The Phoenix Suns are matching the four-year, $133 million max offer sheet the Indiana Pacers gave their starting center, DeAndre Ayton, according to Adrian Wojnarowski. The Pacers signed Ayton to the offer sheet on Thursday afternoon, and while they had 48 hours to make a decision on whether or not to match, they did so immediately after being presented with the offer, according to Wojnarowski.
Now, Ayton will remain in Phoenix for at least the time being. As he had signed an offer sheet with another team, Ayton can no longer be signed and traded this offseason. In fact, he cannot be traded at all until Jan. 15. The Pacers are not allowed to trade for him for one full year, and Ayton, now, has the right to veto any trades Phoenix tries to make involving him for the next year.
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Those restrictions complicate Phoenix's pursuit of Kevin Durant significantly. Now that Ayton is off of the table, for the time being, the Suns are effectively locked out of the bidding until January unless they can convince the Nets to take a package without him. If the Nets decide they have to trade him during the offseason, the Suns are simply out of luck. Their prize for likely missing out on Durant? A hefty luxury tax bill, as the Suns are now roughly $15 million above the tax line.
Indiana's stakes were decidedly lower, but they made a significant investment in this pursuit. The Pacers waived several players to create the cap space to sign Ayton to this offer sheet. Now those moves go to waste. The Pacers and Spurs both now have max cap space and no free agents to spend it on. If they're going to reach the cap floor (90 percent of the cap), they're going to have to do it on the trade market.
When Ayton asked the Suns for a max contract last offseason, they said no despite coming only two wins short of a championship. When the 2022 postseason run ended, Ayton seemed like a lock to leave Phoenix. He and coach Monty Williams feuded in the season-ending loss to Dallas. Reports suggested that he wanted to leave. He might eventually get his wish. But for the moment, Ayton is going to be a Sun. Only time will tell how long that lasts.