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Could the Phoenix Suns move Aron Baynes before the trade deadline?
When Phoenix big man Deandre Ayton missed the first 25 games of the season due to a failed drug test, Aron Baynes was a big winner. The Aussie centre averaged 15.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in November, the best month of his NBA career. He even become a cult hero, inspiring a new fan club on Twitter. As of 26 January, the "SunOfficial Aron Baynes Fan Club" has a touch under 40,000 followers.
The good times would not last forever. Deandre Ayton eventually made his return, and has shown why he was the first overall draft pick in 2018. Baynes initially hung onto his starting role, throughout the first half of January. Suns coach Monty Williams experimented with various lineups, benching Ayton in some games and even starting the two big men together in others.
However, Ayton finally wrestled back the starting role, on January 17 against the New York Knicks. The former #1 draft pick recorded 26 points and 21 rebounds in 35 minutes, while Baynes had to settle for just 15 minutes off the bench. In their following game, Baynes logged just 12 minutes, his lowest total since the season opener in October. It's unclear as to whether injuries contributed to his decline in minutes, as the 6'10 Aussie has been out with a hip complaint since 19 January.
On January 1, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report wrote that Aron Baynes is a "prime target for the Clippers". A straight swap of Aron Baynes for Ivica Zubac is feasible in terms of player salaries. He added that a trade would be more likely if the Suns fell out of the playoff race. This isn't the case however, as Phoenix are within reaching distance of the eighth seed in the West.
Marc Stein of the New York Times later tweeted that the Clippers are looking to add size ahead of the trade deadline. While the Suns reportedly aren't shopping Baynes, they could be open to moving him for the right price. Given his breakout season in the absence of Deandre Ayton, Phoenix have an opportunity to move Baynes while his trade value is high.
A trade might also benefit Aron Baynes himself. The big man has proven himself as a capable starter in the NBA, and might find greater opportunity elsewhere. Deandre Ayton is a franchise cornerstone, especially since Phoenix selected him with the first overall pick in the draft. The Bahamian centre also has immense upside, given he is just 21 years old. If the Phoenix Suns ultimately decide to move Aron Baynes, it could just work out for both parties.