What losing Deandre Ayton could mean for Phoenix Suns

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images /

After testing positive for a diuretic, Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton was suspended for 25 games by the NBA. Here’s what it could mean for the team moving forward.

On the heels of what was the most complete game of Phoenix Suns basketball in recent years, the team could be without its starting center for a full 25 games. That is the result of a failed drug test taken by Deandre Ayton, who tested positive for a diuretic, a substance banned by the NBA.

More from Hoops Habit

So what’s next for the Suns?

The best-case scenario is that Ayton could have his suspension reduced or rescinded on behalf of an arbitration case filed by the National Basketball Players Association, with the belief being that Ayton unknowingly ingested the substance.

Should that prove fruitful, Ayton would be able to return to the Suns much sooner than expected. That would elicit a massive sigh of relief from Suns fans across the Valley.

But let’s first run through the scenario where Ayton misses time due to the suspension.

Should that be the case, the Suns will need to need a fill a 7-foot-1 hole in the frontcourt and that isn’t so much an easy task. At the moment the Suns depth chart lists Aron Baynes as the only other center on the roster. He would presumably take over the starting role with the absence of Ayton, a place where he doesn’t exactly lack experience.

With 109 career starts split between San Antonio, Detroit and Boston, Baynes has spent his time running on the starting units on multiple NBA teams. Calling him into a starting role wouldn’t be out of the question.

But now what to do about the depth on the rest of the frontcourt?

The first would be moving Frank Kaminsky behind Baynes to the backup center position. At an even 7-feet, Kaminsky would have no probably guarding centers across the league and he did spend the majority of his four-year NBA career playing center for the Charlotte Hornets.

But moving Kaminsky from power forward calls for unintended consequences. Those include rookie Cameron Johnson making his NBA debut out of position. Johnson would play behind Dario Saric at power forward and quickly have to adapt to guarding NBA-caliber bigs his first month into his career.

Not to discredit Johnson and his ability to play the 4, but to throw him into the trenches his first month in the NBA could call for an early disaster.

more suns. Phoenix opens with blowout of Kings. light

Other options to play at power forward for the Suns could be relying on Cheick Diallo or possibly Kelly Oubre Jr. in a small-ball lineup. Both would fulfill needs, but neither is ideal to occupy major minutes at the 4. This just shows how depth is already a concern for the Suns.

Another method, as detailed by Arizona Sports 98.7 host John Gambadoro, would be to add a center via free agency for the duration of Ayton’s suspension if granted a roster exception by the league.

It’s exactly a dazzling idea, but let’s say adding a center is the route Phoenix chooses to take. Available options for the Suns could be Joakim Noah, Kenneth Faried, Marcin Gortat or even Suns legend Amar’e Stoudemire. These aren’t exactly cream of the crop options, but could provide much needed minutes for a now-depleted Suns frontcourt.

Should that be the case, the Suns would sign the big man and most likely release him when Ayton is cleared to return to the team. In the meantime, Phoenix would have to survive on the combination of Baynes and a newly signed backup center.

dark. Next. Each NBA team's best trade ever

While it isn’t clear how many games Deandre Ayton could miss for the Phoenix Suns, the team will have to take immediate action to address to loss of its starting center. In the meantime, the Suns will have to survive without a key player for the time being.