Pacers drop historic max offer sheet to Deandre Ayton, Suns immediately match it

The Indiana Pacers and Deandre Ayton saga has reached its dramatic conclusion as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports the two parties have a agreed to a 4-year, $133 million max offer sheet that is the largest in NBA history, and the Suns matched it instantly as soon as it was received.

The Pacers cleared about $4.6 million in cap space to have the room to sign the center by waiving Duane Washington Jr. and using the stretch provision on Malik Fitts, Juwan Morgan, and Nik Stauskas who were all acquired in the Malcolm Brogdon trade. This is actually the second time that Stauskas has been traded to Indiana and waived without playing a single game for the Pacers.

This is a historic move for the Pacers franchise in multiple ways beyond just the fact that this is the largest offer sheet in league history. The Pacers have avoided restricted free agency and offer sheets like the plague with only Chris Copeland’s modest 2-year, $6 million deal on the list of offer sheets they have agreed to with RFAs. Give credit to Herb Simon for allowing the team to pursue this route. It wouldn’t be surprising if they tried the sign-and-trade route first but the Suns wanted too much in return or the Pacers got impatient with waiting while Phoenix was trying to figure out how to use Ayton to help them get Kevin Durant.

It’s also the biggest contract that Herb Simon has ever given to a player whether re-signing or extending his own team’s player or signing another team’s free agent. The Pacers have never had a player selected number one overall in their draft play for the team but now they’ve had one sign a contract with them. Credit to Simon, the often-maligned owner by fans who has allowed the Pacers to do things differently than in any other era as the team fully embraces a rebuild and now go after a major restricted free agent.

The Suns cannot trade Ayton anywhere until after January 15th and can’t trade him to Indiana for a full year. They can’t trade him at all without Ayton’s permission. It didn’t happen but feel free to dream of Tyrese Haliburton and Ayton lobs in the pick and roll while reading the great Caitlin Cooper of Indy Cornrows or The Ringer’s Dan Devine.

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