The NBA free agency period has kicked into gear, with the Phoenix Suns reportedly matching an eye-watering offer to keep big man Deandre Ayton.

It appeared the Indiana Pacers might have landed the biggest name of the NBA free agency period so far after the 23-year-old agreed to an A$197 million maximum contract offer sheet.

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The Suns had 48 hours to match the offer sheet, or risk letting Ayton go for nothing in return.

And The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported on Friday (AEST) they did just that, matching the Pacers’ mammoth offer to keep its young star.

It’s a huge show of faith from Phoenix, who are clearly backing Ayton to improve and reach his potential after a relatively underwhelming season.

The Suns will now not be able to trade him until January 15 and he will have veto power on any trade for a full year, significantly limiting Phoenix’s options elsewhere in the trade market.

The development means the Suns are now likely out of the running to sign Kevin Durant, who has requested a trade from the Brooklyn Nets.

Charania tweeted: “The Suns made clear throughout free agency that the franchise intended to bring Ayton back – and were committed to spend in order to continue competing for a title around All-NBA star Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Ayton.”

The Indiana Pacers now won’t be able to trade for Ayton until 15 July 2023.

The Suns selected Ayton with the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

The centre has become a key piece of Phoenix’s resurgent team alongside Devin Booker and Chris Paul.

The Suns finished the regular season with the best win-loss record in the NBA but were knocked out of the playoffs in the second round by the Dallas Mavericks.

It was clear all wasn’t well during the playoffs when Ayton did not play during the second half of the Suns’ Game 7 blowout loss to the Mavericks, benched by coach Monty Williams.

The pair appeared to engage in a verbal spat on the sideline, needing to be separated.

In October, the Suns had an opportunity to lock up Ayton for the long-term but the two sides could not reach an agreement on the full maximum contract.

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