As rumors continue to creep in about the Chicago Bulls’ potential interest in All-Star Defender Rudy Gobert, I can’t help but turn my head toward Deandre Ayton.
The former No. 1 pick for the Phoenix Suns was the first big-name center whose future has been called into question this off-season. Not only did the Suns face a surprising early exit from the post-season at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks, but Ayton was headed toward a restricted free agency. The organization rejected the extension of the big man one season before, creating apparent tension between the two parties heading into this summer.
then, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski She directly stated that Eaton “didn’t feel appreciated” by the franchise shortly after the team exited the playoff. He also noted that there were already “a lot of regular teams” to see how they could add the potential franchise item to their roster.
All this led to Athletic’s John Hollinger sharing his latest report, which states that our money should be on Ayton playing elsewhere next season.
I was skeptical until I started talking to a few people recently. Now, I think he’s likely to be at a new destination next season, especially if Suns can tag and trade back some value. For whatever reason, I don’t think Phoenix is entirely comfortable going forward with him on a big financial deal, and I think Eaton might be OK with going elsewhere if he can take on a bigger offensive role.
So, if we now start talking about Joubert as a potential target for Taurus, is it crazy to think that Ayton might also be on that list? I’m sure I don’t think so.
The mere fact that Karnisovas might consider Joubert tells us that he can be open to a number of large spots, particularly in the center of the center. Eaton may not offer the proven resume that comes with Gobert, but he does offer two things that could make risking the future resilience of his acquisition all the more palatable: youth and height.
Ayton is only 23 years old and already has a trip to the NBA Finals under his belt. Even better, he played a vital role on this Finals team, averaging 15.8 points and 11.8 rebounds on 65.8 percent of field goals over 22 playoff games in 2020-21. Add it to the Bulls’ pre-existing roster, and Karnisovas has a new, two-way building block that could widen this team’s competitive window.
Since I talked a lot about why the Bulls were interested in Ayton earlier this season, I’m going to drop that below rather than re-hash everything here.
Let’s talk about the possible availability of Deandre Ayton this off season https://t.co/i22KpWyyhp pic.twitter.com/dgtjnG9vL1
– Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) May 16 2022
Now, I don’t recall the idea of following Ayton because I think it’s the best option. While it might be a “better” option than going after Gobert (depending on whether you prefer an upside investment over a more established resume), we’re still talking about a situation where bulls have to give up multiple assets to deliver a max position Money. In the NBA today, that’s always a risk. Karnisovas must be confident that either player will be the crucial piece in the championship quest.
I should also specify that the pursuit of Ayton will likely be more complicated than that of Joubert. Bulls will not be able to submit a maximum bid for it in the free agent market. Instead, they will have to negotiate a signing and trade with the franchisee, which would be very difficult given the basic year compensation rule the Suns have to deal with (for more info, check out Ryan Borja on Twitter, who does a great job Description of logistical problems).
With that said, there is a world in which bulls can land Ayton, which ties into the broader point I’m trying to make: We can’t rule anything out if the Joubert rumors are true, right?
At the end of the day, Karnisovas initially sold re-signed LaVine and improved margins as a path forward. I still think that’s the most likely outcome over the next few months, but real interest in Joubert means real interest in another big boom. Just something to think about.