The Phoenix Suns finally moved on from starting center Deandre Ayton after two offseasons of trade rumors. Phoenix traded Ayton to the Portland Trail Blazers as part of a deal that helped facilitate Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard's trade to the Milwaukee Bucks, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowksi.
In return, the Suns received Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic and guards Grayson Allen, Nassir Little and Keon Johnson.
ClutchPoints has a trade grade for the deal.
We wrote Wednesday why the Suns should and should not trade for Nurkic. Per reports, the Suns were intent on keeping Ayton with their All-Star trio of Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal, but things changed fast before the team opens training camp next Tuesday.
Kevin O'Connor says there "wasn't trust" from Devin Booker and Kevin Durant in Deandre Ayton https://t.co/x1mAFt1E4J
— Trevor Booth (@TrevorMBooth) September 27, 2023
Phoenix has a starting center, Nurkic, who may be able to fill the role the team needs to win its first-ever championship. Ayton is 25 years old and is healthier and a better player than Nurkic, but there has been tension between him, the Suns and reportedly his teammates that never eased.
Phoenix coach Frank Vogel praised Ayton, who he said could be one of the best two-way centers in the game, but there was doubt from fans he could buy in and fulfill the potential he has as a former No. 1 pick. The Suns got a center back, Nurkic, who played next to a superstar, Lillard, and might be more accepting of fulfilling a role for a greater purpose.
Phoenix got a few other players in this deal. Allen played the last two seasons with the Bucks and this past year started in 70 of their 72 games. He was an NCAA champion at Duke and has been known as a pest. He is someone that could add to the Suns' depth of 3-point shooters (he shot 39.9 percent from that range this past season). Allen averaged 10.4 points and emerged as an important player for the Bucks, who have contended for an NBA title for the past five years.
Little and Johnson are former five-star prospects. The Suns might not be able to get a lot out of them, but the team has good development coaches and might be able to turn them into key rotation pieces before the playoffs.
The biggest concern with Nurkic is his health. He suffered a gruesome left leg injury late in the 2018-19 season and has struggled to be the same player. His defense has noticeably dipped and he is going to struggle defending on the perimeter, which is something the Suns need.
Ayton would have been a more versatile player in Vogel's scheme. Phoenix arguably does not have a better player at center now, which has led to some frustration among fans.
However, it is very possible Ayton's situation with the Suns was irreparable, even after they fired coach Monty Williams, who Ayton clearly had a difficult time with.
The Suns will have to integrate Nurkic. Booker is the only player left from the Suns' 2021 NBA Finals team. Beal is set to replace Chris Paul as an impact player. Durant played only 19 games with Phoenix when he was traded to the team in February.
New Suns owner Mat Ishbia has aggressively put together a team that is perhaps more capable of winning a championship than any before it. Phoenix has an immediate championship window and felt Nurkic was a better option than Ayton for putting a title team together.