What does Ayton staying in Phoenix mean for Kevin Durant trade market?

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Deandre Ayton is staying with the Phoenix Suns after they matched the Pacers’ four-year, $133 million max offer.

That does more than keep the Suns in the crowded mix at the top of the Western Conference next season.

It also changes the Kevin Durant sweepstakes — it makes it much more difficult and complicated for the Suns to trade for KD. And it may make it more likely Durant starts the season still on the Nets roster.

The Suns were one of the two teams on the shortlist Durant gave the Nets when he asked for a trade. While those trade talks have not moved fast, the Suns were considered the frontrunner around the league because they could put together the best trade package — one centered around an Ayton sign-and-trade (albeit that deal was complex due to hard cap/base year compensation issues, and it likely involved a third team).

Ayton signing the offer sheet and the Suns matching it takes Ayton off the table for any Durant trade, at least in the short term. Ayton now cannot be traded before Jan. 15, and the center would have the right to veto any trade for one year. If he doesn’t want to go to Brooklyn, he’s not going (even if he does want to go, he can’t until mid-January; also, he can’t be traded directly to the Pacers).

Even without Ayton, Phoenix can still put together a Durant trade that works under the CBA: Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, Cameron Johnson, plus a boatload of first-round picks (four?) plus some pick swaps.

Would that be enough? For a Nets team that saw what Utah got for Rudy Gobert, the answer is very likely no.

The other team on Durant’s shortlist is the Miami Heat, who can offer Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, Kyle Lowry (needed to match salary), a player such as Max Strus or just-drafted Nikola Jovic, plus two or three first-round picks and pick swaps. Durant reportedly wants Lowry on the team if he is sent to Miami, but there is no way to make a trade that comes close without Lowry and his $28 million in the deal.

Is a Herro-centric offer better than Phoenix’s?

Toronto is still lurking with an offer based around Pascal Siakam and picks (Scottie Barnes is reportedly still off the table, if he can be put into a trade things get more interesting). The Pelicans could put together an interesting Brandon Ingram-based trade to pair Durant with Zion Williamson and CJ McCollum, but how would Durant react to that (and could the Pelicans’ training staff keep that core healthy)?

There remain more questions than answers.

Does Brooklyn look at all the offers on the table and decide to play the long game? The Nets are being patient, but patient enough to keep Durant on the roster into the start of the season? The idea floated by some that the Nets should just keep the band together and bring everyone (including Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons) into camp and hope it works out is pure fantasy. Peak Nets never was and is not happening now.

The smart play for the Nets still appears to be the long play. Ayton not being available for a sign-and-trade may make that play even longer.