5 NBA teams that should consider adding Joel Ayayi to their squad before the 2022-23 season

The 2022-23 NBA season is creeping up, with Thursday’s schedule reveal the latest step toward the start of another year for the association.

That doesn’t mean NBA rosters are finalized, although the majority of trades and free agency moves have already occurred. That’s tough news for Gonzaga’s unsigned free agents, most notably combo guard Joel Ayayi.

Ayayi played for the Atlanta Hawks in summer league after spending his rookie season primarily with the G-League affiliate of the Washington Wizards, the Capital City Go-Go’s.

Ayayi did a lot of good things during his summer league stint, showcasing the diverse set of skills he can bring to an NBA bench, but there are still A LOT of highly talented players waiting to sign, as highlighted below in this tweet from Fansided’s Tristan Tucker:

Of course, that doesn’t mean Ayayi won’t find his way somewhere. It just may not be a guaranteed contract, but rather a two-way deal or potentially a regular G-League contract, where he could play his way into the league.

Ayayi has a wide enough range of skills that most teams could probably find a use for him, but below is a list of five teams that seem, at least on paper, like good fits to sign Ayayi in the coming weeks.

Portland Trail Blazers

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Roster Spots Available: 0

Two-Way Spots available: 1

The Blazers added Gary Payton II to their guard rotation this offseason, which now includes Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, and Josh Hart.

The depth after that is a bit spotty though, with rookie Shaedon Sharpe a big mystery after sitting out all of last year and suffering an injury early into summer league, while Brandon Williams and Keon Johnson are very young and relatively unproven to this point.

Having someone like Ayayi on hand would provide good insurance for a team hoping to erase last year’s disaster and push for the playoffs yet again. Of course, Portland is one of the only NBA teams without a summer league team, which complicates things. They do have a two-way contract spot available, however, and have used those spots in the past to send guys to various G-League squads to get work in.

Indiana Pacers

Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Roster Spots Available: 2

Two-Way Spots available: 1

The Pacers are already rostering one Gonzaga guard, rookie Andrew Nembhard, but this rebuilding team could absolutely look to add more young, developmental talent to the roster.

The Pacers have 15 players on the roster and one two-way spot available, but they have their eyes on a handful of young players, including second round pick Kendall Brown (who has yet to sign) as well as four players on Exhibit 10 deals; Tevin Brown, Eli Brooks, Jermaine Samuels, and former Gonzaga target Fanbo Zeng.

Squeaking into that group and beating everyone out for a spot is no easy task, but the Pacers are the kind of team that should be hunting for young, inexpensive depth while they embark on the rebuild.

Houston Rockets

Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Roster Spots Available: 0

Two-Way Spots available: 1

The Rockets have a large group of young guards, including starters Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green and rookie TyTy Washington, but the depth after that drops off and they have an available two-way spot. Adding Ayayi gives them another young off-guard to develop alongside their very promising nucleus.

Ayayi may not blossom into a star, but having him as a depth option and potential rotation piece as this team heads back into relevancy in the next year or two would be a shrewd move.

Washington Wizards

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Roster Spots Available: 0

Two-Way Spots available: 1

A return to Washington is certainly an option for Ayayi, as the team currently has a two-way spot open – the same spot he occupied the majority of last season while with Capital City.

Ayayi played excellent in the G-League last year, and it makes sense for Washington to keep him around for another year to help with their guard depth. The team did draft Johnny Davis out of Wisconsin and signed Monte Morris this off-season, however, and they have two players, Quenton Jackson and Davion Mintz, on Exhibition 10 contracts which probably gives them the upper hand on a two-way deal.

Atlanta Hawks

Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Roster Spots Available: 1

Two-Way Spots available: 0

Would be remiss if we didn’t discuss Atlanta, as they were the last team to put him in a uniform this summer in Las Vegas. However, the Hawks already filled their two two-way spots with Chaundee Brown and Trent Forrest, and they have Tyson Etienne on an Exhibition 10 contract.

It seems like they would have given Ayayi one of those spots already, but an injury or change of heart could open up a spot, and Atlanta’s coaching staff was complimentary of Ayayi’s performance over the summer, so this definitely makes some sense.

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