NBA teams can’t officially make trades for well over a month, but a couple of players find themselves at the center of trade rumors during the playoffs. Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton and Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook are candidates to be sent elsewhere this summer.

Heading into restricted free agency, Ayton's future with the Suns became much more uncertain when Phoenix failed to reach the Western Conference Finals as the No. 1 seed. It’s no secret that the Lakers have explored trading Westbrook, but recent reports indicate that Los Angeles might be prepared to keep him on the roster for the 2022-23 season.

The two stars are both in trade rumors but find themselves in very different situations. If the Suns don’t want to give Ayton a max contract, suitors could be lining up to acquire the 23-year-old. Westbrook’s $47 million salary for next season makes him arguably the most difficult player to trade in the entire NBA.

The Lakers might be able to move Westbrook if they include a future first-round draft pick in a trade. Los Angeles has rebuffed teams who have demanded a first-round pick in trade discussions involving Westbrook, according to The Athletic. The Lakers don’t intend to give up a first-round in order to entice a team to take on Westbrook’s contract, according to the report, but teams believe Los Angeles can’t bring the 33-year-old back because of how poorly the regular season ended.

Amid injuries to LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers failed to even make the NBA’s play-in tournament. Westbrook didn’t appear to take much blame for Los Angeles’ disappointing season, despite his on-court struggles. Out of 71 eligible point guards, Westbrook ranked 53rd in true shooting percentage and tied for 27th in PER.

Conversely, Ayton was extremely valuable on the NBA’s best regular-season team. The Suns’ No. 2 scorer, Ayton ranked eighth in PER among centers who played at least 25 minutes per game. Ayton averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game while shooting a career-high 63.4% from the field.

Ayton only played 17 minutes when the Suns were eliminated by the Dallas Mavericks in Game 7 of their second-round playoff series. Suns head coach Monty Williams said there was an “internal” reason why Ayton’s playing time was limited in the elimination game. League sources have told Bleacher Reports’ Jake Fischer that Ayton is “not particularly a favorite” of Williams.

The Suns can match any offer Ayton gets in free agency. There is speculation that Phoenix might forgo the opportunity to do so. Phoenix could sign-and-trade Ayton so they don’t lose him for nothing in free agency.

According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, the Suns and Indiana Pacers had trade talks regarding Ayton around the trade deadline. It’s very possible that Indiana and other teams in need of a center could try to pry Ayton away from Phoenix in the coming weeks.

The Pacers have the No. 6 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.

Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns
Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns slam dunks against the Dallas Mavericks during the second half of Game Two of the Western Conference Second Round NBA Playoffs at Footprint Center on May 04, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Mavericks 129-109. Christian Petersen/Getty Images