Report: Deandre Ayton agrees to historic four-year offer sheet with Pacers

Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton reacts to making a basket against the New Orleans Pelicans during the first half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series. (Matt York/AP)

Deandre Ayton has reportedly agreed to a four-year, $133-million maximum offer sheet with the Indiana Pacers, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, giving the Phoenix Suns 48 hours to match the single largest offer sheet in NBA history.

The move radically transforms the Suns' capacity to be involved in the Kevin Durant sweepstakes, as a sign-and-trade deal centred on Ayton would have been the likely foundation to any arrangement between the clubs.

Once Ayton's offer sheet becomes official on Saturday night at 11:59 p.m. ET, he can no longer be part of such a trade. If the Suns decide to match it, retaining his services for the time being at least, they won't be able to trade Ayton until at least Jan. 15.

It remains to be seen how the move will impact other clubs, including the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors, who have been linked to the Brooklyn Nets' efforts to find Durant a new home since the saga began.

For the Suns, the development represents an inflection point for the franchise, which has been among the Western Conference's elite teams throughout much of Ayton's brief tenure but now stands to lose the former first-overall pick for nothing if they do not match the Pacers' offer.

Typically with young players of Ayton's stature, teams do not hesitate to dole out lucrative contracts following their rookie deals, banking on a prospect's development within the organization even if the player has yet to deliver on-court results that entirely justify the price tag of the contract.

But that did not happen in Ayton's case. While prior reporting indicated he and his agents believed he would be able to find a max offer, the Suns never made him one, a decision that perhaps implies how they perceived his value to the team.

The Pacers see his value differently. Indiana's offer eclipsed the previous all-time high, which happened in 2017 when the Brooklyn Nets signed Otto Porter Jr. to a $107-million deal — though the Wizards, ultimately, matched and kept him in Washington.

The most lucrative offer sheet ever agreed to that was not matched came in 2016, when the Dallas Mavericks signed Harrison Barnes to a four-year, $94.4-million offer and the Golden State Warriors opted to let Barnes walk. Instead, later that summer, the Warriors signed Durant as a free agent.

Ayton, who turns 24 at the end of July, was the first-overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft and has since developed into an impactful starting centre on a contending Suns team. He made the all-rookie first team in 2019, and has since averaged 16.3 points and 10.5 rebounds as the fulcrum of Phoenix's defence during its run to the NBA Finals in 2021.

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