his future in the summer of 2022. Ayton failed to agree with Phoenix on a contract extension in Oct. 2021, leading to him becoming the second No. 1 overall pick since 1985 to hit restricted free agency.