Suns match Pacers’ offer for Ayton

The Phoenix Suns matched the Indiana Pacers’ four-year, $133 million offer for the restricted free agent center. Deandre Aytonclearing the way for him to return to the franchise, his agents Bill Duffy and Nima Namakian told ESPN on Thursday night.

The Suns had until 11:59 pm ET on Saturday to match the largest offer sheet in NBA history, but they immediately matched it and ended the Pacers’ search for Ayton.

Ayton’s offer sheet tops the four-year, $107 million deal signed by Otto Porter Jr.. with the Brooklyn Nets in 2017, a deal the Washington Wizards eventually matched. Once Ayton signs the offer sheet with Indiana, no sign-and-trade deals are allowed.

If the Suns match the offer sheet, they can’t trade Ayton until at least Jan. 15, and they won’t be able to trade him to Indiana for a year.

Namakian of Innovate Sports and Duffy of BDA Sports and WME had insisted to the Suns that they could find a max contract offer for Ayton on the market and now they are handing him out with the offer sheet.

The Suns had never made Ayton an offer, suggesting they didn’t value him as a top player. If they don’t even the sheet, the Suns will forfeit their first pick of 2018 without compensation.

The largest offer sheet signed by a team without being matched was when harrison barnes was signed by the Dallas Mavericks to a four-year, $94.4 million deal in 2016, the same summer that Barnes’s former team, the Golden State Warriors, signed Barnes. Kevin Durant as a free agent.

Ayton, who turns 24 next week, was drafted with the first pick in the 2018 draft out of Arizona, part of a star-studded draft class that included Luka Doncić (third), Jaren Jackson Jr.. (fourth), Bring Young (fifth) and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (11th).

After making the All-Rookie First Team in 2019, Ayton has become a quality starting center, averaging 16.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game while helping anchor Phoenix’s defense during their run to the NBA Finals. 2021, the first time the franchise has reached the league championship round since Charles Barkley carried the Suns there in 1993.

Ayton averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds last season, shooting 63.4 percent from the field and 74.6 percent from the free throw line.

After an outstanding regular season, which ended with the best record in the league, Phoenix’s postseason ended with a blowout loss to the Mavericks in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals, a game Ayton spent most of the second half on the bench.

When asked why that happened after the game, Suns coach Monty Williams said: “It’s an internal thing.” Meanwhile, Ayton refused to speak to reporters after the match. Indiana traded to Malcolm Brogdon at the beginning of this low season already Domantas Sabonis last season, moving into a new era centered on an exciting young back line spearheaded by rising star Tyrese Haliburton and the rookie Benedict Mathurinthe sixth pick in last month’s NBA Draft.

ESPN’s Tim Bontemps and Bobby Marks contributed to this report.

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Suns match Pacers’ offer for Ayton