Deandre Ayton free agency rumors: Pistons no longer expected to pursue big man after successful 2022 NBA Draft

The 2022 NBA Draft was one of the wildest in recent memory, with a number of surprises at the top. One of the most notable was the Sacramento Kings passing on Purdue guard Jaden Ivey, allowing the Detroit Pistons to scoop him up with the No. 5 overall pick

Later in the night, the Pistons agreed to a trade with the New York Knicks in which they acquired the No. 13 overall pick, which they used on Memphis big man Jalen Duren. In the span of less than an hour, the Pistons acquired two of the most athletic players in the draft and transformed the franchise. 

As one of the draft’s biggest winners, the Pistons successfully set the franchise up for a potential return to prominence years down the road. In the immediate future, it has also caused ripple effects across the league heading into free agency.

Earlier this month, reports indicated that the Pistons were going to use the cap space created by the Jerami Grant trade to make a run at Deandre Ayton. The big man is expected to command a max deal, and the Pistons are one of the few teams with enough cap space to offer such a contract this summer. Now, after they pulled off the perfect draft night, the Pistons have changed course, according to James L. Edwards III. 

Per sources, Detroit is eager to continue to build back toward playoff contention with the aforementioned young core, and the Pistons are expected to use the majority of their remaining cap space to add multiple veteran pieces rather than just one big swing this offseason, per sources.

For the last 48 hours, it appeared that landing Ayton would be Plan A for Detroit. Acquiring the additional $20 million in cap space created an opportunity for the Pistons to put the fear into any team with a blue-chip restricted free agent. In all actuality, though, the events on Thursday signal the Ayton route being Plan B. Plan A manifested in Brooklyn, when Ivey unexpectedly slid to the Pistons and they found a way to get back into the lottery to add Duren. Per sources, this was the best-case scenario.

With Duren added to a frontcourt that already includes Isaiah Stewart, it makes sense that the Pistons would no longer be interested in offering Ayton a max. Ayton is a very good player, but the Pistons would now be better off spending that money in other ways. 

Now that the Pistons have essentially bowed out of the Ayton sweepstakes, that leaves very few teams with the requisite cap space to offer the big man a max. The San Antonio Spurs and Indiana Pacers could each make it happen, but there’s been nothing concrete there. While the Atlanta Hawks are interested, they would need Ayton to take a discount — something he is uninterested in doing. 

Of course, sign-and-trades are always a possibility, but those are much harder to predict. It’s also worth noting the Suns have sent signals to other front offices that they would be willing to match a max offer Ayton received in restricted free agency, according to Jake Fischer. 

Despite whatever friction still exists between Ayton and the Suns, he may just wind up back in Phoenix given the circumstances this summer. 

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