Here’s a question being asked throughout NBA circles: is Deandre Ayton a max player?

It’s not an easy call to make. On the one hand, Ayton is a hyper-efficient pick-and-roll finisher. He’s basically a walking block of granite who can use his bulk and mobility to get to his position at will. Ayton is also a great defensive big man who can protect the rim and survive in space.

On the other hand, he’s a traditional big man. Many teams would opt not to designate such a large portion of their cap space to such a player in 2022.

If Ayton spaced the floor or initiated offense, the Phoenix Suns probably would have extended him midway through the 2021-22 season.

So, is he a max player? The open market will decide. It feels likely that at least one team will decide to invest $30 million a year in him. The question is, which teams are the right fit?

Here are two teams we think could stand to make that investment in Deandre Ayton, and two teams we think are better off avoiding him.


Good Landing Spot: Houston Rockets

The Houston Rockets are in the infancy stages of a rebuild. Many would argue that at this point, investing so much in a player whose superstardom is anything less than guaranteed would be a misallocation of resources.

There’s legitimacy in that position. On the other hand, acquiring top-end talent is pretty good practice as well. The acquisition of Deandre Ayton would signify to prospective free agents and disgruntled stars that the Rockets don’t intend to populate the league’s bottom tier for long.

Plus, there’s another benefit in the Rockets landing Ayton: he’s really good. This team had the second-worst Defensive Rating in the NBA last season. Ayton’s versatility on that end of the floor would pay dividends for this team. At 23, he’s still young enough to be part of this team’s future.